In the last few years, I have become taken by several book series.  I keep checking for the release dates on new additions to each series and shamelessly buy the hardcover edition instead of patiently waiting for the paperbacks to be published.  It is easy to be captured by eccentric characters who come to life on the pages of a book, and it is even easier to look forward to rejoining these new friends in every installment that is released.  Three series that have really captured my interest are Chief Inspector Gamache Novels by Louise Penny, Maisie Dobbs Novels by Jacqueline Winspear, and Maggie Hope Mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal.  While each novel can be stand-alone, it is best to read each series in order of publication; I have chosen one book from each as an example of what to expect.


Chief Inspector Gamache Novels by Louise Penny:
The Beautiful Mystery, 2012, #9 in a series of 14

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is from the Sûreté du Québec, the Quebec, Canada, Provincial Police. He is happily married to Reine-Marie and has two adult children.  Many of these novels are set in a little village named Three Pines, though this one is set at a monastery, Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, at a very remote location.  Usually, Gamache works with a larger team, but in this novel, only Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who is secretly seeing Gamache’s daughter, accompanies him to investigate a murder.  Frere Mathieu, the choirmaster, has been found dead in a garden to which very few have access.  The monastery only has 24 brothers, and they take a vow of silence, except to sing their beautiful ancient chants. They have historically been called The Beautiful Mystery because the music and the voices are so mysteriously breathtaking.  The Abbot, Dom Philippe, has lifted the vow of silence while Gamache and Beauvoir are investigating.  It seems impossible that one of these devout men could commit murder, but because the brothers are the only ones allowed in the secluded, heavily locked monastery, the murderer must be among them.  What the investigators find behind the monastery walls is far more discord than they expected.  Some years earlier the monks had decided to make a recording of their chants to sell to generate some income for repairs to their building.  The project was a huge success, but not everyone supported the decision to extend themselves beyond the confines of their monastery.  This conflict and others make for an intriguing investigation that once again is solved by Chief Inspector Gamache.


Maisie Dobbs Novels by Jacqueline Winspear:
In This Grave Hour, 2017, #13 in a series of 14

Maisie Dobbs is a woman before her time.  She is smart, independent, and determined.  She is an investigator and psychologist, running her own agency in London with the help of her longtime friend and associate, Eddie.  Maisie was a nurse in World War I, and, like Eddie, still nurses the physical and psychological injuries suffered in such a devastating war.  The series starts shortly after WWI and runs into World War II, where Maisie uses her intelligence and experience to counter events taking place in Europe.  In this novel, just as war is being declared, a Belgian refugee from the Great War (WWI) has been murdered.  When Maisie arrives home one night, she finds a British senior Secret Service agent in her apartment who wants Maisie to take on the investigation of this murder.  As she investigates, more killings of Belgian refugees take place.  Simultaneously, Maisie visits her family home to see her father, Frankie.  He works at a large estate where the Lord and Lady of the house have agreed to take in children escaping the ravages of war on the continent.  The family has taken in a young girl who will not speak; all they know about her is that her name is Anna.  So, Maisie is charged with trying to work with the little girl and discover something about her past at the same time she investigates the murder.


Maggie Hope Mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal:
The Paris Spy, 2017, #7 in a series of 8

The heroine in this series has come back to England and her roots after growing up in the United States.  She is a brilliant mathematics graduate looking for a job in London.  Despite her high intelligence, she can only find a job as a typist for the Prime Minister in 1940.  Opportunities present themselves, and she proves her worth by breaking codes.  She trains as a spy and becomes renowned for her abilities in the field.  In The Paris Spy, she is secretly sent to German-occupied Paris with a mission to find a missing operative, Erica Calvert, but Hope has a secondary purpose in mind: to find her half-sister Elise, who escaped from a German prison camp.  Calvert has been doing research which is vital to the Allies’ plan to invade Normandy.  With Nazi officers swarming the city, Hope poses as a socialite and intermixes with her French contacts and the Germans to find Calvert and her vital research.




Diane Repass is a retired tenured assistant professor
from The University of Dubuque and now a beloved
writer for Plaid Swan Inc. She received her M.A. from
The University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.