Maisie Dobbs' first case as a private detective is not what she expected nor wanted. But in the spring of 1929 in her new London office her first client walks through her door and asks for her assistance with a love triangle. Maisie, who was born into a working class family, is aware of her status and sex and is trying to make her mark in the detective world and so takes on the case as professionally as she possibly can. She has an inherent intuition about people and situations as well as a skill for attention to detail which she honed through years of reading, attending university and finally being trained under Maurice Blanche, and so she uses all of her assets to make the most of this first case.
Luckily for Maisie, the case leads to another rather peculiar mystery which prompts her to investigate some things further. Why are there so many graves marked with only men's surnames in one countryside cemetery? And what does that have to do with the place where they all were living, the hopeful Retreat where brutally injured and disfigured soldiers of World War I could go to live in peace? Maisie begins to uncover details about the men's lives that suggest the Retreat is not exactly as advertised and, when an old friend decides he wants to live there, she moves quickly to find out the truth behind numerous deaths in order to save him from a dreadful decision.
In the midst of solving this mystery another one emerges as Maisie reflects on her own time during WWI. In 1917 she volunteered as a casualty nurse and was stationed in France. Before leaving there she met and fell in love with Captain Simon Lynch and her flashbacks to that time focus on her growing passion for him and how hard separation was for the young lovers. But she never reveals the full truth about Lynch until the very end.
Readers of cozy mysteries will enjoy this first book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Even though the romance is present it is not very flashy and instead stays true to the courting rules of that time period. I did not find myself deeply involved in the story until the very end. I thought that it moved a little slowly but still was an overall enjoyable read and I felt very connected to the characters by the end.