The Comfort of Ghosts: Saying Goodbye to Maisie Dobbs

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Fans of British mysteries – especially historical mysteries – are no doubt feeling some mixed emotions about the upcoming release of Jacqueline Winspear's final Maisie Dobbs novel, The Comfort of Ghosts. After 18 books full of intrigue, adventure, and a fair bit of torture for poor Maisie, the series will be coming to an end. 

For those not familiar with the books, the series follows the eponymous protagonist, Maisie Dobbs. Set in post-World War I England, the series begins with Maisie, a former housemaid turned wartime nurse, who later opens her own private investigation agency in London. Throughout the books, Maisie uses her keen intellect and compassionate nature to solve complex cases, many of which find her dealing with the lingering traumas of war. Winspear's meticulous research and evocative writing bring the era to life, highlighting both the social and psychological impacts of the Great War (and later, WW2). 

As she helps others unravel mysteries, she also deals with her own trauma – both war-induced and a fair amount that's largely unrelated to the war (though we won't include any spoilers here). Though some have argued Maisie's attitudes feel a bit “too modern”, it's an extremely well-researched and thoughtful series that every British mystery fan should at least try.

The Comfort of Ghosts: Farewell, Maisie

Book 17, A Sunlit Weapon, saw Maisie in the thick of World War II, beginning in October 1942.  The Comfort of Ghosts skips ahead a few years to 1945, just after the end of the war. As much as we would have loved to see a few more books squeezed into the wartime years, it feels right to see the series ending just as the UK begins picking up the pieces after the war.

The mystery begins when four adolescent orphans, each bearing the scars of a dark wartime history, are found squatting in a vacant Belgravia mansion whose owners had fled during The Blitz. As a psychologist and investigator, Maisie visits the mansion on behalf of the owners and discovers a gravely ill demobilized soldier who's still reeling from his harrowing experiences in a Japanese POW camp. Her efforts to help them will ultimately lead her back to an unsolved mystery from her own past, leading her to question many things she thought she knew. 

This fitting finale to the series not only opens new horizons for Maisie and her family but also encapsulates the struggles of the era as the entire nation worked to restore those things that war destroyed. It's everything one would want from a Maisie Dobbs novel, but it's also bittersweet knowing this is likely the final installment.

We know it won't take any convincing for long-time fans to pick up this final entry. Having read an advance copy courtesy of NetGalley UK, we can happily reassure those readers that The Comfort of Ghosts, while sad in its finality, is a wonderful read. It highlights her intelligence and kindness, it gives us closure for the characters we've come to know and love, and it hints at where her life will go in the future. 

If you've never read the series, don't start with this book. Instead, go back to the first novel, Maisie Dobbs, and begin there. Her personal story is as much as a part of the series as the individual mysteries, so it's not one we'd recommend reading out of order. 

Pre-Order The Comfort of Ghosts

The Comfort of Ghosts by Jacqueline Winspear

If you haven't already, you can pre-order The Comfort of Ghosts ahead of its June 4th (2024) release date. Prefer to support independent bookshops? You can also pre-order HERE via Bookshop.

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