In the thrilling new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of An Incomplete Revenge, Maisie Dobbs must catch a madman before he commits murder on an unimaginable scale
It’s Christmas Eve 1931. On the way to see a client, Maisie Dobbs witnesses a man commit suicide on a busy London street. The following day, the prime minister’s office receives a letter threatening a massive loss of life if certain demands are not met—and the writer mentions Maisie by name. After being questioned and cleared by Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane of Scotland Yard’s elite Special Branch, she is drawn into MacFarlane’s personal fiefdom as a special adviser on the case. Meanwhile, Billy Beale, Maisie’s trusted assistant, is once again facing tragedy as his wife, who has never recovered from the death of their young daughter, slips further into melancholia’s abyss. Soon Maisie becomes involved in a race against time to find a man who proves he has the knowledge and will to inflict death and destruction on thousands of innocent people. And before this harrowing case is over, Maisie must navigate a darkness not encountered since she was a nurse in wards filled with shell-shocked men.
In Among the Mad, Jacqueline Winspear combines a heart-stopping story with a rich evocation of a fascinating period to create her most compelling and satisfying novel yet.
About the Author
Jacqueline Winspear is the author of An Incomplete Revenge—a New York Times bestseller—and four other Maisie Dobbs novels. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity awards for the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.
Orlagh Cassidy is the winner of the 2009 Best Voice in Children & Family Listening and the 2008 and 2011 Best Voice in Mystery & Suspense. She’s narrated for Jacqueline Winspear, James Patterson, Erica Spindler, Beth Harbison, and Frank Herbert, among others.
Date of Birth:April 30, 1955
Place of Birth:Weald of Kent, England
Education:The University of London¿s Institute of Education
Read an Excerpt
Early September 1931
MaisieDobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, picked up her fountain pen to sign her name at the end of a final report that she and her assistant, Billy Beale, had worked late to complete the night before. Though the case was straightforward – a young man fraudulently using his uncle's good name to acquire all manner of goods and services, and an uncle keen to bring his nephew back on the straight and narrow without the police being notified – Maisie felt it was time for Billy to become more involved in the completion of a significant document and to take more of an active part in the final interview with a client. She knew how much Billy wanted to emigrate to Canada, to take his wife and family away from London's dark depression, and the cloud of grief that still hung over them following the death of their daughter, Lizzie, almost a year earlier. To gain a good job in a new country he would need to build more confidence in his work and himself, and seeing as she had already made inquiries on his behalf – without his knowledge – she knew greater dexterity with the written and spoken word would be an important factor in his success. Now the report was ready to be delivered before the Christmas holiday began.
"Eleven o'clock, Billy – just in time, eh?" Maisie placed the cap on her fountain pen and passed the report to her assistant, who slid it into an envelope and secured it with string. "As soon as this appointment is over, you should be on your way, so that you can spend the rest of the day with Doreen and the boys – it'll be nice to have Christmas Eve at home."
"That's good of you, Miss." Billy smiled, then went to the door where he took Maisie's coat and his own from the hook.
Maisie packed her document case before reaching under the desk to bring out a wooden orange crate. "You'll have to come back to the office first though."
"What's all this, Miss?" Billy's face was flushed as he approached her desk.
"A Christmas box for each of the boys, and one for you and Doreen." She opened her desk drawer and drew out an envelope. "And this is for you. We had a bit of a rocky summer, but things picked up and we've done quite well – plus we'll be busy in the new year – so this is your bonus. It's all well-earned, I must say."
Billy reddened. "Oh, that's very good of you, Miss. I'm much obliged. This'll cheer up Doreen."
Maisie smiled in return. She did not need to inquire about Billy's wife, knowing the depth of the woman's melancholy. There had been a time, at the end of the summer, when a few weeks spent hop-picking in Kent had put a bloom on the woman's cheeks, and she seemed to have filled out a little, looking less gaunt. But in London again, the routine of caring for her boys and keeping up with the dressmaking and alterations she took in had not lifted her spirits in any way. She ached for the milky softness of her daughter's small body in her arms.
Maisie looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. "We'd better be off."
They donned coats and hats and wrapped up against the chill wind that whistled around corners and blew across Fitzroy Square as they made their way towards Charlotte Street. Dodging behind a horse and cart, they ran to the other side of the road as a motor car came along in the opposite direction. The street was busy, with people rushing this way and that, heads down against the wind, some with parcels under their arms, others simply hoping to get home early. In the distance, Maisie noticed a man – she could not tell whether he was young or old – sitting on the pavement, leaning against the exterior wall of a shop. Even with some yards between them, she could see the grayness that enveloped him, the malaise, the drooping shoulders, one leg outstretched so passers-by had to skirt around him. His damp hair was slicked against his head and cheeks, his clothes were old, crumpled, and he watched people go by with a deep red-rimmed sadness in his eyes. One of them stopped to speak to a policeman, and turned back to point at the man. Though unsettled by his dark aura, Maisie reached into her bag for some change as they drew closer.
"Poor bloke – out in this, and at Christmas." Billy shook his head, and delved down into his coat pocket for a few coins.
"He looks too drained to find his way to a soup kitchen, or a shelter. Perhaps this will help." Maisie held her offering ready to give to the man.
They walked just a few steps and Maisie gasped, for it was as if she was at once moving in slow motion, as if she were in a dream where people spoke but she could not hear their words. She saw the man move, put his hand into the inside pocket of his threadbare greatcoat, and though she wanted to reach out to him, she was caught in a vacuum of muffled sound and constrained movement. She could see Billy frowning, his mouth moving, but could not make him understand what she had seen. Then the sensation, which had lasted but a second or two, lifted. Maisie looked at the man some twenty or so paces ahead of them, then at Billy again.
"Billy, go back, turn around and go back along the street, go back ...."
"Miss, what's wrong? You all right? What do you mean, Miss?"
Pushing against his shoulder to move him away, Maisie felt as if she were negotiating her way through a mire. "Go back, Billy, go back ..."
And because she was his employer, and because he had learned never to doubt her, Billy turned to retrace his steps in the direction of Fitzroy Square. Frowning, he looked back in time to see Maisie holding out her hand as she walked towards the man, in the way that a gentle person might try to bring calm to an enraged dog. Barely four minutes had passed since they walked past the horse and cart, and now here she was ....
The explosion pushed up and outwards into the Christmas Eve flurry, and in the seconds following there was silence. Just a crack in the wall of normal, everyday sound, then nothing. Billy, a soldier in the Great War, knew that sound, that hiatus. It was as if the earth itself had had the stuffing knocked out of it, had been throttled into a different day, a day when a bit of rain, a gust of wind and a few stray leaves had turned into a blood-soaked hell.
"Miss, Miss . . ." Billy picked himself up from the hard flagstones and staggered back to where he had last seen Maisie. The silence became a screaming chasm where police whistles screeched, smoke and dust filled the air and blood was sprayed up against the crumbling brick and shards of glass that was once the front of a shop where a man begged for a few coins outside.
"Maisie Dobbs! Maisie . . . Miss . . ." Billy sobbed as he stumbled forward. "Miss ..." he screamed again.
"Over 'ere, mate. Is this the one you're looking for?"
In the middle of the road a costermonger was kneeling over Maisie, cradling her head in one hand and brushing blood away from her face with the kerchief he'd taken from his neck. Billy ran to her side.
"Miss ... Miss ..."
"I'm no doctor, but I reckon she's a lucky one – lifted off her feet and brought down 'ere. Probably got a nasty crack on the back of 'er noddle though."
Maisie coughed, spitting dust-filled saliva from her mouth. "Oh, Billy ... I thought I could stop him. I thought I would be in time. If only we'd been here earlier, if only –"
"Don't you worry, Miss. Let's make sure you're all right before we do anything else."
Maisie shook her head, began to sit up and brushed her hair from her eyes and face. "I think I'm all right – I was just pulled right off the ground." She squinted and looked around at the melee. "Billy, we've got to help. I can help these people. . . ." She fell backwards again, then tried to stand.
The costermonger and Billy assisted Maisie to her feet. "Steady, love, steady," said the man, who looked at Billy, frowning, "What's she mean? Tried to stop 'im? Did you know there was a nutter there about to top 'imself – and try to take the rest of us with 'im?"
Billy shook his head. "No, we didn't know. This is my employer. We were just walking to see a customer. Only ...."
"Only what, mate? Only what? Look around you – it's bleeding chaos, people've been 'urt, look at 'em. Did she know this was going to 'appen? Because if she did, then I'm going over to that copper there and –"
Billy put his arm around Maisie and began to negotiate his way around the rubble, away from the screams of those wounded when a man took his own life in a most terrible way. He looked into his interrogator's eyes. "She didn't know until she saw the bloke. It was when she saw him that she knew." Maisie allowed herself to be led by Billy, who turned around to the costermonger one last time. "She just knows, you see. She knows." He fought back tears. "And thanks for helping her, mate." His voice cracked. "Thanks ... for helping her."
"Come on in here, bring her in and she can sit down." The woman called from a shop just a few yards away.
"Thank you, thank you very much." Billy led Maisie into the shop and to a chair, then turned to the woman. "I'd better get back there, see if there's any more I can do."
The woman nodded. "Tell people they can come in here. I've got the kettle on. Dreadful, dreadful, what this world's come to."
Soon the shop had filled with people while ambulances took the more seriously wounded to hospital. And as she sat clutching a cup of tea in her hands, feeling the soothing heat grow cooler in her grasp, Maisie replayed the scene time and again in her mind. She and Billy crossed the road behind the horse and cart, then ran to the curb as a motor came along the street. They were talking, noticing people going by or dashing in and out of shops before early closing. Then she saw him, the man, his leg stretched out, as if he were lame. As she had many times before, she reached into her bag to offer money to someone who had so little. She felt the cold coins brush against her fingers, saw the policeman set off across the street, and looked up at the man again – the man whose black aura seemed to grow until it touched her, until she could no longer hear, could not move with her usual speed.
She sipped her now-lukewarm tea. That was the point at which she knew. She knew that the man would take his life. But she thought he had a pistol, or even poison. She saw her own hand in front of her, reaching out as if to gentle his wounded mind, then there was nothing. Nothing except a sharp pain at the back of her head and a voice in the distance. Maisie Dobbs .... Miss. A voice screaming in panic, a voice coming closer.
Maisie started and almost dropped her cup.
"I'm sorry – I didn't mean to make you jump – your assistant said you were here." Detective Inspector Richard Stratton looked down at Maisie, then around the room. The proprietress had brought out as many chairs as she could, and all were taken. Stratton knelt down. "I was on duty at The Yard when it happened, so I was summoned straightaway. By chance I saw Mr. Beale and he said you witnessed the man take his life." He paused, as if to judge her state of mind. "Are you up to answering some questions?" Stratton spoke with a softness not usually employed when in conversation with Maisie. Their interactions had at times been incendiary, to say the least.
Maisie nodded, aware that she had hardly said a word since the explosion. She cleared her throat. "Yes, of course, Inspector. I'm just a little unsettled – I came down with a bit of a wallop, knocked out for a few moments, I think."
"Oh, good, you found her, then." Stratton and Maisie looked toward the door as Billy Beale came back into the shop. "I've brought back your document case, Miss. All the papers are inside."
Maisie nodded. "Thank you, Billy." She looked up and saw concern etched on Billy's face, along with a certain resolve. Though it was more than thirteen years past, the war still fingered Billy's soul, and even though the pain from his wounds had eased, it had not left him in peace. Today's events would unsettle him, would be like pulling a dressing from a dried cut, rendering his memories fresh and raw.
"Look, my motor car's outside – let me take you both back to your office. We can talk there." Stratton stood up to allow Maisie to link her arm through his, and began to lead her to the door. "I know this is not the best time for you, but it's the best time for us – I'd like to talk to you as soon as we get to your premises, before you forget."
Maisie stopped and looked up at Stratton. "Forgetting has never been of concern to me, Inspector. It's the remembering that gives me pause."
A police cordon now secured the site of the explosion, and though there were no more searing screams ricocheting around her, onlookers had gathered and police moved in and out of shops, taking names, helping those caught in a disaster while out on Christmas Eve. Maisie did not want to look at the street again, but as she saw people on the edge of the tragedy talking, she imagined them going home to their families and saying, "You will never guess what I saw today," or "You've heard about that nutter with the bomb over on Charlotte Street, well ..." And she wondered if she would ever walk down the street again and not feel her feet leave the ground.
Detective Inspector Richard Stratton and his assistant, Caldwell, pulled up chairs and were seated on the visiting side of Maisie's desk. Billy had just poured three cups of tea and filled one large enameled tin mug, into which he heaped extra sugar and stirred before setting it in front of his employer.
"All right, Miss?"
Maisie nodded, then clasped the tea as she had in the shop earlier, as if to wring every last drop of warmth from the mug.
"Better watch it, Miss, that's hot. Don't want to burn yourself."
"Yes, of course." Maisie placed the mug on a manila folder in front of her, and as she released her grip, Billy saw red welts on her hands where heat from the mug had scalded her and she had felt nothing.
"How does your head feel now?" Richard Stratton's brows furrowed as he leaned forward to place his cup and saucer on the desk, while keeping his eyes on Maisie. The two had met almost three years earlier, when Stratton was called in at the end of a case she had been working on. The policeman, a widower with a young son, had at one point entertained a romantic notion of the investigator, but his approach had been nipped in the bud by Maisie, who was not as adept in her personal life as she was in her professional domain. Now their relationship encompassed only work, though as an observer, it was clear to Billy that Richard Stratton had a particular regard for his employer, despite it being evident that she had brought him to the edge of exasperation at times – not least because her instincts were more finely honed than his own. Regardless, Stratton's respect for Maisie was reciprocated, and she trusted him.
Maisie reached with her hand to touch the back of her head, a couple of inches above her occipital bone. "There's a fair-sized bump ..." She ran her fingers down to an indentation in her scalp, sustained while she was working as a nurse during the war. The scar was a constant reminder of the shelling that had not only wounded her but had eventually taken the life of Simon Lynch, the doctor she had loved. "At least it didn't open my war wounds." She shook her head, realizing the irony of her words.
"Are you sure you're up for this?" Stratton inquired, his voice softer.
Caldwell rolled his eyes. "I think we need to get on with it, sir."
Stratton was about to speak, when Maisie stood up. "Yes, of course, Mr. Caldwell's right, we should get on."
Billy looked down at his notebook, the hint of a grin at the edges of his mouth. He knew there was no love lost between Maisie and Caldwell, and her use of "Mr." instead of "Detective Sergeant" demonstrated that she may have been knocked out, but she was not down.
"I'll start at the beginning ..." Maisie began to pace back and forth, her eyes closed as she recounted the events of the morning, from the time she had placed the cap on her pen, to the point at which the explosion ripped the man's body apart, and wounded several passersby.
"Then the bomb –"
"Mills Bomb," Billy corrected her, absently interrupting as he gazed at the floor watching her feet walk to the window and back again, the deliberate repetitive rhythm of her steps pushing recollections onto center stage in her mind's eye.
"Mills bomb?" Stratton looked at Billy. Maisie stopped walking.
"What?" Billy looked up at each of them in turn.
"You said Mills Bomb. Are you sure it was a Mills Bomb?" Caldwell licked his pencil's sharp lead, ready to continue recording every word spoken.
"Look, mate, I was a sapper in the war – what do you mean, 'Are you sure?' If you go and fire off a round from half a dozen different rifles, I'll tell you which one's which. Of course I know a Mills Bomb – dodgy bloody things, saw a few mates pull out the pin and end up blowing themselves up with one of them. Mills Bomb – your basic hand grenade."
Stratton lifted his hand. "Caldwell, I think we can trust Mr. Beale here." He turned to Billy. "And it's not as if it would be difficult for a civilian to obtain such ordnance, I would imagine."
"You're right. There's your souvenir seekers going over to France and coming back with them – a quick walk across any of them French fields and you can fill a basket, I shouldn't wonder. And people who want something bad enough always find a way, don't they?"
"And he hadn't always been a civilian." Maisie took her seat again. "Unless he'd had an accident in a factory, this man had been a soldier. I was close enough to judge his age – about thirty-five, thirty-six– and his left leg was in a brace, which is why people had to walk around him, because he couldn't fold it inwards. And the right leg might have been amputated."
"If it wasn't then, it is now," Caldwell spoke absently as he noted Maisie's comment.
"If that's all, Inspector, I think I need to go home. I'm driving down to Kent this evening, and I think I should rest before I get behind the wheel."
Stratton stood up, followed by Caldwell, who looked at Maisie and was met with an icy gaze. "Of course, Miss Dobbs," said Stratton. "Look, I would like to discuss this further with you, get more impressions of the man. And of course we'll be conducting inquiries with other witnesses, though it seems that even though you were not the closest, you remember more about him."
"I will never forget, Inspector. The man was filled with despair and I would venture to say that he had nothing and no one to live for, and this is the time of year when people yearn for that belonging most."
Stratton cleared his throat. "Of course." He shook hands with both Maisie and Billy, wishing them the compliments of the season. Maisie extended her hand to Caldwell in turn, smiling as she said, "And a Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Caldwell."
Maisie and Billy stood by the window and watched the two men step into the Invicta. The driver closed the passenger door behind them, then took his place and maneuvered the vehicle in the direction of Charlotte Street, whereupon the bell began to ring and the motor picked up speed towards the site of the explosion. Barely two hours had elapsed since Maisie saw a man activate a hand grenade inside his tattered and stained khaki greatcoat.
Turning to her assistant, she saw the old man inside the young. What age was he now? Probably just a little older than herself, say in his mid-thirties, perhaps thirty-seven? There were times when the Billy who worked for her was still a boy, a Cockney lad with reddish-blonde hair half tamed, his smile ready to win the day. Then at other times, the weight of the world on his shoulders, his skin became gray, his hair lifeless and his lameness – the legacy of a wartime wound – was rendered less manageable. Those were the times when she knew he walked the streets at night, when memories of the war flooded back, and when the suffering endured by his family bore down upon him. The events of today had opened his wounds, just as her own had been rekindled. And instead of the warmth and succor of his family, Billy would encounter only more reason to be concerned for his wife, for their children, and their future. And there was only so much Maisie could do to help them.
"Why don't you go home now, Billy." She reached into her purse and pulled out a note. "Buy Doreen some flowers on the way, and some sweets for the boys – it's Christmas Eve, and you have to look after each other."
"You don't need to do that, Miss – look at the bonus, that's more than enough."
"Call it danger money then. Come on, take it and be on your way."
"And you'll be all right?"
"I'm much better now, so don't you worry about me. I'll be even better when I get on the road to Chelstone. My father will have a roaring fire in the grate, and we'll have a hearty stew for supper – that's the best doctoring I know."
"Right you are, Miss." Billy pulled on his overcoat, placed his flat cap on his head, and left with a wave and a "Merry Christmas!"
As soon as Maisie heard the front door slam shut when Billy walked out into the wintry afternoon, she made her way along the corridor to the lavatory, her hand held against the wall for support. She clutched her stomach as sickness rose up within her and knew that it was not only the pounding headache and seeing a man kill himself that haunted her, but the sensation that she had been watched. It was as if someone had touched her between her shoulder blades, had applied a cold pressure to her skin. And she could feel it still, as she walked back to the office, as if those icy fingertips were with her even as she moved.
Sitting down at her desk, she picked up the black telephone receiver and placed a telephone call to her father's house. She hoped he would answer, for Frankie Dobbs remained suspicious of the telephone she'd had installed in his cottage over two years ago. He would approach the telephone, look at it, and cock his head to one side as if unsure of the consequences of answering the call. Then he would lift the receiver after a few seconds had elapsed, hold it a good two inches from his ear and say, with as much authority as he could muster, "Chelstone three-five-double two – is that you, Maisie?" And of course, it was always Maisie, for no one else ever telephoned Frankie Dobbs.
"That you, Maisie?"
"Of course it is, Dad."
"Soon be on your way, I should imagine. I've a nice stew simmering, and the tree's up, ready for us to decorate."
"Dad, I'm sorry, I won't be driving down until tomorrow morning. I'll leave early and be with you for breakfast."
"What's the matter? Are you all right, love?"
She cleared her throat. "Bit of a sore throat. I reckon it's nothing, but it's given me a headache and there's a lot of sickness going round. I'm sure I'll be all right tomorrow."
"I'll miss you." No matter what he said, when it was into the telephone receiver, Frankie shouted, as if his words needed to reach London with only the amplification his voice could provide. Instead of a soft endearment, it sounded as if he had just given a brusque command.
"You too, Dad. See you tomorrow then."
Maisie rested for a while longer, having dragged her chair in front of the gas fire and turned up the jets to quell her shivering. She placed another telephone call, to the client with whom she and Billy were due to meet this morning, then rested again, hoping the dizziness would subside so that she felt enough confidence in her balance to walk along to Tottenham Court Road and hail a taxi-cab. As she reached for her coat and hat, the bell above the door rang, indicating that a caller had come to the front entrance. She gathered her belongings, and was about to turn off the lights, when she realized that, in the aftermath of today's events, Billy had forgotten the box of gifts for his family. She turned off the fire, settled her document case on top of the gifts and switched off the lights. Then, balancing the box against her hip, she locked her office and walked with care down the stairs leading to the front door, which she pulled open.
"I thought you might still be here." Richard Stratton removed his hat as Maisie opened the door.
She turned to go back up to the office. "Oh, more questions so soon."
He reached forward to take the box, and shook his head. "Oh, no, that's not it.... Well, I do have more questions, but that's not why I'm here. I thought you looked very unwell. You must be concussed – and you should never underestimate a concussion. I left Caldwell in Charlotte Street and came back. Come on, my driver will take you home, however, we're making a detour via the hospital on the way – to get that head of yours looked at."
Maisie nodded. "I think you've been trying to get my head looked at for some time, Inspector."
He held open the door of the Invicta for her to step inside the motor car. "At least you weren't too knocked out to quip, Miss Dobbs."
As they drove away, Maisie looked through the window behind her, her eyes scanning back and forth across the square, until her headache escalated and she turned to lean back in her seat.
"No, nothing. It's nothing."
Nothing except a feeling between her shoulder blades that had been with her since this morning. It was a sense that someone had seen her reach out to the doomed man, had seen their eyes meet just before he pulled the pin that would ignite the grenade. Now she felt as if that same someone was watching her still.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, foolish man. I should have known, should have sensed he was on the precipice. I never thought the idiot would take his own life. Fool. He should have waited. Had I not told him that we must bide our time? Had I not said, time and again, that we should temper our passion until we were heard, until what I knew gave us currency? Now the only one who knows is the sparrow. An ordinary gray little thing who comes each day for a crumb or two. He knows. He listens to me, waits for me to tell him my plans. And, oh, what plans I have. Then they will all listen. Then they'll know. I've called him Croucher. Little sparrow Croucher, always there, sing-song Croucher, never without a smile. I have a lot to tell him today.
The man closed his diary and set down his pencil. He always used pencil, sharpened with a keen blade each morning and evening, for the sound of a worn lead against paper, the surrounding wood touching the vellum, scraping back and forth for want of sharpening, set his teeth on edge, made him shudder. Sounds were like that. Sounds made their way into your body, crawled along inside your skin. Horses hooves on wet cobblestones, cartwheels whining for want of oil, the crackle and snap as the newspaper boy folded the Daily Sketch. Thus he always wrote using a pencil with a long, sharp but soft lead, so he couldn't hear his words as they formed on the page.
Copyright © 2008 by Jacqueline Winspear
Reading Group Guide
Discuss the ways in which The Great War has affect Massie Dobbs both personally and professionally, as psychologist and investigator. How do her experiences with soldiers and in combat palpably help her to solve the case at hand?
What are the differences and similarities between Stephen Oliver and Billy Beale's wife, Doreen? What distinguishes their psychological states?
Many of the characters in Among the Mad grapple with mental distressDr. Lawrence, Professor John Gale, Detective Chief Superintendent MacFarland, Dr. Elsbeth Mastershow do their individual psychological states bring dimension and suspense to the novel as a whole?
Under threat of mass terror, Stephen Oliver demands that the government immediately pay full pensions to all veterans those who had sustained both physical and psychological injuries. At the same time, he writes in his diary "I just want to be heard." Is he an activist or a terrorist, and to what extent do you sympathize with him.
Though set in 1931, Among the Mad addresses many issues that are a part of our contemporary worldthe political fall-out of wars, terrorism, a struggling economy. How does Jacqueline Winspear's evocation of these troubles in another time shed light on turbulent days in the present?
Maisie Dobbs thrives in a career largely dominated by men. But what are some of the advantages she has over MacFarland and Urquart? In what ways does she successfully deflect their antagonism? Were you surprised to find social commentary on equality threaded through the mystery? Along those same lines, do you think that Maisie's intuitions as a detective are distinctly female, or are they coming from a different, higher place?
Stratton, Darby, and MacFarland immediately suspect Mosley's New Party and the student union activists are responsible for the letters, while Maisie takes her time to investigate the real identity of Ian Jennings and to take a closer look at Ms. Catherine Jones. How are the two approaches different? Do the other detectives miss the forest for the trees by looking at groups instead of individual motivations?
Were you surprised by the brutality that Steven Oliver faced at the hands of people who were charged with healing him? How is such corruption possible? Is it ever for the greater good?
Beyond acting as her loyal assistant, what role does Billy Beale really play in Maisie's life? Does she need him on an emotional as well as professional level?
Discuss Dr. Masters' story about the lion and the gazelle on pg 136, and her rather spiritual understanding of shell shock. Do you agree with her, and if not, what metaphors would you select to illustrate that kind of suffering?
Would you describe Dr. Lawrence as a tragic character? How do you feel about Maisie's final gesture to reconcile with her at the end of the investigation?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
On Christmas Eve 1931, Psychologist and Investigator Maisie Dobbs and her assistant Billy Beale, having finished a report for a client, are strolling on a London street to deliver their findings when another pedestrian detonates a bomb. He dies while Maisie is slightly injured, Billy is okay physically because Maisie seeing something off kilter with the culprit told him to head back to the office, which he started to do until the explosion.
The next day the Office of the Prime Minister receives the first of several threatening letters warning of terrorist activity; this note also contains the name of Maisie Dobbs. She joins a government investigation team trying to find the anonymous writer and prevent the threatened attacks.
This is a terrific Dobbs entry that as usual brings alive London at a time when the Great Depression is causing global havoc. Maisie is terrific as an early psychological profiler though some of her descritpors are based on hunches as no validated database yet exists. More a thriller than an investigative tale, series fan will enjoy the latest Maisie Dobbs psychological sleuthing case (see PARDONABLE LIES and AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE).
Jacqueline Winspear has done an outstanding job with this series. I have recommended it to any of my friends that still read. My husband and both my daughters have read the whole series also and were very impressed(especially my husband as he rarely reads fiction). Watching Maisie's life unfold and watching the characters grow and change is extremely enjoyable. I recieved this on my brithday weekend and spent one very relaxing day reading the whole book. Absolutely wonderful book and series!
The Maisie Dobbs books are some of the few in my permanent collection of fiction. It's easy to identify with Maisie from my perspective. Yes, she lost so much, but she gives of herself even more. She may end up in a conventional relationship, but in the meantime, she epitomizes the independent woman trying to make a living and do some good in the world. Among the Mad is really a mirror from Maisie's time to ours. Evil is out there, it isn't going away, and it only succeeds when good people do nothing to counter it. This book also highlights the sameness of the turf wars between police and intelligence agencies of her time and our time. A timely insight into the problems of our own time, for it takes place at the beginning of the Great Depression, the economics, the military veterans issues, the governmental issues. An amazing insight from our past. For an absorbing read that challenges one intellectually and morally, there is no better fiction writer living today than Jacqueline Winspear, and I read a lot of mysteries and crime fiction, bot British and American. She pulls no punches and takes us inside the life and mind of an extraordinary woman of her time, of any time. I highly recommend the entire series starting with Maisie Dobbs.
“…inside the villain is a victim…” Among The Mad is the sixth book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. After witnessing a suicide in the street near her office, Maisie is seconded by Special Branch to help investigate a case, possibly related, involving letters containing non-specific threats to the public, and finds herself visiting No 10 Downing Street. It is of concern that MI5 are also involved, but Maisie’s special skills and her unique perspective prove helpful when the team are working to a deadline. Billy’s wife, Doreen is hospitalised, and Maisie’s close friend, Pris is not coping well with her move from Biarritz. Winspear gives her readers another interesting plot with a twist or two, and she touches on many issues: reactive depression, its various manifestations and shocking treatment regimens; the high prevalence of shell shock and the scandalously inadequate support given to affected servicemen; and research into chemical weapons and victims of experimentation. For this investigation, Maisie has to visit the Battesea Dogs Home, hospitals, research facilities and an orphanage. She manages to save the day at no small risk to herself, as well as proving herself a supportive employer and a resourceful friend. She makes a purchase that may well come in handy in future investigations. Another excellent instalment in the Maisie Dobbs series, and readers will look forward the next book, The Mapping of Love and Death.
The best of this series so far. Starts with a bang and never lets up.
I always look forward to new releases in the Maisie Dobbs series, and Among the Mad did not disappoint. To me, the most interesting element of the series is the setting, 1930s England. The long-lasting effects of WWI on the minds, bodies and spirits of those impacted by it are not often a theme in fiction, and I have enjoyed learning a bit more about it. I also enjoy following a strong, working, single female in a time when being those things would have made for many challenges, both professionally and personally.
Very Thoughtful and insightful writing on a subject as new as today as it was in England after WWI - the setting for this book. The story is moving and very interesting with good plot and strong characters as is usual with this wonderful writer. While this is in a series, it is also a good stand alone story too.
Another piece of brilliant writing. This series is an excellent combination of history and mystery. The time and place are eloquently pictured. Having the written musings of the responsible person is an interesting touch. We don't know who he is but we get clear insights into his thinking. Maisie Dobbs is a wonderfully developed character. She and Billy are a terrific pair.
I galloped through this one--it was definitely suspenseful and held my interest. However I don't really remember it anymore so I would have to say I found it less emotionally involving than some of the others. Still, a good read.
Maisie Dobbs in 1931 witnesses the suicide of a man who apparently had been injured during WWI. She tries but is unable to prevent the tragedy from happening, and starts reliving the horrors of her time during he war.Because of her efforts she is drawn into a rapidly advancing chemical warfare attack on the city of London - first 6 dogs are targeted, then 50 birds, 1 man - all the while the authorizes are warned by demands asking for better treatment and pensions for ex-soldiers.Maisie while working with Scotland Yard on this investigation, is also endeavoring to aid Billy's wife Doreen and get her the best mental health care possible as well as her friend who is spiraling near to alcoholism.The book paralleled the different types of mental illness - those resulting from war, depression, and alcohol dependency and yet it flowed so effortedlessly because of Maisie's character's involvement in all the aspects of the story. Seeing the mental health issues described from the 1930 POV in comparison to the 21st century - the reader can see that there has been improvement in the medical handling but that there is still room to go. I've read the first in the series and now this one - definitely need to go find the others.
As Maisie Dobbs and her assistant, Billy Beale, walk down a London street on Christmas Eve, they narrowly escape serious injury when a man commits suicide by blowing himself up. Maisie is soon called upon by Scotland Yard to help with an urgent investigation. The government has received an anonymous threat warning of mass destruction. There is reason to believe that the letter writer is somehow connected to the Christmas Eve suicide bomber. With very few clues to the identity of either the suicide bomber or the threatening letter-writer, Scotland Yard needs to find a different approach for this investigation. Maisie describes herself as Psychologist and Investigator, and her psychological skills provide the most hope for the prevention of a great tragedy.Jacqueline Winspear successfully weaves social commentary into a suspenseful novel. As in all the books in this series, Winspear calls attention to the psychological trauma of war, the failure of society to re-assimilate veterans, and the failure of the government to compensate veterans for their sacrifices and to provide adequate treatment and care for the psychologically wounded. By using Maisie's voice to analyze these issues, she provokes something deeper than a fleeting emotional response. Maisie's character is anything but emotional.Character is as important as plot in the Maisie Dobbs novels. Maisie's character grows and develops throughout the series, as do the personalities of supporting characters. While it's certainly possible to enjoy this book as a standalone, I would strongly encourage reading all of the books in this series in order.
Maisie is maturing as she heals from the trauma and losses she has experienced. She recognizes how she holds back in relationships, including that with her closest friend Pricilla, and begins to more actively reach out. Maisie reflects and analyses her behavior, perhaps too much, but she is able to make conscious choices and changes. In Among the Mad Maisie sees a despondent veteran commit suicide and wound bystanders; she then finds herself assisting Scotland Yard and the Special Branch to stop further attacks. As in other Maisie Dobbs books, Winspear captures the atmosphere of post-World War I England. Poverty is rampant, especially among the neglected and traumatized veterans. Additionally anarchists, communists and labor unions threaten the stability of England. The use of chemical attacks and the presence of veterans suffering from shell shock (now called Post-traumatic stress disorder) give this story a contemporary feel.
Winspear continues to write absolutely stellar mysteries featuring Maisie Dobbs. The stories are in the same vein as Agatha Christie -- more murders of the mind, requiring intellectual sleuthing, than "whodunits." Maisie -- and all the characters in the novel -- are so well fleshed out, and the place and culture so well set, each novel is a learning experience too. Even if you never touch mysteries, this is one series to pick up, and read through in order.
Set in London between the wars, Among the Mad is the sixth book in the Maisie Dobbs Mystery Series. The early 1930's is an interesting time period in England's history and an excellent place for Winspear to set loose Maisie, a self sufficient, independent women, highly over educated for the time period and unafraid to plunge right into the thick of things. Among the Mad focuses on the story of soldiers recovering from the physical and psychological repercussions of war, the government's role and responsibility for their care and protection, and the shortages and economic hardship that face the majority of the population, in stark contrast to the lifestyle of the upper class; all of which draw interesting parallels to today's current events. On top of this intricately woven social commentary Winspear overlays a suspenseful story of madness and terrorism. A book for lovers of detailed period pieces this is not a traditional mystery, as much of the story is told from the view point of the terrorist, but more of a psychological suspense. Would be appropriate for Young Adults.
There are so many bad mysteries out there, that it is a treat to come across a series as intelligently written as Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs books. In this latest editions (#6 in the series), Maisie witnesses the suicide of a disabled war veteran on Christmas Eve. Just getting over the shock of this event, she is called to Scotland Yard to assist in a case to find the author of threatening letters to members of the British government. The writer of these letters then proceeds to use deadly chemical weapons to kill - first animals, but then a member of the government.As the team races against time to find the killer, Maisie uses all her psychological skills that readers have come to enjoy in the previous volumes. The author also makes a powerful statement about the use of chemical weapons, the treatment of war veterans, and the callous attitudes of those who send men into war in the first place.This book will keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat and at its conclusion will leave us looking forward to the next installment.
Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs books always provoke thought on the part of the reader. This book has a darker outlook than most, dealing as it does with people severely damaged by human conflict in the first world war. It also subtly points out that some things never change in terms of how government agencies operate. Intrigue and back-stabbing have been around forever. It's a good read, but don't expect a particularly cheery feeling at the end. The good news is that Maisie has pulled herself back together again.
The sixth installment in the Maisie Dobbs series. A madman has given London an ultimatum - address the needs of the poor and neglected, especially Veterans of the Great War by New Year's Eve -- or he will unleash chemical warfare on the unsuspecting populace. Ms. Winspear uses this as a jumping off place for various reflections on shell shock (PTSD) and other forms of mental illness. A shame that some 90 years after the events in this novel, mental illness should still carry the lingering disrepute in some quarters. Equally relevant to those concerned today with the treatment of modern era soldiers and their families.
Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear is the sixth book in the Maisie Dobbs Series. In this book Maisie who is very familiar with injuries that are suffered as a result of wars as Maisie served as a nurse during the war and her character brings that experience and knowledge with her into these novels. Both the psychological and physical scars and the trauma or these events are identified throughout this book. As the book begins, Maisie observes the horror of a suicide on the sidewalk but then becomes pulled into a larger challenge when asked to work with Scotland Yard and the government on investigating deaths of animals and threats of terrorist acts. This book is a bit depressing as she is working with the issue of mental instability and illness. In addition the main story line, Maisie¿s assistant Billy is also dealing with his wife¿s mental breakdown following the lost of their baby girl and she wants to offer the family her support and assistance. Exploration into the issue of mental care facilities, asylums and the treatment of the mentally ill during the early 1930¿s is a difficult one. The book is well written and the characters are well developed. From the brilliant scientists to the staunch police officers this book will bring you an even greater understanding of Maisie as the primary character in the series. Her relationship with her best friend Priscilla is also expanded upon and plays a role in humanizing Maisie and her own needs. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those who enjoy a light mystery or a bit of historical fiction but would also recommend that this series is best read beginning with the earlier books as the stories build upon each other over time.
These books just keep getting better. If you read series at all you know this is not an easy task. But Jacqueline Winsprear pulls it off each and every time. This is by far the most suspenseful of all the books and it keep me on the edge of the page the whole time. What¿s most remarkable about this entry into the series if the formula was stirred up a bit. While still have all the great elements that I love about a Maisie Dobbs book there was a major change dropped into the mix. For the first time we are let in on the thoughts of our culprit. By way of his journal entries we get into the mind of the person planning nothing short of a terrorist attack on London. This not only added to the tension of the story but gave us insight into the wounded mind of a man destroyed by war.Here¿s the thing that keeps me coming back to the books in this series, all the characters are so interesting and real. I love both the central characters and the new characters introduced for each new story. In this story we get to see Maisie start to really embrace life and put her experiences in the war firmly behind her and start looking for both joy and companionship. Realizing her loneliness and need for human connections she reaches out to Priscilla and her family. I can¿t even tell you how much I love Priscilla. And I adore she has been given more depth with each new story. Here we see that Pris isn¿t as ¿over¿ the war as she may have seen earlier. Back in London Priscilla must truly deal with the loss of her family and her fears of the future for her own boys.In contrast to Priscilla¿s fears for the future is Doreen¿s inability to let go of her horrible loss in the past. Doreen, Maisie¿s assistant Billy¿s wife, cannot get past the loss of their daughter. The Beale¿s lost their daughter Lizzy in the fourth novel in the series Messenger of Truth. Where that story showed the inequity the lower classes had in treating illness this story showed just how awful some of the treatments towards the mentally ill were. Particularly, if you were poor. The treatment Doreen first received was just frightening.This story also bring to light the treatment of men and women damaged psychologically by war. Though the setting is 1930s England I¿m sure there are some parallels to the lack of attention paid to mental illness as a result of war. Other comparisons can be made to today¿s fears of chemical terrorism. It was so interesting to think there is nothing new under the sun. Where we may think worrying about terrorist with chemical weapons is something new, it obviously is something that has been around a very long time. Boy, did tht add to the suspense.I mentioned there were some wonderful new characters introduced. We met Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane. (Boy, is that a mouthful-I tell you they sure know how to drag out the names of their Police officials) Let me tell you, Robert MacFarlane can go toe to toe with our Maisie. He even calls her on her habit of mimicking people in order to make them feel more at ease and easier for her to relate. While I hope there is not a romance between the two (something it seems Robert would like) because I am standing strong for team Stratton, I hope MacFarlance is around for awhile. He has broken down some of Maisie¿s barriers. Maisie also has to deal with members of MI-5 and I can only hope we see more of that. I can see story lines coming as WWII looms in the near distance.This was a jam packed edition to the series with both the mystery (maybe the best so far) and the personal stories grabbing me and holding on to the end. I can¿t wait to see what¿s next. I have high hopes for the next in the series. I know I have said this over and over and over (and over and over-that¿s five times over for each in the series so far) but this is my favorite so far. At first I hesitated saying this because I starts to lose it something to say it for each book. But they do just keep getting better. Winspear adds layers wit
In this installment we find Maisie racing against time to stop a terrorist, think the Unabomber type before he kills again. Cute little animals and people are not safe while this psychopath is on the loose. Yes, the descriptions of those poor little doggies unfortunate ends disturbed me even more than the junior prime minister's death. I must say though that the description of his untimely demise was particularly grisly for a Maisie Dobbs novel. At the same time this is happening, poor Billy Beale is dealing with the mental breakdown of his wife Doreen who cannot get over the death of their little girl Lizzie. I still maintain that Maisie should have done more to help Lizzie when she knew that she was sick and that Billie couldn't afford to take her to the doctor. At least now Maisie pulls some strings to get Doreen out of the medieval institution she has been taken to and into a more modern psychiatric facility that can help her. It was nice to see a more caring side of Maisie again. She even took time out to help poor Priscilla who is still having trouble adjusting to the loss of her entire family despite the fact that she now has her own children. It was also nice to see Maisie finally getting the respect she deserves from the boys at Scotland Yard. The one thing I don't like is Maisie's relationship with potential suitors. Poor inspector Stratton is always cut off at the pass. I get that Maisie misses Simon but she always seems so standoffish when it comes to love relationships. I would like to see her expand in that area. Two more novels to go and I'm off to The Mapping Love and Death.
Another riveting Maisie Dobbs mystery, this time starting with the suicide of a wounded WWI vet just as Maisie approaches him.
Jacqueline Winspear¿s Maisie Dobbs series is a particular favorite and this, the sixth novel, did not disappoint. Admittedly, I have struggled to connect with other author¿s historical mystery series, but that has never been the case with Maisie Dobbs; they seem to get better with each new addition.The setting takes us to familiar territory for fans of the series. The time period is the holiday season of late December 1931 and January 1932 in and around the city of London, England. In this installment, an expert in chemical weapons threatens to use his knowledge to punish the government for neglecting homeless, ill, disabled and unemployed veterans living as the unseen of the city. Maisie Dobbs, a former World War I nurse in France, and currently an investigator and psychologist, confronts difficult issues including a legacy of untreated mental health conditions experienced by World War I veterans, the inhuman treatment of women in mental health institutions, the emotional toll of war on a nation and its people as a whole and individually, and the effects of chemical war weapons, including during their research and development.As always, Maisie confronts her own demons resulting from her wartime experiences as Winspear examines the human need for home, love, companionship, friendship and the healing power found in our human interactions. Winspear takes the genre of historical mystery and raises it to do much more than entertain, but to examine who we are and why we do what we do. I highly recommend reading this novel if you enjoy well written, interesting mysteries, which take the readers deeply into examining the human condition and for anyone who enjoys the time period of World War I and/or the years between the World Wars. Finally, this book and the series as a whole, is very British¿.so if that is to your liking as it is to mine, then Maisie Dobbs and Among the Mad might be for you.
Another great addition to the Maise Dobbs series. The author continues to develope the main character, Maise Dobbs. I appreciate how the the author shies away from having Maise find a love interest as a means of making her happy. Instead she holds tight to the independence she gained through her financial independence. I also really enjoy how much effort and research Ms. Winspear puts into developing the setting; London itself is a character that comes alive in her capable hands. Additionally, she address the lingering consequences of the "Great War" in a manner that makes her (the author's) feelings about war clear, but doesn't bash the reader over the head with misplaced proselytizing. Not to mention, there's a well crafted mystery thrown in.
Maisie Dobbs is hired as a consultant to Scotland Yard when it gets a threatening letter that mentions her name. It isn't that Detective Chief Superintendent "Robbie" MacFarlane believes for a minute that Maisie would harm anyone ... but he does believe her special skills and insights might help in the investigation.Readers are also given brief glimpses into the actions and mind of the letter-writer, whose threats will be carried out if the government doesn't do something -- and now -- to help the unemployed, especially veterans of the Great War. The plight of war survivors is a theme that has run through all the books in this series.What struck me most was the author's ability to imagine herself as one of the disenfranchised, to give a voice to both the hopes and despair of those who are often invisible, and to make readers sit up and take notice, to empathize. That's what makes Maisie Dobbs such a singular character in mystery fiction. And, while one of those characters is ready to kill to make those like himself more visible to the powers-that-be, Maisie's assistant, World War I veteran Billy Beale struggles to come to terms with his wife's psychiatric illness and the horrible hospital she -- also one of the disenfranchised -- is taken to for treatment. Among the Mad is not a lighthearted mystery, but it is a book that resonates today -- another economically depressed era during which returning war veterans are forced to fight again for the treatment they deserve. 02/25/2010