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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Winspear, Jacqueline: Maisie Dobbs

  Amazon  

4 stars

Jacqueline Winspear's historical mystery Maisie Dobbs begins in 1929, just over ten years after the end of the Great War, when its eponymous protagonist takes on her first case as an independent "cerebral investigator." Maisie's client comes to her with an ostensibly straightforward domestic problem, but the case leads Maisie into a greater mystery involving a home for disfigured veterans--a path that leads Maisie also to reexamine her own war-time experiences.

Maisie was tutored by a friend of her employer's, a Yoda-like character who spouted Eastern wisdom and taught his protégée a sort of holistic approach to detection. In a lengthy digression from her "modern" mystery in the book's midsection, Maisie's past is fleshed out. The daughter of a costermonger, Maisie went into service in 1910, at the age of thirteen, in the home of a woman who would become her benefactress. Maisie was tutored by a friend of her employer's, a Yoda-like character who spouted Eastern wisdom and taught his protégée a sort of holistic approach to detection. Later, after a brief stint at Cambridge, Maisie served as a nurse in the blood and muck of France and was courted by a charming doctor with whom she had danced once in England prior to shipping out. When the book's narrative returns to Maisie's present what we now know of her past renders her experiences in 1929 more poignant.

Maisie Dobbs is a nicely written book and a gentle read, despite its subject matter. In large part the book is successful, though Maisie's apparent ability to understand the emotions of others by adopting their posture strains credibility. The character of Maisie's tutor too, the seemingly omniscient Maurice Blanche, does not quite come to life. More literary than genre fiction--if one is to categorize the book by those unspecific terms--Maisie Dobbs does not in fact offer a compelling mystery. Its focus is rather on the characters Winspear is introducing and on recreating the feel of the period between the wars, in showing, in particular, the effect the First World War had on those who lived through it. But with this back story established in this first book, it will be interesting to see how the Maisie Dobbs mystery series proceeds, whether our heroine's powers of detection will be tested in subsequent installments by mysteries sufficiently gripping to carry a book themselves.

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