Book Review: Maise Dobbs (plus other book suggestions)
By Alexis Mercer
In light of the recent news that Michigan schools are to be shut down starting Monday until APril, spring sports are cancelled or at least drastically shortened, and that social distancing is mandatory to keep the pandemic under control, many of us will have more time to read. But what do we read?
Here is a list of some of my favorite books I have read recently. Many I have written reviews on in the pages of Near North Now. You can search the words ‘Book Review” or the title of the book itself.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart (young adult novel, but so entertaining for all readers)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
The Runaway Wife by Elizabeth Birkeland
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Midnight Line by Lee Child
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Bear Town by Fredrick Backman
The Muse by Jessie Burton
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Aleph by Paulo Coelho
Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Circe by Madeline Miller
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Running on the Edge by Matthew Futterman (only if you like sports stories….especially about running)
In addition, here is another recommendation and review.
While at my husband’s family’s Christmas party in December, I was talking to Aunt Sari about books we have both read lately. She gave me a dozen or so recommendations that I quickly put into the notes in my phone. All of them I have loved. My favorite of them, though, is the Maise Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.
Her recommendation for this book series was based on them being wonderfully written detective novels that have substance and are good stories.
When I read Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, I am not going in thinking I am getting innovative, beautifully crafted writing. Don’t get me wrong - I LOVE Reacher as a character and pre-order every book. But those books are pure entertainment in a quick read kind of way.
Within the first pages of Maise Dobbs, I knew this was not a Reacher kind of novel.
Maise Dobbs is a woman who owns and operates her own detective business. In this, the first novel, the reader learns of how that business venture came about. Chapter 1 is set in spring of 1929 in England, but through the course of the book, travels all the way back to 1910 and Maise’s childhood.
Having lost her mother at a young age, Maise ends up an employee of Lord and Lady Compton, a well-to-do family, cleaning fireplaces and serving tea. The story unfolds through Maise’s teen years and her transformation into a student of Lady Rowan’s friend Maurice Blanche. Then the war hits and everyone’s lives are turned upside down.
In 1929, Maise takes a leap into the unknown, especially for a single woman in this time period, and opens her own private investigation business. She takes on a case that starts out with a husband wanting to investigate potential infidelity, and turns into a case dealing with ‘The Retreat’ where men who have been transfigured in war go to find escape from the outside world.
Not only does the reader follow the story of the investigation, but also the beautifully crafted main character.
Going into this novel, I expected a good read. After all, I trust Aunt Sari’s recommendations. I had no idea just how lovely the story would be. It unfolds deliciously and without an obvious ending. The main character is so intriguing. And being that the whole series is set in England in the early to mid 1900’s, it is fascinating the details of war and the emotions emanating from that time period.
Before I finished reading book 1, I quickly ordered books 2 and 3. I have since finished book 2 - and ordered books 4 and 5. I feel like I am Netflix binging, only with a meticulously well-written book series and without any guilt of having sat in front of a tv for hours on end.
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