Circumstances force Maisie Dobbs, the daughter of a widowed costermonger, into service at the age of thirteen. She is fortunate that her employer, Lady Rowan Compton, recognizes Maisie’s unusual intellectual gifts and many doors open for her. As the story begins, Maisie is setting up her own detective agency. Her first assignment: to find out if a wife is having an affair. In the course of this domestic investigation, Maisie learns about a farm, The Retreat, a quasi-rest home for disabled World War I veterans. Lady Rowan’s son is contemplating entering The Retreat. She asks Maisie to check it out. In the course of this investigation, several mysterious deaths are uncovered, leading to a suspenseful climax.
In Maisie Dobbs, the first of a series, Jacqueline Winspear has created a multi-talented, intelligent, and intellectual heroine. The story opens in 1929 and in order to explain Maisie, there is long flashback mid-book. Returning to 1929 is a bit jarring for two reasons. The tenor of the story changes and something is left unresolved, but in the end all loose strings are tied up. This is a tidy mystery.