I just had to find Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear once I heard it was a hybrid of literary fiction and mystery/sleuthing genres.
I also read, before receiving the book from BookMooch, that the book was being compared to Dorothy Sayers’ Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane books. And then it arrived, and on the cover it’s being compared by reviewers to both Sayers’ works and Alexander McCall Smith’s works, which I recently delved into for the first time (finally). What fun!
I found several good words, some of which I had to look up, in just the first few pages. Yay!
• costermonger (green grocer)
• salubrious (health-giving, healthy; sanitary)
• treacle (British term for molasses)
• cannonade (period of continuous, heavy gunfire)
• lighterman (barge driver)
I was still thrilled by the sight of such fine words.
Before I was 50 pages in, I’d added the rest of the series to my wishlist. Winspear appears to have been quite quick: This book was published in 2003 and followed by:
• Birds of a Feather (2003)
• Pardonable Lies (2004)
• Messenger of Truth (2005)
• An Incomplete Revenge (February 2008 )
The story is set primarily in London and County Kent, England. The book is set in 1929, although it contains two large flashbacks, to the 1910s, both before and during World War I.
I just love the combination of literary fiction and sleuthing. I don’t recall laughing out loud as much while reading this book as I think I did while reading the Peter Wimsey stories, though.
The incredibly brilliant female protagonist is the daughter of a costermonger, then goes to work as a maid for a wealthy but kind family, goes to college, nurses wounded soldiers of the war in France, and sets up her own business, in psychology and investigation. The story, even that set 10 years after the war ended, is really impacted by the war.
Winspear grew up in Kent and emigrated to the United States in 1990. She drew on the memories of her family for the setting of this book. The book has won several awards.
The author’s website is here, although it seems to be a bit out of date.