Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Published by: Penguin
Published on: May 2004
Page Count: 320
Genre: Mystery / YA
My Reading Format: audiobook purchased using Audible credits
Audiobook Published by: BBC Audiobooks America (Audio Go)
Narrator: Rita Barrington
Audiobook Length: 10 hours
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook
Maisie Dobbs lost her mother at an early age. Luckily, her father loved her more than life. He worked his fingers raw selling produce and gave her the freedom she needed to read and study. Maisie was a curious child and wanted nothing more than to soak up knowledge from books. When her father’s health starts to take a toll on him, Maisie does all that she can to pitch in. Eventually, she finds herself in service at the home of Lady Rowan. I didn’t take Maisie long to stand out to Lady Rowan as an intelligent young woman. Ultimately, she becomes Maisie’s benefactress, putting her in touch with her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche. Under his educational influence, Maisie finds herself, at the opening of the novel, starting up her own private detective’s office in 1920’s London. She doesn’t simply solve her clients’ mysteries, though. She’s deeply interested in why people do what they do and forging reconciliations when necessary. In many ways, she ahead of her time. She’s strong, she’s brave, and she’s refreshingly moral. She’s a perfect heroine for today’s reader.
Maisie Dobbs got caught in my radar when Book Club Girl announced her read-a-long in January. It sounded like great fun, but I knew I wasn’t up to reading a series. Then, I learned that Orlaugh Cassidy, an actress I loved from Guiding Light (R.I.P.), picked up the narration of the audiobooks with book 3. I’d love to listen to Cassidy, so I picked up the first two novels in the series a couple of months ago with my Audible credits. From the moment I dived in, I was hooked. I loved Maisie. She is intelligent, intuitive and just. When she meets with her first client, Mr. Davenham, a wealthy man who believes his young wife is cheating, she is firm when she tells him that she will not take on the investigation unless he promises to make no rash decisions as a result. She will not set off on a case that will ultimately bring harm to anyone. Her psycological training will not let her.
After Maisie, my favorite character in Maisie Dobbs was Billy Beal. Billy worked in the building where Maisie first set up her practice. He is an honest, working class man. He served his country well in World War I and has a slight limp to prove it. Not long after Maisie moves in to her office, they discover a deeper connection. Maisie served in France as a nurse. Billy was one of her patients. He stared into her eyes while the doctor cared for him and he never forgot her kindness. Likewise, as Billy was one of the last patients Maisie treated along side of Captain Simon Lynch, a young man she knew before the war. While Billy Beal may feel that he owes Maisie a debt of gratitude, Maisie is in just as much need of him.
Rita Barrington narrated the first installment in Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. This was the first time I listened to a book she’s read. I slipped into her reading like a nice, warm blanket. She added so much to the characters of both Maisie and Billy. I could not have asked for anything more from her performance. Orlaugh Cassidy was my big draw to listening to this series in audio, but had Rita Barrington narrated the series entirely I would have been just as happy. Although there doesn’t seem to be many more titles associated with her, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another.
While the mystery behind Mrs. Davenham’s comings and goings continues to expand throughout the novel, I deeply enjoyed the back story about Maisie and her life leading up to opening her own office. From the very beginning, she makes reference to Simon and during the back story, I found myself wanting more and more to know what happened to Simon. After a certain point in the story, I could not rest until I found out. This being a series, there may very well be more to the story, but learning about Simon was deeply touching. Finding out was like getting a good back scratch, although it wasn’t exactly what I’d wanted to hear. It was equally important to discover that Maisie wasn’t entirely logical and put together. This made that revelation that much more bittersweet.
I absolutely adore Maisie Dobbs. I am so glad that I chose to read these books in audio. It was the perfect format for me. I look forward to whatever comes Maisie’s way. What’s best about this series is that I think it appeals to readers of all ages. I will definitely plan on reading this series again with my daughters as they get older. I still remember Nancy Drew with great fondness, but Maisie Dobbs is the real deal. I thank Jacqueline Winspear for bringing such a wonderful character into my life. You will, too.