Aubiobook Review: Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

From Rob Thomas, the creator of groundbreaking television series and movie Veronica Mars, comes the first book in a thrilling new mystery series.

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is not a simple missing person’s case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

My Thoughts:

More Veronica Mars? Yes, more Veronica Mars!

If you’ve visited my blog at all during the last couple of months, chances are you’ve seen me chatting up my VMars obsession, which was reignited by the new season of the TV series, then further fueled by going back and re-watching the show from the beginning. I capped it off by watching the 2014 Veronica Mars movie… so naturally, what came next was the first of two Veronica Mars books, written by series creator Rob Thomas.

And in case you’re wondering — no, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line does NOT read like a cheap novelization. Instead, it’s a complex, well-developed detective story that kept me on the edge of my seat. And of course, the true delight is getting to spend more time with the characters we know and love.

As a bit of context, the plot of The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is set about two months after the events of the movie. (Seriously, go watch the movie if you haven’t!). Veronica is back in Neptune, turning her back on a lucrative law career and a boring relationship (bye, Piz!) in New York to join her father in the family business, Mars Investigations. And if you think Papa Mars is happy about that, think again! Keith explodes in anger, furious that Veronica has given up the safety of corporate law to wade back into the seedy, dangerous PI business. Of course, his anger is really a mask for fear. He’s terrified that Veronica will end up hurt, or worse, and with good reason. She just does not know how to back down when she’s chasing a lead, no matter the danger involved.

What about Logan? Well, Veronica and her true love Logan Echolls reunited in the movie, and they’re still together, building a relationship, in this book — although “together” is a relative term, since he’s in the Navy and away on a mission for the duration of The Thousand Dollar Tan Line. Still, it warms my little heart to know that these two crazy lovebirds are back in each other’s lives.

As to the mystery fueling the plot, it centers around the lunacy of spring break in Neptune, a magnet for drunken rowdiness for college students from all over, who descend on Neptune and party like there’s no tomorrow. And for one unlucky girl, there isn’t — a college freshman named Hayley goes missing after a wild party at a fancy mansion. Once national attention becomes focused on the debauchery of Neptune, the town’s leaders realize they need the girl found in order to protect the lucrative Neptune spring break business, so they hire Mars Investigations to find her (because the local sheriff is both corrupt and incompetent, don’t ya know.)

Keith is out of commission, having been severely wounded in a car crash (in the movie) and still recovering, so Veronica jumps in and takes the lead on the case. Her investigations lead her to college campuses, the rich and powerful of Neptune, and even to a Mexican drug cartel, putting her own life in grave danger (naturally). A second girl goes missing, and this time, it’s personal — it turns out that Aurora is the underage stepdaughter of Veronica’s mother, a woman who abandoned her years ago and whom she hasn’t seen in over a decade.

The plots twists are just as good and unpredictable as any Veronica Mars fan might expect. And Veronica herself is as much of a reckless bad-ass as ever, with plenty of smarts and a handy Taser to back her up. Not to mention her good friends in her corner — Wallace and Mac are back, as are some other old favorites, such as the DA Cliff and even the ridiculous Dick Casablancas.

The writing is terrific, with all the quippiness that makes Veronica Mars so much fun.

Sometimes, if it looks like a murderous duck and quacks like a murderous duck… well, you know.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is tons of fun. If you’re thinking about reading it — I can’t stress this enough! — pick up the audiobook! Kristen Bell does the narration, and it’s perfect. I mean, you really can’t get any better than having the actress who plays Veronica Mars reading the Veronica Mars novel. She does a good job with the supporting characters too, although it’s a little weird to hear Kristen Bell doing Keith and Logan, but I got over it.

If you’ve never watched Veronica Mars, then likely this is all gibberish to you (although what are you waiting for? Go watch the TV series, and be sure to start at the beginning!) This book is a total treat for fans, and I would guess that even folks not familiar with VMars might enjoy the detective story here.

As for me, in case it isn’t already clear, I loved it. There’s one more book available, and I can’t wait to start it!

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The details:

Title: Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line 
Author: Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Narrator:  Kristen Bell
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publication date: March 25, 2014
Audiobook length: 8 hours, 42 minutes
Printed book length: 324 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Purchased (Audible)

Aubiobook Review: Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart

 

Trailblazing Constance’s hard-won job as deputy sheriff is on the line in Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, the fourth installment of Amy Stewart’s Kopp Sisters series.

After a year on the job, New Jersey’s first female deputy sheriff has collared criminals, demanded justice for wronged women, and gained notoriety nationwide for her exploits. But on one stormy night, everything falls apart.

While transporting a woman to an insane asylum, Deputy Kopp discovers something deeply troubling about her story. Before she can investigate, another inmate bound for the asylum breaks free and tries to escape.

In both cases, Constance runs instinctively toward justice. But the fall of 1916 is a high-stakes election year, and any move she makes could jeopardize Sheriff Heath’s future–and her own. Although Constance is not on the ballot, her controversial career makes her the target of political attacks.

With wit and verve, book-club favorite Amy Stewart brilliantly conjures the life and times of the real Constance Kopp to give us this “unforgettable, not-to-be messed-with heroine” (Marie Claire) under fire in Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit.

My Thoughts:

Four books in, the Kopp Sisters series is going strong! Constance Kopp is an independent, strong, career woman — at a time when these were not considered desirable attributes for a female. She works as a deputy sheriff at the Hackensack jail, where she essentially does double duty, both capturing criminals and carrying out deputy funtions, and serving as the jail’s matron for female inmates, whom she views as her charges.

Both Sheriff Heath — a fair-minded man who treats Constance as a colleague and professional, a rarity in the law-enforcement world — and Constance believe in prison reform, the idea that treating prisoners as people with options for redemption will actually lead to less crime overall. Constance takes a particular interest in the young women who often find themselves incarcerated for being wayward or otherwise uncontrollable, working with a sympathetic judge to get them released on probation, under her supervision, and finding them safe living situations, opportunities for decent work, and the chance to educate themselves and improve their lives.

All this is threatened by the 1916 elections. Sheriff Heath has termed out of his role and is running for Congress, and the sheriff’s position is hotly contested beween a man who detests Constance and a man who sees her as a cute affectation. In describing the tone of the campaign, author Amy Stewart adeptly shows how dirty politics isn’t new to today’s political climate. Sheriff Heath, perhaps naively, believes that elections can be won or lost on the merits of a candidate:

“Miss Kopp, Don’t you see that it’s better for us this way? He’s putting all his worst qualities right out on display for the public to see. You notice that he hasn’t said a word about what a sheriff’s actual duties might be, or why he’s best qualified to carry them out. A man who does nothing but cast out hate and blame couldn’t possibly be elected to office.”

If only.

As always, Constance Kopp — who is a real person, and whose history Amy Stewart draws upon for the events of the novel — is a stunningly strong, honest, and dedicated woman. She believes in her purpose, and constantly puts her own interests second to her duty to the public and to her inmates. In Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, we spend a bit less time with Constance’s sisters Norma and Fleurette, who feature much more prominently in earlier books. Still, their home life and interesting personality dynamics are always entertaining to read about.

By the end of the novel, circumstances have changed dramatically for the Kopp sisters, and it would appear that their lives are about to enter an entirely new phase. And while I’m sad to see the partnership between Constance and Sheriff Heath reach an ending of sorts for the moment, I’m still as invested as ever in these people and their lives, and can’t wait to see where they go and what they do next.

I’ll wrap up by repeating almost exactly what I wrote at the end of my review for the 3rd book, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions

A final note: I listened to the audiobook, and it’s wonderful! Narrator Christina Moore has a gift when it comes to these characters, making each sister distinct, as well as the rest of the characters, whether working class New Jersey girls or glad-handing politicians or downtrodden housewives. Their voices are sharp and funny and full of personality, just like Amy Stewart’s characters themselves.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Kopp Sisters books yet, start with Girl Waits With Gun, and then keep going!

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The details:

Title: Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit
Author: Amy Stewart
Narrator: Christina Moore
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: September 11, 2018
Audiobook length: 8 hours, 53 minutes
Printed book length: 320 pages
Genre: Detective story/historical fiction
Source: Audible download (purchased); ARC from the author

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Take A Peek Book Review: Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

This mystery thriller reunites Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama for a political mashup full of suspense, intrigue, and laugh out loud bromance.

Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted—the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic.

Part noir thriller and part bromance novel, Hope Never Dies is essentially the first published work of Obama/Biden fanfiction—and a cathartic read for anyone distressed by the current state of affairs.

My Thoughts:

For everyone who laughed through their tears while scrolling through all those countless Biden/Obama memes…

This one’s for you.

Hope Never Dies is a noir detective story that just happens to feature our favorite presidential bromantic couple as the lead action heroes. In this funny, warm-hearted satire, retired Joe Biden is still a good guy, but one with enough time on his hands to build up a great big load of resentment over former bestie Barack’s never-ending parade of fun celebrity outings… while Joe just waits for a simple call or a text. But when the Amtrak conductor who’d been a part of Joe’s commute for decades turns up dead under suspicious circumstances, Joe and Barack are thrown together into a crime investigation that features drugs, bikers, shady cops, and plenty of stops for fast food.

“Son of a buttermilk biscuit” I said, grimacing. “We got bamboozled.”

This book is charming AF and oh-so-silly, and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy thinking about the good old days when these two were in the White House. Their fictional counterparts are adorable, and their ongoing friendship and devotion brought the teeniest little lump to my throat. The author has a knack for keeping the story moving while weaving in little snippets of dialogue and actions that bring our former POTUS and VPOTUS to life on the page.

Hope Never Dies is a surprisingly fun read, and the detective elements are actually pretty clever and engaging too. But really, read it for the Biden-isms and cool-as-hell Obama appearances. It’s like a little ray of sunshine in book form.

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The details:

Title: Hope Never Dies
Author: Andrew Shaffer
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication date: July 10, 2018
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Satire
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Aubiobook Review: Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart

 

The feisty, fiery Kopp sisters are back in another unforgettable romp by international bestseller Amy Stewart.

Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges of waywardness, incorrigibility, and moral depravity. The strong-willed, patriotic Edna Heustis, who left home to work in a munitions factory, certainly doesn’t belong behind bars. And sixteen-year-old runaway Minnie Davis, with few prospects and fewer friends, shouldn’t be publicly shamed and packed off to a state-run reformatory. But such were the laws — and morals — of 1916.

Constance uses her authority as deputy sheriff, and occasionally exceeds it, to investigate and defend these women when no one else will. But it’s her sister Fleurette who puts Constance’s beliefs to the test and forces her to reckon with her own ideas of how a young woman should and shouldn’t behave.

Against the backdrop of World War I, and drawn once again from the true story of the Kopp sisters, ‘Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions’ is a spirited, page-turning story that will delight fans of historical fiction and lighthearted detective fiction alike.

My Thoughts:

The third book in the Kopp Sisters series is another terrific adventure starring Deputy Sheriff Constance Kopp and her sisters. In this installment, the main trouble is young girls looking for freedom and purpose, and the fear the authorities seem to have at the prospect of “waywardness”. Blameless girls can be scooped up and put in jail at the request of their parents, simply for leaving home without permission. Constance becomes convinced that there has to be another way, and does her best to find it.

I love the characters in these books. Amy Stewart does an amazing job of bringing to vibrant life these audacious, unusual women, and shows us the incredible biases they faced on a daily basis. It’s great fun knowing Constance was a real person, and I couldn’t help but admire her devotion to her principles and her job, even while being scoffed at for doing “men’s work”.

Book #3 isn’t perfect, though: The plot itself is a tad flat compared to the previous two books, which featured dangerous criminal cases, pursuits, threats, and imminent risk to the Kopps. Here, it’s a quieter sort of story, as the plights of Minnie and Edna are interwoven with Fleurette’s own escapade. The story is never dull, but it lacks the adrenaline and speed of the previous two.

Still, it’s absolutely worth reading. The characters continue to be delightful, and it’s interesting to see how the looming involvement of the United States in WWI begins to cast a shadow over the events in the story. I definitely want to see what happens next!

A final note: I listened to the audiobook, and it’s wonderful! Narrator Christina Moore has a gift when it comes to these characters, making each sister distinct, as well as the rest of the characters, whether working class New Jersey girls or New York cops or traveling vaudeville stars. Their voices are sharp and funny and full of personality, just like Amy Stewart’s characters themselves.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Kopp Sisters books yet, start with Girl Waits With Gun, and then keep going!

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The details:

Title: Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions
Author: Amy Stewart
Narrator: Christina Moore
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: September 5, 2017
Audiobook length: 10 hours, 4 minutes
Printed book length: 365 pages
Genre: Detective story/historical fiction
Source: Audible download (purchased)

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Audiobook Review: Girl Waits With Gun

girl-waits-with-gun

A novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.  

 

Guys, Girl Waits With Gun may be the most enjoyable audiobook I’ve listened to all year! Fantastic story and characters, and narration that really pulls you into the mood of the story.

But stepping back a moment…

Author Amy Stewart has written several highly successful non-fiction books (with absolutely aweseome titles), including Wicked Plants and The Drunken Botanist. Girl Waits With Gun is her first novel, and is the first in what’s projected to be a series about the historical figures at the heart of the novel.

The Kopp sisters were real people who lived in New Jersey in the early part of the 20th century. After an unfortunate run-in with a powerful, corrupt factory owner, the sisters were threatened and terrorized for months on end. Led by oldest sister Constance, the Kopp sisters sought help from the local sheriff, and persisted in seeing that their tormentor would be brought to justice, no matter the risk to themselves.

The novel fleshes out these historical women and brings them to life, so that we really get to know the personalities and inner workings of the three sisters. Narrated by Constance, we see events through her eyes, and come to understand their small family, the state of politics, unions, and factory owners at the time, and the limitations placed on women by the traditions and societal expectations of the time.

Source: Amy Stewart's website

Source: Amy Stewart’s website

The three sisters are sharply developed, so that we get to know their personalities, their quirks, and their unique voices — both in terms of how they’re written in the story, and how the narrator portrays them. The text and the narration play up Fleurette’s girlish naivete, Norma’s brusque no-nonsense approach to life at large, and Contance’s bravery and wisdom. I loved the character of Sheriff Heath as well, who comes across as a good, honest man dedicated to justice and decency, who’s willing to buck the system in order to see that the innocent are protected. (And I love the fact that it’s Sheriff Heath who gives the sisters their revolvers and makes sure they know how to use them.)

The author makes the historical setting feel real and vibrant, giving us the tastes and smells of factory towns and farms, the sense of busy streets crammed with horse-drawn wagons and sleek automobiles, and the hidden underbelly of society, where the factory workers live in company-owned boarding houses and work in abusive, unhealthy conditions.

The writing here is fast-paced, often funny, and always sharp, catching the nuances of the relationships and the characters, and capturing the colloquialisms and social niceties of the times. Even as the tension and threats mount, there are little moments of humor to keep things moving along.

I really, truly enjoyed listening to Girl Waits With Gun, and I plan to start book #2, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, a bit later this month. I love the Kopp sisters, and can’t wait to see what’s next for them.

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The details:

Title: Girl Waits With Gun
Author: Amy Stewart
Narrator: Christina Moore
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: September 1, 2015
Audiobook length: 10 hours, 54 minutes
Printed book length: 408 pages
Genre: Detective story/historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley; Audible download purchased

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Thursday Quotables: Girl Waits With Gun

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

girl-waits-with-gun

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart
(published 2015)

I’m listening to this audiobook, and absolutely love it! I had a hard time coming up with a passage to share, so I think I’ll just go with the opening of chapter 1, which gives a hint of the quirky charm that’s to come:

Our troubles began in the summer of 1914, the year I turned thirty-five. The Archduke of Austria had just been assassinated, the Mexicans were revolting, and absolutely nothing was happening at our house, which explains why all three of us were riding to Paterson on the most trivial of errands. Never had a larger committee been convened to make a decision about the purchase of mustard powder and the replacement of a claw hammer whose handle had split from age and misuse.

Against my better judgment I allowed Fleurette to drive. Norma was reading to us from the newspaper as she always did.

“Man’s Trousers Cause Death,” Norma called out.

“It doesn’t say that.” Fleurette snorted and turned around to get a look at the paper. The reins slid out of her hands.

“It does,” Norma insisted. “It says that a Teamster was in the habit of hanging his trousers over the gas jet at night but, being under the influence of liquor, didn’t notice that the trousers smothered the flame.”

“Then he died of gas poisoning, not of trousers.”

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Book Review: Depth

DepthSome two hundred years from now, the polar ice caps have long since melted. Chicago is on the coastline of mainland United States, which is ruled by a fundamentalist Christian government. Moving east, you’ll find the Appalachian Islands, and then huge expanses of ocean covering the drowned cities, where tips of building occasionally poke up from the waves.

And then there’s New York which, Depth makes clear, can survive anything.

Water levels have risen about 20 stories — so the million or so people who still inhabit New York live on the 21st floor and above, employing newer technologies such as Glassteel to keep the above-water buildings more or less dry and waterproof. The building are connected by an intricate maze of bridges — some well-maintained, some rickety — and permanently moored boats, such as converted cruise ships and military vessels, which form everything from police stations to nursing homes to floating restaurants.

Watch your step! The waves keep churning beneath your feet, and you WILL get wet. Salt water and sea spray are everywhere, and those bridges can get pretty slippery. One big storm or moment of inattention, and you’ll end up in the water… and in general, those who go in only come out as corpses destined for the recycling plant.

Oh, it’s quite a world that author Lev AC Rosen has built here in Depth. The concept alone is worth picking up this futurist, sci-fi, noir detective story (described in the cover blurb as “Heinlein meets Hammett”) — but hey! There’s an actual plot to go with it, and it’s quite a good one.

Private investigator Simone Pierce is a tough, prickly red-head who goes her own way and sticks to her own company for the most part. Her only two trusted friends are Caroline, a highly-placed politician from a powerful family, and Danny, a young man with some unusual talents who masquerades as a psychic. Simone is out on a routine case, trying to get the goods on a client’s possibly cheating husband, when she’s pulled into something far more deadly and complicated. When the husband turns up dead, Simone finds herself embroiled in a web that includes suspicious cops, a potentially crooked pastor, an art-loving power broker, a sexy grad student, and a mysterious woman, whom Simone thinks of as The Blonde, who seems to be at the center of it all.

The author has pulled off quite a balancing act here, creating a fully fleshed-out detective story that keeps powering forward with high-level energy, and at the same time pulling us into a crazily off-balance world that delights with each water-soaked new chapter. The new environment is just fascinating, and I am full of admiration for the way the author slips in little details about the waves or the salt water or the constant dampness while there’s a chase scene underway.

The dialogue has all the wryness, and sarcasm of a traditional noir detective tale, fine-tuned for this new place and time.

“Are you asking me along to watch you interrogate someone I’m angry at in an attempt to repair our friendship?”

“That is exactly what I’m doing.”

“Will you let me hit her?”

“If the opportunity presents itself.”

Even the descriptive passages are full of some wonderful imagery:

Simone tossed what was left of her cigarette into the ocean. It cartwheeled into the water, one end leaving a trail of sparks like blood spatter.

Really, I just can’t say enough about Depth. I’ve been a fan of this talented author since his debut novel, All Men of Genius, was released in 2011. The detective part of the story is fun and engaging, but it’s this concept of New York as a drowned city that somehow has managed to survive, to thrive, and to keep its own sense of independence and defiance that’s truly a treat. I can’t get enough of the world Lev AC Rosen has created in Depth, and I just hope there will be a sequel so I can visit once again!

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The details:

Title: Depth
Author: Lev AC Rosen
Publisher: Regan Arts
Publication date: April 28, 2015
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased

 

Audiobook Review: Maisie Dobbs

Maisie DobbsWhen we first meet Maisie Dobbs, it is 1929, and she is opening up her London office for the very first time. Maisie, a young woman of about 30, is going into business as a private investigator, thanks to the tutelage of her mentor, Maurice Blanche, and the sponsorship of her patroness, Lady Rowan.

Maisie is an extremely intelligent woman, reserved by nature, strikingly attractive — and it’s immediately apparent that this is a person who has been hurt deeply in her lifetime. That doesn’t stop Maisie, though. She is more than ready when her first client walks through her door, hiring her to investigate his wife’s long afternoons away from home and to determine if she’s being unfaithful.

What Maisie discovers is not infidelity, but yet another lost soul still bearing the wounds of the Great War that ended ten years earlier. As Maisie pursues the trail of clues, her memories of her own wartime experiences come flooding back, demanding to be faced after all this time.

Maisie Dobbs is constructed around a mystery — who is the man whose grave the client’s wife cries over, and why does his gravestone list only his first name? The solution to this case leads Maisie back into the world of wounded soldiers and the terrible sacrifices and pain suffered by those who made it back home.

At the heart of the book lies Maisie’s own story. As her investigation begins to relate to the war, the center third of the book shifts scene and time and takes us back to Maisie’s teen years, when she works as a housemaid in Lady Rowan’s home. Maisie’s eagerness to learn leads her to an education sponsored by Lady Rowan, eventually entering college at Cambridge before the harsh reality of war causes her to change path.

Maisie abandons her college studies and enrolls in nursing school, ultimately training as a battlefield nurse and getting sent to a field hospital on the frontlines in France. I won’t go into too much detail, other than to say that Maisie’s experiences there lead to a tragic loss that has haunted her ever since. And in investigating the case of the soldier’s grave, Maisie is finally forced into confronting her sad, painful history.

I picked up this book not knowing what to expect. I had heard of the Maisie Dobbs series, and thought this first book would be a more or less straightforward detective story. What really impressed me about Maisie Dobbs is how deep and layered the story is. While Maisie is indeed an investigator, the setting and the time period are gateways into an examination of the horrors and tragedies of the terrible losses suffered during World War I — and the ongoing pain and suffering experienced by those who came home to face a lifetime of disfigurement and isolation.

Through Maisie’s thoughts, we come to feel the terrible depth of the tragedy as experienced on a very personal level, and yet there’s also hope. While Maisie carries emotional wounds that will always be with her, she’s also creating a new life in a new era, using her brains and her inner strength to face life on her own terms.

The audiobook narrator, Rita Barrington, does a lovely job of capturing Maisie’s inner dialogue, as well as voicing the people in her life. She does an excellent older, aristocratic voice for Lady Rowan, and a cheeky, working class voice for Maisie’s assistant Billy. Even while narrating conversations between multiple characters, it wasn’t hard to follow or to figure out who was talking at any given time. I liked the clarity and sweetness of Maisie’s voice, and the gentleness with which she speaks to all, especially to wounded soldiers and others in need of her care.

According to Goodreads, there are 11 Maisie Dobbs novels currently in print, with a 12th scheduled for release in 2016. I don’t really know where the series will go from here: Will it be a more traditional mystery series, with a new case forming the focal point of each book? Will Maisie’s connections to the war continue to inform the storylines? I suppose I could read the synopses of the next few books in the series, but really, I’d rather just wait and find out for myself.

I’m quite sure that I’ll continue with this series, which has such a well-written start in this first book. The emotional depths of this novel make it an affecting and throught-provoking read. There’s something about WWI fiction that is utterly compelling and tragic, and I found myself very much enthralled by the character of Maisie Dobbs and her fascinating life. Hearing the voices of Maisie and the other characters, as portrayed in the audiobook, made the experience even richer, and I look forward to listening to the 2nd book as soon as possible.

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The details:

Title: Maisie Dobbs
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Narrator: Rita Barrington
Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: January 1, 2003
Audiobook length: 10 hours, 1 minute
Printed book length: 309 pages
Genre: Historical fiction; crime/mystery series
Source: Audible