When WWI breaks out, Maisie Dobbs is shipped to the front as a nurse. After the War, she sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force her to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.
Jacqueline Winspears' Maisie Dobbs is the first book in a series of mystery novels featuring the title character. The story begins in the year 1929, with Maisie opening her own detective agency in London, England. It is not long before Maisie has her first case, that of following the wife of one of her clients to determine where the wife is spending her time. The case itself isn't all that mysterious and is easily solved, yet it brings back memories of Maisie's time as a nurse during WWI and of the love she lost during the Great War. It also raises questions about a secretive convalescence home for badly disfigured veterans known as The Retreat.
Once her client's case is solved, the novel takes the reader back in time and follows Maisie's early life up until the closing days of WWI. There is no mystery involved in this part of the novel, yet it provides much needed background on, and insight into, the heroine. The novel then shifts back to 1929, as Maisie begins to look into the mysteries surrounding The Retreat. This is the focus of the novel until the end.
Overall, I enjoyed Maisie Dobbs. Winspear has a beautiful way with words and has vividly drawn both her main and supporting characters. While I didn't find the story itself all that mysterious, I was drawn into it nevertheless. For me, one of the novel's greatest strengths lies in how Winspear was able to capture the essence of post-WWI England, and of the generation of men and women whose lives were forever impacted by the Great War. Maisie Dobbs is a strong young woman, but her life and outlook, as well as those of the people around her, was eternally changed by the war, a fact that comes across clearly in the novel. In fact, whether it was the intent of the author or not, I thought the mystery component of the novel took a backseat to the experiences of WWI and of the physical and emotional scars it left on those who lived through it. For this reason this is a novel that has stayed with me long after I finished reading the last page.
I definitely recommend Maisie Dobbs and look forward to reading the other novels in this series.