65 pages • 2 hours readJacqueline Winspear
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Maisie Dobbs is the first entry in a long-running historical mystery series. The mystery genre focuses primarily on a detective solving a central puzzle, with clues to the perpetrator’s identity interspersed throughout and a cast of suspects. Early examples of the genre, such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories or the Golden Age novels of Agatha Christie, focus more on the solution to a puzzle rather than the characters' inner lives. More recent entries in the genre focus on character and psychological motivation. Winspear alludes to the genre’s origins subtly, such as when Maurice Blanche, who has studied science and forensics, smokes a pipe like Sherlock Holmes does. Maisie’s emphasis on psychology, emotions, and empirical evidence underlines that she is a bridge between the detective novel’s two traditions.
Winspear uses Maisie’s cases to showcase her character’s development along with the political and social changes of 20th-century Britain. Follow-up installments, such as the third novel, Pardonable Lies, deal further with the consequences of World War I and reintroduce characters like Priscilla Evernden, Maisie’s Cambridge roommate. Later works in the series deal with the rise of fascism, including Nazi sympathizers within Britain.
By Jacqueline Winspear