Series Love: Maisie Dobbs

covers for Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear

The Basics

The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear is one I frequently recommend to historical mystery fans, or to those who might become historical mystery fans with the slightest nudge. Maisie is a private investigator who has started her own agency in 1929 London.

As the series continues, she sometimes finds herself assisting the police, and developing a working relationship with other governmental agencies.

Why I Love Maisie

Maisie’s background is unusual – she was a nurse in the war, then studied psychology before being mentored by a well-regarded investigator. While she began life in service, she has connections in high places, and it all combines to allow for varying plot lines that provide a more interesting reading experience.

As you get to know Maisie, you also know the people in her life – family, friends, colleagues. Many of these secondary characters end up becoming significant figures in the books, and because of how the books continue through time you can really follow along with their lives.

The post-World War I setting is appealing, and I appreciate how Winspear allows time to pass throughout the series – from the first book to the most recent has spanned a decade. I found it fascinating to get a taste for how the mood of the country changed, and how life changed for so many of the characters.

Why They Might Not Be For You

The mysteries are the weakest element, and they’re almost all entirely forgettable. If you want mysteries where the focus is on clever plotting and matching wits with a detective (or criminal), these aren’t the ones for you.

There’s a slight mystical storyline running through several of the books (especially the earlier ones) that led to coincidences playing too large a role in solving the mystery. Maisie seems to rely on intuition an awful lot, and her descriptions of it were a bit eye-rolling.

Maisie is almost too perfect of a character. She’s smart and kind and sensitive and has men seemingly falling for her all the time. Her biggest flaw is even that she cares too much for others and tries to arrange their lives.

Reading Them All

Because of the emphasis on characterization, these are books you’ll want to read in order. So much time passes, and so many significant events happen to various characters that you’ll really miss out if you read later books first. Don’t do it!

If you like listening to your books, they’re all available via Audible, but there is a different narrator for each of the first two books. Beginning with book three, it’s the same narrator, so you can get used to a familiar voice telling the story. I enjoyed her narration and especially appreciated being able to hear the variation in accents that Winspear sometimes describes, but I could never really understand until hearing the books.

Find the Books:
  1. Maisie Dobbs Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  2. Birds of a Feather Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  3. Pardonable Lies Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  4. Messenger of Truth Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  5. An Incomplete Revenge Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  6. Among the Mad Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  7. The Mapping of Love and Death Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  8. A Lesson in Secrets Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  9. Elegy for Eddie Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  10. Leaving Everything Most Loved Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  11. A Dangerous Place Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  12. Journey to Munich Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads
  13. In This Grave Hour Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Read all the posts in the “Series Love” series. Because sometimes it makes more sense to talk about the entirety of a book series, instead of doing a post about each individual title.

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Death on the Sapphire by R. J. Koreto

Death on the SapphireDeath on the Sapphire: A Lady Frances Ffolkes Mystery by R.J. Koreto

Enjoyable enough mystery & there’s sufficient promise shown by the author, and with the characters, that I’ll look for the next in the series. (But it’s not so good that I feel the need to go out of my way to tell everyone I know they need to read it immediately.)

Lady Frances is not a fully believable character, both for the time period, and as a pseudo-detective. However, her maid was a more interesting character and was also more believable (still not perfect, but better). I hope there’s more with her in future books!

The mystery is fairly weak, both the premise of it and how it’s resolved. The ending includes an absolutely ridiculous event too (can’t give details as it’s too spoilery) that helps it all wrap up neatly.

All those criticisms and it seems odd that I’m giving it 3 stars, but I did like it well enough for a mostly-fluff fun read. When you’re in the mood for a cozy historical mystery, it might fit the bill for you too. It helps that it’s currently only $1.99 for Kindle or Nook – if you like these sorts of books you may want to grab it before the price increases. Unless you’re a major fan of the genre though, I’d skip this one even at the sale price.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
An extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times, Lady Frances Ffolkes is an Edwardian-era suffragette who has an uncanny ability to attract danger and romance.

When Major Colcombe, a family friend and war veteran, dies under mysterious circumstances, Lady Frances discovers that he was working on a manuscript about South Africa’s bloody Boer War, which reportedly revealed a scandalous mistake that cost the lives of many brave soldiers. Now, it’s up to Frances and her loyal lady’s maid, June Mallow, to track down the missing manuscript and bring the killer to justice. Despite clashes with Scotland Yard and the British Secret Service, Frances never backs down and finds herself in several very unfortunate positions–and one very fortunate love triangle.

Death on the Sapphire is R. J. Koreto’s witty and winsome debut of a series that is sure to be fan favorite for years to come.

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Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Girl Waits with Gun Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

I discovered this one thanks to the second in the series popping up on all sorts of lists about “top fall releases.” Sure, the second was getting the buzz, but I can’t dive into the series there – I need to start with the first book.

Stewart is a familiar name, writing bestselling nonfiction like The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants.

It’s marketed as a mystery, but it isn’t really. The “family secret” hinted at in the publisher’s description is revealed early, and the other mystery subplot is minimal. If you go into it wanting a mystery you may feel disappointed, but if you expect it to be historical fiction then you won’t feel mislead. As historical fiction it was enjoyable, but my favorite part of it was learning about a previously unknown to me historical event and individual. I’m hoping the second book continues the pattern of fleshing out actual events. I loved how she took the known facts and turned them into an entire story.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, enjoy reading about ground-breaking women from history, or especially enjoy this time period, I’d recommend it. If you don’t enjoy historical fiction, I don’t think this book would convert you.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
A novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.

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Burial Rites (and a linkup)

Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent

An amazing book, but one that was much more emotionally wrenching than I expected. It’s based on the true story of the last person executed in Iceland, and Kent does a phenomenal job of bringing the setting to life and presents a plausible scenario for the events.

My only real complaint with the book is that the author’s note doesn’t give as much detail as I’d like as to what the known facts were, and where she expounded. She states that “most” of the historical documents quoted throughout the text were real, but doesn’t clarify which ones were not.

Highly recommended, if you feel up to the emotionally charged nature of it.

Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving on October 3rd.

If you’ve written a post about Burial Rites, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: New On Your Stack (volume 8)
Four years ago: Introducing 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

Death Wears a MaskDeath Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

I was reminded of this series thanks to my own “on this date” posts (as found at the bottom of blog posts). Late in July, Weaver’s first book, Murder at the Brightwell, popped up which prompted me to go looking for the next book.

Once again I enjoyed the main character, and was entertained by the book. Although I am not super fond of the whole marriage-situation plot device, it’s not (currently) a deal-breaker as far as continuing to read the series. I have some concerns that it’s going to get really tedious if she doesn’t resolve it in some way, but I’ll read the next one and then decide if I’ll keep going (assuming the series keeps going).

The books are light and although this one isn’t as good as the debut, I’ll try the third, A Most Novel Revenge, after it releases in October. The description leads me to believe the marriage issues that so bugged me in book #2 might not be an issue in book #3 so here’s hoping. 🙂

(A heads-up if you’re interested in trying this series, book #1 is currently only $2.99 for Kindle.)

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Amory Ames is looking forward to a tranquil period of reconnecting with reformed playboy husband Milo after an unexpected reconciliation following the murderous events at the Brightwell Hotel. Amory hopes a quiet stay at their London flat will help mend their dysfunctional relationship. However, she soon finds herself drawn into another investigation when Serena Barrington asks her to look into the disappearance of valuable jewelry snatched at a dinner party.

Unable to say no to an old family friend, Amory agrees to help lay a trap to catch the culprit at a lavish masked ball hosted by the notorious Viscount Dunmore. But when one of the illustrious party guests is murdered, Amory is pulled back into the world of detection, enlisted by old ally Detective Inspector Jones. As she works through the suspect list, she struggles to fend off the advances of the very persistent viscount even as rumors swirl about Milo and a French film star. Once again, Amory and Milo must work together to solve a mystery where nothing is as it seems, set in the heart of 1930s society London.

Death Wears a Mask is the second novel in Ashley Weaver’s witty and stylish Amory and Milo Ames mystery series.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Anniversary Week: A Look Back, a Look Around, and a Look Ahead

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Introducing September’s Book Club Selection: Burial Rites

Burial RitesBurial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent by Hannah Kent

What It’s About

Description from Goodreads:

A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Why Was This Title Selected

I love historical fiction that’s inspired by real events. Add to that an unfamiliar time period and location – I’ve been intrigued by this title since I first heard about it. Top it off with stellar reviews (including glowing reviews for the Audible version – apparently the narrator is amazing) and it was an easy pick for the year.

Anything Else to Know About It?

Kent’s debut novel has won multiple awards, including the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year, the Indie Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year and the Victorian Premier’s People’s Choice Award. It was also nominated for numerous other awards.

We’ve started the discussion about the book, but you’re welcome to join in when you can.

The title is available in print, for Kindle or Nook, or on Audible.

What’s Coming Up in October?

The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
by Washington Irving

Why did I select it? I wanted something that gave a bit of a nod to Halloween, but I’m too much of a reading wimp to pick a true horror story. And at just over 100 pages, this helps bring down the average page count for the year.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: there are several audible versions available. I’ve linked to the cheapest one – it’s under $1, but there are others as well.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2016 here.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago:
Two years ago: Bookworm Problems: Impatiently Waiting for the Next Book in a Series
Three years ago: Series Review: Graceling Realm (Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue)

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Saving CeeCee HoneycuttSaving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel by Beth Hoffman

Charming and sweet story that was an ideal vacation read. It’s light enough that it fit well with my mood at the beach, but it has just barely enough depth to still be satisfying.

I can’t give it more than 3.5 Stars, no matter how perfect it was as a beach book, because of how it skirts around more meaty issues. Racism, child neglect, insanity, poverty, and death are all briefly addressed, but in a very superficial way. The wrap-it-all-up in a bow ending was enjoyable from an emotional standpoint, but intellectually I can acknowledge how unrealistic it all was.

Highly recommended, or not at all recommended, depending on what sort of book you’re looking for. The writing is lovely, and the occasional bits of humor had me chuckling. I’ll happily try another by Hoffman.

We’ll be reading this for my in-person book club in August, and I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone else has to say about it, and finding out how well the feel-good novel works as a discussion vehicle.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Steel Magnolias meets The Help in Beth Hoffman’s New York Times bestselling Southern debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her mother, Camille, the town’s tiara-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock, a woman who is trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, CeeCee’s long-lost great-aunt, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. There, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity—one that appears to be run entirely by strong, wacky women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons; to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones; to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

A timeless coming of age novel set in the 1960s, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship, and charts the journey of an unforgettable girl who loses one mother, but finds many others in the storybook city of Savannah. As Kristin Hannah, author of Fly Away, says, Beth Hoffman’s sparkling debut is “packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart.”

Book Details

Title: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel
Author: Beth Hoffman
Category: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

A Town Like AliceA Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

The sum of this book is greater than its parts: it shouldn’t be a 4-star read for me, considering several weaknesses that would normally drop it to a 3-star rating at best. But my overall feelings for the book remain higher, so 4 stars it is.

The framework is clunky at times – the attorney narrating the story, with more details and insight than seems likely. The second half of the book should have been tedious, with the specifics of starting businesses and developing the town. It could have been a sappy, unbelievable romance. Instead it’s a sweet story of survival, resilience, hard work, devotion, and love.

A heads-up that the language reflects when it was written, and there are some racist and sexist terms used (and attitudes shown). It’s jarring at times, but assuming you can overlook that, I’d recommend the book anyway.

If you do read it, be sure and read the end pages – Shute based Jean’s trek around Malaysia on actual events, although he changed the country. I’m glad he gave those amazing women some attention by using their story as part of his novel.

It’s been available on Kindle for $2.99 for months now, so I’m guessing that’s the regular price. I bought it for myself and think it’s definitely worth grabbing for that great deal.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Nevil Shute’s most beloved novel, a tale of love and war, follows its enterprising heroine from the Malayan jungle during World War II to the rugged Australian outback.

Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the invading Japanese and forced on a brutal seven-month death march with dozens of other women and children. A few years after the war, Jean is back in England, the nightmare behind her. However, an unexpected inheritance inspires her to return to Malaya to give something back to the villagers who saved her life. Jean’s travels leads her to a desolate Australian outpost called Willstown, where she finds a challenge that will draw on all the resourcefulness and spirit that carried her through her war-time ordeals.

Book Details

Title: A Town Like Alice
Author: Nevil Shute
Category: Fiction
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill's SecretaryMr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope MysteryMr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal by Susan Elia MacNeal

A great cover, appealing setting, and promising start gave me high hopes for this mystery series debut. Unfortunately the book felt super contrived and never managed to make me feel like it really was taking place during World War II – it was so obviously written recently, and placed into that setting. The characterizations are poor and the plotting is weak.

That said, it was a really quick read and I enjoyed the pacing. I also really *wanted* to like it, and the main character, so much so that I’m hoping the issues I had with the book were all related to it being the author’s first, and that she’ll improve with more practice. I love the covers and the premise behind the series so much I’m giving her another shot with book two, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.

So, should you read it? Until I have a chance to see how book # 2 is, I’d say if you haven’t already read the Maisie Dobbs series, I’d highly recommend them instead. The time period isn’t exactly the same, but it’s a stronger series. If you want the same sort of light-and-breezy feel this one offers, look at the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn, beginning with Death at Wentwater Court.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it.

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character, Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.

Book Details

Title: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope MysteryMr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal
Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Category: Fiction / Historical Mystery
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss
Two years ago: Update on Books I Was Looking Forward to Reading in 2013

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake HouseThe Lake House: A NovelThe Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton by Kate Morton

It’s so hard to write about this book without giving spoilers, so this will be very superficial. I loved this book. It’s not one I’d normally read – the kidnapped or missing child is one of my “do not read” triggers – but I trusted Morton (plus it was a book club book), and I am so glad I pushed past my initial hesitation.

As is Morton’s trait, it’s another alternating timeline book, and you get the story from multiple perspectives – including a brief view from the missing baby.

There are layers of mysteries here, and my one real complaint might be that it’s perhaps a bit too tidy in how everything is resolved. It does make it satisfying in many ways as a reader – there were only two real questions I had after finishing the book – but part of me thinks it gets to be a little too ridiculous having so much wrap up in the final chapters. And precisely HOW some of it gets resolved also gets a big “Really?” from me. No specifics because that would be a great big spoiler.

No matter, it was still a compelling read, and a great start to the book club year. It’s one that I highly recommended as a book club book – it provides a lot to discuss.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

Book Details

Title: The Lake House: A NovelThe Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton
Author: Kate Morton
Category: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: How to Blog for Profit without Selling Your Soul
Two years ago: Books Read in 2013