Monday, June 2, 2008

Review: Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear

Its 1929, and Maisie Dobbs, thirty-something, opens her own detective agency. One of her first cases seems like an open-and shut case of infidelity, but after following the man’s wife to a cemetery, Maisie isn’t so sure.

Maisie, a former scullery maid, Cambridge graduate (though without the degree), and a nurse in France during the Great War, finds herself reliving old memories (not all of them good), as she pursues the case to The Retreat, a home for wounded and shell-shocked former soldiers. Immediately, Maisie has her suspicions about the place, and she sends in her friend, Billy Beale, to investigate.

The flashback scenes seem like something out of Upstairs, Downstairs, right down to the description of Ebury Place (Eaton Place in the BBC TV show). Even some of the characters are dead ringers for their TV counterparts. As far as the mystery is concerned, there’s really very little “mystery” to speak of—it’s pretty clear what’s going on from the beginning. The resolution of the case is pretty flimsy, and the bad guy crumbles under no pressure from Maisie. Also, Winspear makes a mistake in making the whole middle of the book one giant flashback. She would have been better off putting in bits and pieces of flashback here and there instead of all at once.

But I really did like the setting, of England between the wars. Some of the characters are delightful, especially Maisie’s friends (in fact, they threaten to steal the show at times). Hopefully, Winspear’s detective will continue to grow in the other books in the series, and will encounter actual crimes.

1 comment:

Tara said...

I think these Maisie Dobbs books are really fun - I think my favorite part of them is the setting. I discovered her in the past year and have read the first three in the series - saving 4 and 5 for a rainy day.


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