Historical cozy crime fiction is a huge genre both in the literary and TV worlds.

Off the top of my head, you have Murdoch Mysteries, Frankie Drake Mysteries, and Miss Scarlet & The Duke, all of which delve into the past for inspiration.

The distinct lack of technology and plots focused on following clues and solving puzzles rather than relying on DNA and CCTV tend to make for more engaging stories.

So when a series of books comes along that blends the 1920s and 30s with a smart and savvy female investigator who is ahead of her time, we can’t help but be intrigued.

That’s why the Maisie Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear have been so popular for the last twenty years.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of them yet and would like to know where to start, you’ve come to the right place.

With 18 books in the series, the latest of which was published in 2024, there are plenty of juicy stories to get stuck into.

Maisie Dobbs Books

Set in England between the World Wars, the series follows Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist and investigator.

Dobbs is a former nurse who served during World War I and who, after the war, trained as a psychologist and private investigator.

She is smart, empathetic and, with a strong sense of justice, is a unique investigator.

But, before we get into the nitty-gritty of the first book, here are the Maisie Dobbs books in order:

  • Maisie Dobbs (2003)
  • Birds of a Feather (2004)
  • Pardonable Lies (2005)
  • Messenger of Truth (2006)
  • An Incomplete Revenge (2008)
  • Among the Mad (2009)
  • The Mapping of Love and Death (2010)
  • A Lesson in Secrets (2011)
  • Elegy for Eddie (2012)
  • Leaving Everything Most Loved (2013)
  • A Dangerous Place (2015)
  • Journey to Munich (2016)
  • In This Grave Hour (2017)
  • To Die but Once (2018)
  • The American Agent (2019)
  • The Consequences of Fear (2021)
  • A Sunlit Weapon (2022)
  • The Comfort of Ghosts (2024)

The First Book

Our introduction to Maisie starts with the aptly named “Maisie Dobbs,” the first book in the series.

The novel begins in 1929 in London, where Maisie Dobbs opens her own private investigation agency.

The story then flashes back to Maisie’s early life when born into a working-class family, she is placed in service at a young age after her mother’s death.

Working as a maid for Lady Rowan Compton, she recognises Maisie’s keen intellect and arranges for her to be tutored by Maurice Blanche, a friend of the family and an accomplished investigator.

Under Maurice’s guidance, Maisie earns a place at Girton College, Cambridge.

However, with the outbreak of World War I, she puts her studies on hold to serve as a nurse on the Western Front.

Returning to 1929, Maisie’s first case involves Christopher Davenham, a man who suspects his wife, Celia, of infidelity.

While investigating, Maisie uncovers something more complex and tragic than a simple affair.

Maisie’s investigation not only solves the case but sheds light on the often-overlooked sufferings of war veterans and the lasting impact of the conflict.

The Post-War Theme

World War 1, or at least its aftermath, tie the Maisie Dobbs books together.

While her investigations may be of their time, there is always a secondary storyline about the prolonged and profound impact that the war has had on the lives of the characters.

That theme continues into the second book in the Maisie Dobbs series, Birds of a Feather.

Maisie Dobbs is hired by Joseph Waite, a wealthy and influential businessman, to find his missing daughter, Charlotte Waite.

Charlotte, a young woman in her mid-thirties, has disappeared from her home, and Waite is desperate to find her.

As Maisie begins her investigation, she quickly realises that Charlotte’s disappearance is not as straightforward as it seems.

Charlotte has a history of running away and has done so multiple times in the past. However, this time, there are more ominous undertones.

Maisie discovers that three of Charlotte’s childhood friends have recently died under mysterious circumstances.

As she delves into the backgrounds of the deceased women, she finds that each had been struggling with their own post-war issues.

These struggles reflect the broader societal challenges faced by women who had roles in the war effort but found themselves sidelined in peacetime.

Many of the books in the series consistently address the psychological and emotional scars left by war and the various ways people seek to overcome them.

Conclusion

Readers love the Maisie Dobbs books for their rich historical detail, compelling mysteries, and the deeply human character of Maisie herself.

Jacqueline Winspear’s series has struck a chord with many, selling over a million copies worldwide.

The books have garnered numerous awards, including the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and have been translated into over 20 languages, making Maisie’s adventures accessible to a global audience.

The blend of historical intrigue, psychological depth, and the resilient spirit of Maisie Dobbs continues to captivate fans, making the series a beloved staple in the cozy crime genre.

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