Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

When this book opens, Maisie Dobbs is setting up her own agency with a sign on the door that says “Psychologist and Investigator”. She is hoping to carry on the work of her former mentor, a man who coached her through her education and trained her in his own detective agency. Maisie is the daughter of a former vegetable vendor who went into service at the age of 14. When the Lady of the house caught her reading in the library on her off hours, she offered to sponsor the young girl’s education. That was 15 years before. Since then, Maisie has served in WWI and graduated from Cambridge University.

Winspear has broken the book into three parts. The first introduces Maisie as an investigator and shows how she solves her first crime. The second part tells the story of Maisie’s youth and how she came to be in service, and of her time as a nurse in WWI. The third section tells about the mystery she stumble across while investigating her first case. It seems initially to be a routine case of possible infidelity, but Maisie quickly discovers that the wife is not seeing another man. In discovering the wife’s secret, she also finds that unknown numbers of veterans are disappearing into a care center and never being seen again. Is this a legitimate therapy center, or is someone taking advantage of men who served their country and came back damaged?

Overall, the book is as much about the impact of WWI the soldiers and civilians of England as it is detective story. The details and descriptions of life in the 1920’s are fascinating. I find it difficult to imagine the amount of losses Great Britain suffered in the war, and how long these effects lingered. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series (there are nine in the series now).

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