I’m not a mystery person. That is, I never bought into mystery fiction books; I did a few Sue Grafton novels in high school but nothing kept my interest piqued. Since reading Nancy Drew as a child, no one has ever come close to her place in my heart as the number one sleuth. I mean…come on! Who else could wear heels and a dress and go trudging through the woods or any other impossible situation but Ms. Drew herself?
Recently I came across a detective similar to Nancy Drew: Maisie Dobbs! Needing an escape from my usual “heavy” reading, I investigated some mystery novels using OWL’s Books and Authors search tool which allowed me to browse by genre and “read-alikes.” I stumbled across author Jaquelyn Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series and became intrigued. Set in 1930s London, Dobbs is an amateur detective/psychologist who solves mysteries. There is no blood, gore or real menace and I absolutely love historical fiction novels, especially those set in the 1930s. Add in my slight obsession with anything English and “blimey,” you’ve got me hooked!
I picked up a copy of the second book in the series, which won numerous awards, Birds of a Feather. Just like Nancy Drew, Maisie is self-confident, intuitive and gives attention to detail. Similarly, her mother died when she was young and she has only her father. Maisie works with an assistant named Billy who is very charming, and at times long-winded when it comes to giving Maisie details about an investigation.
Winspear does a fantastic job bringing the past alive and creating a picture of the still war-torn England. Maisie herself helped out as a nurse during the war and is often haunted by memories. Winspear pays close attention to period details like clothing (Maisie often dresses in wool suits or trousers) as well as English traditions like afternoon tea.
In Birds of a Feather, Maisie must find a young missing heiress, Charlotte. Three of Charlotte’s old friends from school have recently been murdered and Maisie feels as though Charlotte may be next! Maisie’s investigations lead her all over London, and she finds some interesting connections between the events during the war and these women who ultimately all have something in common. Close to the end I thought I had the suspect figured out, but I was shocked to find out who the murderer really was and why these women lost their lives.
The crisp air of fall is descending upon us. Those days when the sky is gray, and there is a fragrant fall breeze are perfect for a little light mystery reading. Here are the other Maisie Dobbs books we have here at OWL:
Pardonable Lies is next in the series after Birds of a Feather. This adventure takes Maisie to France, where she must confront her own ghosts of the war. Her mission is to find two men, both involved in the war, who were proclaimed missing or dead, but their families have reason to believe they are still alive.
Messenger of Truth finds Maisie helping an old college classmate, Georgiana, by investigating the death of her twin brother who was an artist. Before his masterpiece could be revealed at a Mayfair gallery, he fell to his death from the scaffolding. It was said to be an accident, but Georgiana feels foul play was involved. Maisie’s investigation leads her to discover some unpleasant class divisions and undercurrents of facism at play in 1930s Britain.
An Incomplete Revenge is the fifth novel that OWL owns. Maisie heads to the country side to investigate matters concerning a potential land purchase, but something is not right as mysterious fires start to erupt. Maisie must uncover the secrets hidden in the small village.
Among the Mad starts out on Christmas Eve 1931 in London, and Maisie witnesses a man commit suicide. The Home Secretary’s office receives a threatening letter about the potential massive loss of lives in the city and it is a race against time to find out who is at the bottom of the threats.
In The Mapping of Love and Death Maisie must try to unravel a mystery of “love and death” between a young cartographer and nurse during World War I. As you can see, many of the novels revolve around the Great War’s aftermath and the effects it left on all of those involved, directly and indirectly.
A Lesson in Secrets is the latest Maisie Dobbs novel. The British Secret Service hires Maisie to keep tabs on Greville Liddicot, a controversial founder of the College of St. Francis. His mission with the school is to promote peace. Maisie must pose as a philosophy teacher and go undercover. However, there is soon a murder within the school that leaves Maisie questioning what the motive was and what secrets are hidden within the school.
Explore the world of 1930s London and “match wits” with Maisie Dobbs today in one of these “baffling mysteries!”
Sarai is the Library Assistant and is currently sipping hot cider while contemplating Maisie’s next mystery….