I'm that librarian who will go back to the library for a book club meeting that a) I'm not in charge of and b) takes place on my night off--especially if the book up for discussion is a good one. Enter Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs, an historical mystery that even folks who don't generally like mysteries (me!) can enjoy.
Maisie Dobbs is the first book in a series about the titular heroine and her experiences as a private investigator. Set post WWI, Maisie, her associates, and her clients all seem to have some aspect of their lives that ties them permanently and painfully to that conflict. These books take place in England, so the perspective of the Great War is a bit different from what most American readers have likely encountered in much of their reading. I was so captivated and moved by the descriptions of what Maisie's experiences as a Red Cross nurse were like. The author based these passages on the experiences of her own family members, and the truth behind the fiction peeks out in a most compelling way.
This first book in the series begins in 1929 with Maisie setting up her business and getting her first client. Then, a third of the way through the book, we're taken back to Maisie's childhood and the rest of her formative years in a series of chapters that paints a beautiful, if not conventionally cheery, backstory. For the last third of the book, the reader is again in Maisie's present-day 1929 as she wraps up her first case--and in the processes discovers just how affected she and many of her countrymen continue to be since the war.
Maisie Dobbs has rich historical detail, compelling and well-developed characters, moments for considering ideas of class, bravery, and friendship, and enough mystery to keep the reader intrigued and questioning what we know has happened in the story. I'd suggest it for book clubs looking for something historical and/or mystery, or for readers who enjoy books set in WWI, mysteries with female protagonists, and quiet yet powerful mysteries.