Lately it seems harder and harder for me to find a book that I want to read all the way through. And it’s even more rare to find one that doesn’t make me want to read the end first. *Yes, I am a confessed end-reader. It’s one of the benchmarks I use to determine if a book will find a place on my “you have got to read this one! list” — if I can read the end and still want to read the whole book, it’s got a place on my list.* But, I digress….
Maisie Dobbs is one of those books. I was hooked from the very first page…even from the very first sentence…
Even if she hadn’t been the last person to walk through the turnstile at Warren Street tube station, Jack Barker would have noticed the tall, slender woman in the navy blue, thigh-length jacket with a matching pleated skirt short enough to reveal a well-turned ankle.
What caught me was Maisie’s response to Barker, which, paraphrased indelicately, comes out to her telling Barker that it was, indeed, cold enough to freeze the **** off a brass monkey. What cheek! I liked her right away. We then read on to learn that Maisie lost her mother at 14 and was put into service by her well-meaning father. Fortunately for Maisie, she’s found a place in a very well-advanced household, where, when she is discovered sneaking into the manor library at night to read Hume, Kierkegaard, and Jung, her employer arranges for Maisie to actually be educated by the enigmatic Maurice Blanche. Maisie eventually wins entrance to Cambridge, but cuts her time there short in order to serve in The Great War as a nurse, where she falls in love and experiences terrible tragedy firsthand. After the war, Maisie hangs out her shingle as a “Psychologist-Investigator” and begins to take on cases. Her first case takes her straight back to the war, when she becomes involved with a group of wounded soldiers who live away from society at a place called The Retreat. Maisie discovers the truth about The Retreat, and in the end is face to face with her own horrors from the war.
The characters are well-drawn and, for the most part, likable. It was obvious that this was intended to be the first of a series, because there are many unanswered questions and lots of flashbacks and foreshadowing. I’m looking forward to getting to know Maisie better in the next two books.