The daughter of a struggling greengrocer, Maisie Dobbs was only thirteen when she was sent to work as a maid for wealthy London aristocrats. But being bright and thoughtful beyond her years, Maisie studies her way to Cambridge, then serves as a nurse on the Front during the Great War. Now, it's the spring of 1929, nearly ten years after the Armistice and Maisie has just opened her own detective agency. Her first assignment, a seemingly open-and-shut infidelity case, will reveal a much deeper, darker mystery, forcing Maisie to revisit the horrors of the war and the ghost she left behind.
It's been almost a year since I read and reviewed my very first Maisie Dobbs book, The Mapping of Love and Death. I remember it like it was only yesterday..... When I opened the package from the publisher I knew I was going to be in for a very special treat. At the time, and don't ask me why, I had no clue it was part of a series, let alone the 7th installment. When I was finished, all I knew was that I needed to read the rest of them. I needed to know how the story began. Thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours, I was given that opportunity this month. I am reviewing the first, second, eighth, and ninth books. I'm still need to get my hands on the rest of them to fill in the middle section but I figure this will give me a broad base of knowledge for now.
As soon as I got this year's package, with all four books, I dug in and found out for myself how it all began. Maisie makes her debut in her self titled book and I must say I was transported once more to a world of violence, murder, deception, and this overwhelming sense of peace I experience when I'm with her. It's a strange feeling to have when horrible things are happening to good people on the pages of a book, but there is something so calming about the character and the way the author writes, that I can't help but relax and enjoy myself more than normal.
I love this introduction to Maisie and where she came from. Her father, trying to give her a better life now that her mother was dead, asked around and found her a place for service. She doesn't want to do it, what 13 year old wants to leave home and work, but she does it for her father. She works hard and makes a place for herself within the household. Maisie has a inquisitive, sharp mind and has been sneaking into the library to read the books. When she is discovered, she fears she will be thrown out and sent back to her her father. Instead, she is given the opportunity of a lifetime to learn and grow at the feet of one of the most brilliant minds of the time. She develops quite a mind and is accepted into college. It's while in college though that her life changes.
Through a mutual friend she meets a young man, a doctor who is on his way to France to work on the front lines of the war. Maisie feels a deep sense of duty and it's not long before she enlists herself as a nurse. It's that war time experience that greatly shapes the rest of her life. Things don't quite work out the way Maisie hoped they would, instead it developed in the way she knew it would. She comes back home from the war a different person, one smarter and pained by her experiences.
Now normally I'm not a huge fan of flashback scenes, let alone a whole middle section of a book devoted to just that. When the book opens, Maisie is just opening her business and is investigating her first real case. A man is concerned his wife is cheating on him and wants to find out details. Through this investigation, Maisie uncovers a something far worse. A haven for the men who were horribly disfigured in the war may be in fact something far more sinister than that. Men have died with only their first names, and Maisie is bound and determined to find out what is really going on behind the walls of The Retreat. The stories she encounters is what triggers her flashback, and for me it worked. Devoting the entire middle section of the book to her past doesn't feels out of place or redundant in anyway. It serves as a bridge to understand where Maisie is coming from and where the final pages of the book will leave her. She grows and matures through the course of narrative and finally comes to terms with the horrific loss she has been running from since the war.
I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the wonderful opportunity to read and review these books. Please visit the tour page to read reviews of this book and the rest of the books in the series since the entire month of March is being devoted to them.