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Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mystery series offers us one of the most formidable heroines to come along in some time. Though she comes from humble beginnings, her brains and sheer determination have helped her to get an education and make a better life for herself.
The series is set mostly between WW1 and WW2, though earlier books in the series include insight into Maisie's earliest years as a servant, and the most recent books have started to bring us into the World War 2 years.
They're wonderful books for anyone who enjoys a bit of ongoing storyline and character development alongside their mysteries, and while you don't have to love historic fiction to enjoy them (they're that good), they'll be especially appealing to someone who enjoys stories set during that period of British history.
In terms of “heat”, we'd place them at just above your typical cosy mystery. They're not light and silly, but murders are generally described in mild terms, and there's little in the way of sex or profanity. If you find cozies too silly and most others too gruesome, you'll almost definitely enjoy the Maisie Dobbs series.
All of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs Books in Order
Though we've done our best to be vague, there are some very mild spoilers about events in Maisie's life. If you're still on the early books, we recommend not reading too far ahead unless you genuinely don't mind seeing something that might hint at what's to come.
Maisie Dobbs Book 1: Maisie Dobbs
At thirteen, Maisie Dobbs began working as a maid in an aristocratic London household. Unable to resist the temptation of the household library, she would sometimes sneak in to read – and eventually, she was discovered. Her employer, Lady Rowan Compton, would become her patron, and Lady Rowan's good friend Maurice Blanche would eventually train her in his own field of investigation.
After attending Girton College at Cambridge and serving as a nurse during the war, Maisie set out on her own as a private investigator. The year is 1929, and she's looking into suspicious activities around a working farm that doubles as a convalescent centre for traumatised ex-soldiers.
Maisie Dobbs Book 2: Birds of a Feather
In the spring of 1930, Maisie is hired to locate a runaway heiress. What seems like a simple case is soon complicated when three of the heiress's old friends turn up dead. Now, she'll need to figure out who would want to kill three seemingly respectable young women – and quickly, before there's a fourth.
Maisie Dobbs Book 3: Pardonable Lies
On her deathbed, a woman pleads with her husband to seek help in investigating the supposed wartime death of her aviator son. He contacts Maisie Dobbs, and she sets off for France to investigate. While there, she comes together with Priscilla Evernden, a college friend who served in France and lost three brothers to the war. One of them, it seems, had a connection to the missing aviator.
Maisie Dobbs Book 4: Messenger of Truth
London, 1931. The night before his exhibition opens, controversial artist Nick Bassington-Hope falls to his death. While police believe it to be an accident, his twin sister thinks otherwise. When authorities refuse to consider her theories, she seeks out fellow Girton College graduate Maisie Dobbs.
Maisie Dobbs Book 5: An Incomplete Revenge
In them midst of troubling economic times, Maisie Dobbs is relieved to take on a seemingly straightforward assignment from an old friend. She's asked to investigate certain matters pertaining to a potential land purchase, so she travels to a picturesque Kent village during hop-picking season. Though everything seems pleasant and calm initially, she soon finds evidence that something is amiss.
Mysterious fires begin erupting regularly, and petty crimes happen with startling regularity. She learns the villagers are bitterly prejudiced against migrant workers who flood the area during hop-picking season – and she's puzzled by a strange sense of secrecy that pervades the village. She'll need all her skills to get behind whatever is going on.
Maisie Dobbs Book 6: Among the Mad
On Christmas Eve 1931, Maisie sees a man commit suicide on a busy London street. The next day, the prime minister's office gets a letter threatening massive loss of life if certain demands aren't met – and Maisie is mentioned by name. DCS Robert MacFarlane interviews her and clears her of any wrongdoing, then brings her on as a special advisor.
At the same time, Billy Beale and his young family face great tragedy and difficulty.
Maisie Dobbs Book 7: The Mapping of Love & Death
In August of 1914, Michael Clifton is mapping land he's purchased in California's Santa Ynez Valley when war breaks out in Europe. Duty-bound to his father's native country, the cartographer sets off to join the British army – sadly, never to return.
In April of 1932, Michael's remains are unearthed in France and Maisie Dobbs is brought on to find the nurse whose love letters were found in his belongings. The job brings Maisie back to memories of her own wartime love, and those emotions prove especially hard to handle as she faces impending loss – and possible new love – in her own life.
Maisie Dobbs Book 8: A Lesson in Secrets
Sent undercover as a junior lecturer at a private college in Cambridge, Maisie must monitor anything she sees that might not be in the interests of His Majesty's government. She's barely had time to unpack when the college's pacifist founder is murdered, and Maisie suddenly finds herself in a sinister web of murder and conspiracy.
Maisie Dobbs Book 9: Elegy for Eddie
In this case, Maisie takes on the highly personal case of a street vendor's murder. She'll travel through the working class streets to some of London's most powerful circles – and what she ultimately finds may haunt her for years to come.
Maisie Dobbs Book 10: Leaving Everything Most Loved
It's 1933 now, and Scotland Yard has brought Maisie in to help an Indian gentleman whose sister's murder case wasn't given adequate attention. Before she gets too far with the investigation, another Indian woman is murdered – just hours before Maisie is due to interview her. At the same time, Maisie's own life becomes a little more complicated.
Maisie Dobbs Book 11: A Dangerous Place
It's the spring of 1937, and it's been four years since Maisie left England. She's experienced the most joyful periods of her life, along with the worst. Though she wants nothing more than time to be alone, she's summoned back to England by her family.
As she sails back, she realises she's not quite ready to be back among people. In spite of warnings from the ship's captain, she disembarks at Gibraltar, a British garrison town full of refugees from the Spanish Civil War. Just days after her arrival, there's a murder – and without really thinking about it, she begins investigating.
Maisie Dobbs Book 12: Journey to Munich
It's now 1938. Working with the British Secret Service, Maisie Dobbs travels to Hitler's Germany to retrieve a British subject who's due to be released from Dachau. In spite of the top secret nature of the expedition, Maisie's nemesis has also learned of her mission – and he wants her to retrieve his missing daughter.
Though it seems like a simple in and out mission, it's not long before it all gets very, very complicated.
Maisie Dobbs Book 13: In This Grave Hour
On the third of September, 1939, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcasts that Britain has entered into war with Germany – and a senior Secret Service agent breaks into Maisie's apartment to recruit her help. She wants Maisie to find the killer of a man who escaped occupied Belgium as a boy roughly 23 years earlier.
In a city marred by barrage balloons and bomb shelters, Maisie investigates the lives of Belgian refugees in London – while also being affected by a new sort of refugee. Thousands of children are being taken from London and spread out across the British countryside to avoid the bombings. One such little girl, Anna, has been billeted at Maisie's home in Kent. She can't (or won't) speak, and no one knows where she came from – so Maisie will have two mysteries to unravel.
Maisie Dobbs Book 14: To Die But Once
In the months after Britain's declaration of war, Maisie investigates the case of a young man who'd been working on a secret government contract prior to his disappearance. At the same time, the general public is just beginning to get word of thousands of soldiers stranded on the beaches of France – and one young man who's close to her will make a decision that changes the course of his life.
Maisie Dobbs Book 15: The American Agent
When an American war correspondent is found dead in her flat, the British authorities cover up the news. Robert MacFarlane pays Maisie a visit to enlist her help in the investigation, and he's accompanied by a man she's met before – American Mark Scott.
As the war rages on and Maisie's life back in Kent grows ever more complicated, she works to uncover the truth about what happened to the young American war correspondent.
Maisie Dobbs Book 16: The Consequences of Fear
In October of 1941, a young message runner witnesses a murder. He hides until he feels it's safe to come out, then proceeds to finish his delivery. At the delivery address, he's shocked to come face-to-face with the murderer. After he's dismissed by the police, he goes out in search of a woman he remembers from a previous package delivery – Maisie Dobbs.
Maisie listens to the boy's story and believes him, beginning an investigation that will lead her to a culprit a little closer than she might like.
Maisie Dobbs Book 17: A Sunlight Weapon
The 17th Maisie Dobbs novel brings us up to October of 1942. It begins when 22-year-old Jo Hardy, a ferry pilot, is in the process of delivering a Spitfire and finds herself being shot at. Afterwards, she returns to the location on foot and finds an American serviceman bound and gagged.
A couple days later when Jo learns another ferry pilot was attacked in the same place, a colleague suggests that she seek out the help of Maisie Dobbs. At the same time, someone close to Maisie (vague to avoid spoilers) is handling security for Eleanor Roosevelt's visit to the UK. Maisie will soon learn the two things might be connected.
Will There Be More Maisie Dobbs Novels?
At the moment, the future of the series is uncertain. For many years, new books were coming out roughly annually. Barring an actual new book, we could always count on a pre-order or some kind of announcement about an upcoming title.
Author Jacqueline Winspear is alive and well at time of writing (August 2023), so we do have high hopes that there will be at least a few more Maisie Dobbs books to get her all the way through the war years. It's entirely possible that Winspear just needed a break to write other things before getting back to the series.
In early 2023, she published The White Lady, a standalone novel about another formidable young woman, this time in post-WW2 England (1947). There are definite similarities to the Maisie Dobbs series, so if you enjoyed those, I would strongly recommend giving it a try while you wait.
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