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Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs Novels)
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Jacqueline Winspear on Among the Mad

Jacqueline Winspear From the time I realized that in Maisie Dobbs I had a series character, I've wanted to explore further the phenomenon of the range of war neuroses known to the layperson as "shell shock," and how we see those whose behavior isn't always within the bounds of what we consider "normal." I also wanted to look again, through the lens of story and history, at the manner in which society treats wounded veterans, especially those whose wounds cannot be seen, but are of the mind and spirit. To do this, I drew as much upon personal experience as my research.

As many of my readers know, my grandfather suffered both physical wounds and shell shock in the Great War, and as a child I remember having to be quiet around him, so as not to excite or trouble an elderly man with terrible memories. Later, in my mid-teens, I attended a school where we were required to undertake community service one afternoon each week (and we had to attend school on Saturday mornings to make up for it!). So, on Wednesday afternoons, I joined a small group who visited a psychiatric hospital--to talk to the patients, make the tea, read to them and generally offer kindness and companionship. I can recall many of the patients, some who were obviously not able to live outside an institution, and others who inspired one to wonder why they were there at all--and when you found out, the reason was often shocking. I remember one patient I talked with each week, an astoundingly sharp, intelligent man. He had been a top-ranking surgeon, one who was regarded as almost without peer. He was also a madman, a murderer. I thought of him often while writing Among the Mad.

Last year, during my book tour, a military chaplain came to one of my events and stayed behind afterwards to talk to me. He told me that he recommended my books to the families of those who have suffered loss during the Iraq war, and especially to people who are trying to accommodate the special needs of a soldier suffering from what we today call Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). He added that in reading a story where such losses are suffered in a time of war, yet separated by history, it facilitates a deeper understanding of what the returning veteran might be experiencing, and challenges involved in coming home from war.

The recent news that servicemen and woman wounded by PTSD will not be eligible for the Military Order of the Purple Heart--awarded to US military personnel who have been wounded or killed in a war zone--struck a chord. In Britain during and following the Great War there was much controversy about war neuroses, and many soldiers were denied a pension as a result of a clampdown on the diagnosis of shell shock. In my second novel, Birds of a Feather, one of the characters says, "That’s the trouble with war, it’s never over when it's over, it lives on inside the living." Such a sentiment is never more true than in the case of the man or woman who has served their country in a time of war, but who has to live with that war reverberating in their mind every single day for the rest of their lives. Maisie Dobbs is such a person, as is the person she is in a race to find in Among the Mad.

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.

Customer Reviews:

  • I love Maisie
    What is interesting about the character Maisie Dobbs, from reading the whole series, is her ability to help others yet she can't quite help herself. She's can't let go of the war or her lost love simon, which leaves her isolated. It will be interesting to see how she reacts when another war will soon be on the horizon. I just love this series! Why this has'nt gotten to the screen is beyond me. ...more info
  • good reader but not a great story....
    First off I'd like to say that the reader, Orlagh Cassidy does a wonderful job reading the story, with several dialects for the different characters. Now to the story itself...This is a book in the series of Maisie Dobbs novels.

    Maisie's background is that she was a war-time nurse who turned to investigating as a second career. The novel opens in 1931, Christmas Eve. The novel begins as Maisie is witness to a suicide via bomb. Soon after, the Home Secretary receives a letter speaking of deaths that will occur if demands are not met. Maisie works with Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFArlane of Scotland Yard as an advisor to the case after being cleared of being in anyway being involved.

    Soon she realizes that the threats are real and that they are being carried out by someone that has been in the war and has special knowledge of deadly gasses and the like. Along with her side-kick, Billy Beale she begins to investigate and piece together who is behind the attacks.

    I felt that Maisie's character was one I wanted to know more about, but the story somehow seemed very flat to me. It was a bit of a struggle from about the mid-point on to finish the disks because the story line seemed very slow to unfold for me. I give it a three star rating because though I enjoyed the reader and Maisie's character but I felt the story itself was just not compelling enough to keep my attention for long periods of time.

    ...more info
  • For the Better Off, He had become Invisible
    A man goes off to war, and though his physical wounds heal (or he adjusts to them), in his mind he is still trapped in that "hell". Especially for the men coming home from WW1 with "Shell-Shock" (a sort of PTSD) no one knew what they had been though and the 'laymen' couldn't understand why he couldn't just 'suck it up' and go on.

    Unlike the WW2 GIs, who came back with 'combat fatigue', many though these men to be cowards or shirkers. Unlike any war before or since, the men in the trenches, had to stay where they were and 'take it'. Spending months at a time in a dirty wet trench, usually with water at the bottom and rats in plentiful supply engorging themselves on the dead and wounded in 'no-man's land'. Then ordered 'over the top' having to crawl through barb-wire and minefields to be mowed down like 'wheat' by machine guns with enfilading fire.

    Imagine sitting in this 'hell hole' while for ten, fifteen, twenty hours at a time, the enemy rained down artillery shells on you. Then to make it worse, gas! Those seeing it for the first time were paralyzed and suffered burned lungs and faces; later mustard gas would literally melt skin off the bone and remain in spots for weeks. If your buddy didn't get himself covered fast enough you would have to sit there and watch his skin come off while he hacked up blood from his destroyed lungs.

    Just because someone says the war is over, "go home an get on with your life" isn't that easy. For many of those who had fragile psyches to begin with and others who had theirs shattered by the experience of war this turned out to be impossible. They continued to hear the bombs and the screams of their dying comrades.

    At the end of the year 1931 Maisie Dobbs is called on to help catch a man who had reached the end of his tether and had decided to show the 'uncaring' what it was like during the War. Having been 'seconded' to the Special Branch of Scotland Yard, and working in parallel with MI5 (referred to as Military Intelligence, Section 5) Dobbs doesn't have a lot of time to find this man and stop him from reeking havoc in London on 'Old Year's Night'. Dobbs needs to use all of her instinct and connections to find this man, while unbeknown to her, many of her colleagues are hiding important information from he in the name of national security.

    To me this was the best in the series since the first book. There is a great amount of pathos empathy in the ways that Winspear presents these men who gave their all and more during the 'War to End All Wars', and never completely 'came home'.

    Zeb Kantrowitz
    ...more info
  • Among the Mad
    Jacaqueline Winspear is one of my favorite mystery writers, and this book reflects her brilliance in characterization, details of setting, and her good storytelling ability. I loved it....more info
  • This one took a while
    A little slow to get moving , but once it did "Among The Mad" was a great way to spend an evening. Best listened to in one sitting , this book on CD provided a very entertaining evening after an initially slow start. The reader's voice is gentle , and easy to understand. Recommended for it's superb imagery....more info
  • Maisie Dobbs: A complex woman
    I have read all of the Maisie Dobbs series and anxiously await the next one. Winspear not only is a good writer, but she has created a real woman whose complexities evolve with every new book.
    I dread the day when Winspear tires of this character and ceases the Maisie Dobbs books!...more info
  • Think of BAD Miss Marple
    I like Jacqueline Winspear's Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs Mysteries). The first time I read Maisie Dobbs. She has a handle on the ideal of a 1930's woman sleuth , similar to a Campion like mystery character

    However on audio this Maisie Dobbs's novel seems like an old recycled Miss Marple retread. Not really what you want to listen to on a long hot summer's day

    The narrator of this audio has three reading speeds--slow, slower and train wreck when you does not over British her British accent. I would have enjoyed the talented Barbara Rosenblat narrating this novel rather than this reader. She shall remain nameless so she can join the audio witness protection programs for bad reading

    The text is weak, but interesting. You can hope it gets better, but it doesn't. So DONT GET IT!

    Bennet Pomerantz AUDIOWORLD...more info