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on 16 August 2016
This is the first of Maisie Dobbs’s series of mystery novels set in 1930s Europe and for me it was a mixed bag.

First, this feels a lot like an introductory novel to the series with the mystery just an excuse. Maisie’s backstory takes up half of the novel and while interesting in its own right, I didn’t feel it added much to the mystery.
Second, the mystery is very lame. It starts our quite interesting in the first part of the novel, with WWI veterans involved. I got the feeling of a strong subject matter, an intense emotional involvement. But when the mystery starts again after Maisie’s backstory detour, it turns out to be a bit fussy and in the end not completely realistic (at least for me).
Third, although the obvious effort on the author’s part to connect the two threads, they don’t really work together for me. I could have read Maisie’s story on its own or the mystery on its own and never feel I needed the other part.

But in spite of these shortcomings, I enjoyed the story nonetheless and this is all the characters’ merit. All of them are nice and interesting… and many will appear in future novels, so this adds to my feeling of an introductory story. The author has a gift for creating vignettes, which are often amusing or moving. It’s a shame she doesn’t’ seem to have the same gift fro creating a novel arc… at least not in this first novel.

But overall, a pleasant reading.
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on 1 March 2015
If the soap opera elements work somehow, if you regress to your early teens, the mystery at the centre of the book is so ridiculous, so disappointing, so laughable (the heroine defeats her mentally disturbed arch-enemy by singing in front of an audience of maimed veterans) that you think you just wasted your time in reading this book.
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on 27 August 2010
This book contains a lot of things that appeal to me. I like detective stories, am fascinated by the first world war and the social changes that occurred before, after and during it and love a good female detective. But it was so poorly written that even if the story had been amazing, it would have been ruined for me. All the prose is flat and stilted and the dialogue is unrealistic and unconvincing. The characters are caricatures that we have seen many times before. The structure of the book makes for a lack of tension and continuity and you lose interest in the solution to the mystery presented in the first chapters during a long middle section describing the heroine's early life. In the end it turns out to be not much of a mystery anyway, the solution is telegraphed to the reader within a few sentences of it being described. The ending is just laughable. Disappointing.
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Maisie Dobbs is the first book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. The story starts in 1929, when thirty-two-year-old Maisie is setting up her own private investigation business. She has taken over the business of her mentor, Maurice Blanche, and is supported by her patron, Lady Rowan Compton and the very capable office caretaker, Billy Beale. Her first client is convinced his wife is being unfaithful: an easy case to solve, but it leads Maisie into a very different investigation, partly out of curiosity, and partly on behalf of Lady Compton. The novel is divided into three parts, with the middle section describing Maisie’s life from her early teens through her involvement in the Great War, a history that proves very relevant to her investigation. Winspear has created a fascinating heroine: clever, wise, considerate, philosophical, with a good knowledge of psychology and a strong intuitive endowment. Alexander McCall Smith describes Maisie Dobbs as “a real gift”. In this novel, Winspear touches on desertion, “shell shock” (perhaps better known these days as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), cowardice, disfiguring injuries and adjusting to post-war life. Maisie Dobbs was a nominee for Best Novel in the Edgar Award 2004. This historical mystery is a moving and thought-provoking read.
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on 24 September 2012
Some of the reviews for this book are unfair in my opinion. It is a well written, well researched novel set between the two world wars. Dealing with class and gender issues it brings Maisie Dobbs to life as a modern young woman in the late 1920s, doing an unusual job.

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the next novel in the series.
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Maisie Dobbs – psychologist and investigator – is asked to take on a case for a friend of Lord Julian Compton. Ralph Lawton was killed when his plane crashed in France during World War I but his mother has been told by mediums that her son is still alive. His father makes a promise to his wife on her death bed that he will try and find out whether Ralph is still alive.

Maisie is reluctant to take on the case because it will involve returning to France where she herself served as a nurse during the war. She is not at all sure that she wants to remember when she herself was injured. It soon becomes clear that the case is not going to be straightforward and various incidents make her think someone wants to stop her investigating. Then her friend, Priscilla, asks her to find out the ultimate fate of one of her brothers. Is this a request too far?

I found this book an absorbing read with its very well drawn characters and excellent historical background. I like Maisie herself who is developing into a complex character and I think her assistant, Billy is an excellent foil for her. I think Maisie’s uneasy relationship with Detective Inspector Richard Stratton is believable and subtly drawn. I also like the way the difficulties single women faced in the nineteen twenties and thirties are portrayed. It is a theme which runs through all the books but it is not obtrusive or overdone.

If you enjoy historical crime series with more depth than the average then try Maisie Dobbs. The books can be read as standalone novels but are best, in my opinion, read in the order in which they were published. This is number three in the series.
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on 7 September 2010
This is the first book in a series, and established the main characters. It is more of a novell than a crime novel, and the story moves relatively slowly. A friend suggested that women would enjoy it more than men, and though I enjoyed it I could have done with more action. Maisie herself is an attractive character, and the period detail is spot on.
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on 20 August 2013
I am so pleased to have discovered Maisie Dobbs. She is a delightful character - and I am glad that this first book deviated from the main mystery - her first case as a private detective - in order to describe her background. She is obviously a character who will grow and develop with each new case she solves - and this means that there is so much more to the story than the mere mechanics of simply solving a puzzle. The time in which the book was set - both before, during and after the First World War - adds further interest - and details of this period have clearly been well researched and accurately - often amusingly - described.

Jacqueline Winspear obviously loves this quirky and intelligent character she has created - and she also brings to the story so many truths about humanity and its foibles and frailties. A lovely book - full of warmth, humour, kindness and sadness. I am now enjoying Book 2 in the series!
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on 31 August 2012
Under the pretext of "If you like this you may like..." I read this bunkum. Or at least read the first 50 pages. It was a thankless task.

I should've known better. Maise Dobbs is a dreadful name for a main protagonist and however this tripe got to be a series gawd only knows.

Ripe for the route of self-publishing, the opening chapters introduce us to an authorial style of hackneyed, cliche ridden drivel the likes of which I've seldom come across.

When the Janitor of Masie's office building turned out by sheer coincidence to be an invalid she had "saved" on the battlefield of the first World War I gave up the will to read on...if not to live. Bunkum of the highest order. Utter rubbish unless you are easily satisfied or a fan of Midsommer Murders.
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on 30 October 2015
I loved this book. Yes, the mystery stops for quite some time and the story instead plots how Maisie became who she is, but I found this part fascinating and was happily swept along by it before the mystery resumed. I've since read two more Maisie Dobbs books and will read more. There's something comforting about these books; it's a world I look forward to inhabiting. Also, there are character traits in Maisie that are very different to other detectives and I find these traits refreshing and singular and fascinating. I've read other reviews that state that the introduction of historical fact is clunky at times. I disagree. I enjoy reading more about the time and feel that it's done in a way that I have absolutely no problem with at all and the facts always add to the story. Very happy to have encountered Ms Winspear and her very special world!
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