The Maise Dobbs mystery series is ten books-strong. This, the first, introduces the intrepid young woman who pulls herself up the steep steps of the British class system — from maid, to ingénue taken under her employer’s protective wing, to war nurse, to private detective. The story opens in England in 1910, when Maise, 14, goes into service following her mother’s death, and runs to 1929 when she opens her own private detective agency.
Maise comes from the lower echelon of society. Her father is a fruit peddler, but she’s smart and savy and eager to make something of herself. When Maise is discovered reading books in the private library of Lady Compton between her dusting duties, doors begin to open. The Comptons pay for her education and she is tutored in the fine art of investigating by their close friend Maurice Blanche.
Much of book one is devoted to Maise’s background but there’s a mystery as well that harkens back to the war and threatens to encompass her benefactors’ son. In taking on the case, Maise confronts the ghosts of love and loss that were part of her war-time experience and uncovers a dangerous scheme that preys on vulnerable veterans. Fans of “Foyle’s War” and stories of young women striking out and succeeding against great odds, albeit with help, will find much to enjoy in Maise Dobbs.
Maise Dobbs won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel in 2003.