British author Jacqueline Winspear has written 17 novels to date in the award-winning Maisie Dobbs series since 2003. The novels span the years from the turn of the 20th century to World War II. The early entries in the series dwell on the aftermath of World War I, emphasizing what was then called “shell shock” and today we term PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Later, Maisie is well established as a “psychologist and investigator” and tangles with Scotland Yard as she comes to grips with ever more confounding cases. But as the 1930s wind down and World War II approaches, Maisie is drawn into work with the British intelligence services. And, during the war, she takes on a role with the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
This post was updated on April 19, 2022.
Maisie Dobbs (2003)—A female detective like no other
It’s 1929, and Maisie is just setting out to establish her practice independently of her long-time mentor, Maurice Blanche, who has just retired. Maisie Dobbs won the Agatha Award for First Best Novel, and it’s no wonder: the book fits in the crime genre only imperfectly and is entirely unpredictable. Maisie’s fascinating backstory dominates the tale. Read the full review.
Birds of a Feather (2004)—The cost of war hangs over the action like a shroud
“M. Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator,” is thirty-three years of age as Birds of a Feather opens. The year is 1930. Maisie has opened her own practice, having emerged from the tutelage of her mentor, Maurice Blanche. She now lives on her own in a London apartment, while her aging father tends the horses at the country estate of Lord Julian Compton and his wife, Lady Rowan. It was there that Maisie was transformed from a poor girl of thirteen, entered into service at the estate, into a polished young woman with a Cambridge education. Read the full review.
Pardonable Lies (2005)—Maisie Dobbs: living the legacy of World War I
Set in 1930, a dozen years after hostilities ended, Maisie, her now brain-dead fiancee, her assistant, her best friend, her mentor, and virtually every other major character in the novel bears deep scars from the conflict. As the Great Depression gathered steam, it was impossible to live in England and not be deeply affected by the staggering cost of the war. Read the full review.
Messenger of Truth (2006)—Class resentment in Depression-era England
Maisie Dobbs’ private practice is taking off when she receives a curious assignment from a wealthy journalist celebrated for her front-line reporting in World War I. Georgina Bassington-Hope explains that her twin brother has died, and she is convinced he has been murdered despite the police and the coroner’s conviction that his death was an accident. Read the full review.
An Incomplete Revenge (2008)—The pleasures of reading Maisie Dobbs
Maisie is forced to face the lasting pain of her earlier years: the backstory of her family’s life, the class resentment she continues to bear as a child of poverty, the tension between her and her brilliant mentor, Dr. Maurice Blanche, and her lover’s worsening condition. In the face of all this stress, Maisie takes on what proves to be a challenging case on behalf of her dear friend, James Compton, the son of the aristocratic couple that sponsored her education. Read the full review.
Among the Mad (2009)—Shell shock, madness, the Great Depression
33-year-old Maisie finds herself and her sidekick, Billy Beale, pressed into service by New Scotland Yard’s secretive Special Branch. Together with her on-again, off-again friend and collaborator, Inspector Stratton, and the head of Special Branch, she is charged with finding the man who has threatened the Prime Minister himself. The wide-ranging search takes her and her colleagues into the worlds of Britain’s emerging Fascist Party, the militant labor movement, the country’s growing chemical-warfare program, and the network of asylums where shell-shocked soldiers and others deemed “mad” are locked away. Read the full review.
The Mapping of Love and Death (2010)—Another great detective novel from Jacqueline Winspear
While spending time with her dying mentor and navigating the attentions of two competing would-be husbands, Maisie sets out to determine who murdered a wealthy young man in the war and identify his long-missing lover. Her investigation immerses her in the dynamics of his large and complicated family. Then, when his aged parents are attacked in their hotel and left to die, Scotland Yard enters the scene. Read the full review.
A Lesson in Secrets (2011)—Nazis, pacifists, and spies in 1930s Britain
Maisie’s business is growing, making for more work than she and her assistant, Billy Beale, can comfortably handle. Her mentor, Dr. Maurice Blanche, has willed most of his considerable estate to her. She’s now a wealthy woman. But Maisie is not happy. Her aging father stubbornly refuses to move into the large house she has inherited from Maurice. James Compton, the man who is “courting” her, has postponed his return from Canada. And now she discovers she is being followed wherever she goes. Read the full review.
Elegy for Eddie (2012)—An excellent Maisie Dobbs novel from Jacqueline Winspear
The search for the truth about the death of a young man on the Asperger’s spectrum brings Maisie and her small staff face to face with anti-union organizing, a string of mysterious murders, a police cover-up, and a conspiracy to prepare Britain for war with Nazi Germany. It’s 1933, and Adolf Hitler has just seized power as German Chancellor. Winston Churchill is agitating for the country to rearm, but few are listening. This is a story set in a particular time and place, and it all fits. Read the full review.
Leaving Everything Most Loved (2013)—Maisie Dobbs confronts class dynamics in Depression-era England
While Maisie teeters on the edge of indecision about marriage, a call from Scotland Yard draws her back into the grim reality of Depression-era London. A beautiful young Indian immigrant, Usha Pramal, has been brutally murdered, and Scotland Yard’s investigation has hit a wall. As Maisie sets out on the case, she finds the elusive truth about Usha’s death may lie somewhere in India. And a separate case Maisie had assigned to Billy, her assistant, may somehow prove to be closely related to her murder investigation. Read the full review.
A Dangerous Place (2015)—Maisie Dobbs in “a place seething with those dispossessed by war”
It’s now April 1937, and Maisie has alighted in Gibraltar. It’s “a place seething with those dispossessed by war across the border.” The Spanish Civil War is raging. When Maisie stumbles across a dead body shortly after arriving in Gibraltar, she’s unable to resist investigating the death. Her compulsion to act leads her into a tangled mystery involving arms smugglers aiding the Republican forces in Spain’s civil war. Read the full review.
Journey to Munich (2016)—Maisie Dobbs, now a secret agent, travels to Munich in 1938
The earlier novels in the Maisie Dobbs series are detective stories, focusing on Maisie’s profession as a “Psychologist and Investigator.” However, as the 1930s slip by and World War II grows ever closer, Maisie finds herself pressed into service by the British security services. In Journey to Munich, she is recruited to assume a false identity to help gain the release of a prominent British businessman imprisoned at Dachau for financing anti-Nazi propaganda. Read the full review.
In This Grave Hour (2017)—Learn about British life between the world wars from the Maisie Dobbs series
In her 13th entry in the series, Winspear opens the novel on the day (September 3, 1939) that Great Britain declared war on Germany. As the war has drawn nearer she has been tapped by government agencies such as Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) for special assignments as well. Now, with war underway, she finds herself embroiled in another such case. Read the full review.
To Die But Once (2018)—Maisie Dobbs, Dunkirk, war profiteering, and the war at home in England
To Die But Once begins just days before the Battle of Dunkirk. Maisie’s practice as a “psychologist and investigator” has slowed, freeing her up to look into the disappearance of the teenage son of the couple who run the local pub. Maisie’s investigation confronts her and Billy Beale, her assistant, with a notorious gangster, war profiteers, and a plan to rob the Bank of England. Read the full review.
The American Agent (2019)—Maisie Dobbs pursues a killer in Britain during the Blitz
Like millions of others living in Britain during the Blitz, Maisie is bravely continuing to press on despite the nightly threat of death from the skies. Yet life goes on, even in London. Maisie is preoccupied with her application to adopt a five-year-old refugee girl named Anna. She nervously awaits word from the Ministry of Health for the date of an interview she’ll have to pass to gain permission. Then the war intrudes unexpectedly. Robbie MacFarlane, Maisie’s erstwhile collaborator at MI6 in adventures past, descends on her to take on a case with sensitive overtones. Read the full review.
The Consequences of Fear (2021)—Maisie Dobbs investigates a murder involving British intelligence
Now in her early forties, the “psychologist and investigator” is working on call for Robbie MacFarlane in the Special Operations Executive. Her job is to interview candidates for insertion as espionage agents on the Continent. She’s required to certify that, even after they’ve successfully made their way through the rigorous training, they’re fully prepared psychologically for the risks ahead. Meanwhile, her three-year-old adoptive daughter, Anna, is living at home with Maisie’s father and mother-in-law in Kent. Maisie feels constant guilt at her inability to spend full-time with the charming little girl. And all the while she’s carrying on an increasingly passionate affair with an American embassy official named Mark Scott. And now a twelve-year-old boy turns up with evidence that someone involved with British intelligence has committed a brutal murder. Read the full review.
A Sunlit Weapon (2022)—Maisie Dobbs meets Eleanor Roosevelt
In Jacqueline Winspear’s 17th Maisie Dobbs novel, the brilliant “psychologist and investigator” meets the world-famous wife of the President of the United States. But that meeting is a long way off as the story opens. And how it comes about is a complex tale involving the women pilots of Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and the US Army Air Forces. A Sunlit Weapon, with its tight focus on the women pilots of World War II, sparkles with the same verve and attention to period detail of the best previous entries in Jacqueline Winspear’s popular Maisie Dobbs series. Read the full review.
About the author
Jacqueline Winspear was born in England in 1955, granddaughter of a World War I veteran who shared his experiences with her. She has won numerous awards for the bestselling books in the Maisie Dobbs series. Winspear emigrated to the United States in 1990 and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For additional reading
You might also enjoy my posts:
- Top 10 mystery and thriller series
- 20 excellent standalone mysteries and thrillers
- 20 outstanding detective series from around the world
- Top 20 detective novels reviewed
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.