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Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs Series #6)

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Overview

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 ...

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Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs Series #6)

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Maisie Dobbs is anything but merry as she walks home on Christmas Eve, 1931. She's just witnessed the suicide of a man on a crowded London street. What unfolds the next day is even more troubling. A letter delivered to the prime minister's office promises massive mayhem, the destruction of thousands of lives -- and, most surprising of all, it mentions Maisie by name. Drawn into the case first as a suspect, then as a consultant, Dobbs realizes that only she and her assistant are standing between a madman and his terrorist dreams.
From the Publisher
Praise for Jacqueline Winspear:

"When people ask me to recommend an author, one name consistently comes to mind: Jacqueline Winspear." —USA Today

"A detective series to savor." —Time

"In Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear has given us a real gift." —Alexander McCall Smith

Daniel Mallory
Aglow with fairy-tale inflections, this hypnotic, neo-Gothic suspense story unfolds like a hothouse bloom, lush and pungent; it's a sprig of nightshade, all petals and poison. And it heralds the arrival of an astonishingly gifted storyteller…Sly, wry and utterly original, Darling Jim is the stuff of alchemy
—The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
Throughout the shifts in narrative voice and tone, the three Walsh sisters maintain their wonderfully modern vitality, while Jim remains a killer charmer in all versions of the story being juggled here: the murder mystery told in real time; the macabre love story disclosed in the journals; and the magical yarn Darling Jim spins about twin princes whose peaceable kingdom falls into ruin when one of them succumbs to his bestial nature and turns into a wolf. No wonder Fiona, Roisin and Aoife were spellbound.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Like the itinerant Irish storyteller at the crux of this riveting novel, Danish-born author Moerk mixes mythology, Arthurian legend, fairy tales, noir and horror in his American debut. When reclusive Moira Hegarty and her two nieces, Fiona and Róisín Walsh, are found dead in Moira's secluded home in a Dublin suburb, evidence suggests the sisters were imprisoned for months by their aunt, along with a third person, perhaps Róisín's twin sister. The young women left behind two diaries, one of which a postal clerk finds. Three years before, they fell under the spell of Jim Quick, a séanachai(or bard), whose tales of wolves and kings gave him rock star status in the sleepy town of Castletownbere. Only the Walsh sisters appear to have seen beyond the charm of "darling Jim," whose presence coincides with several women's murders. Moerk tightly meshes each separate plot strand-the murders, the diaries and Quick's tales-into an enthralling story that never falters. Author tour. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Niall, a young mail carrier in suburban Dublin, finds the diary of a young girl in his dead-letter bin. Its writer is one of three people found dead in a cottage on his route. Local police have few leads, and the locals aren't saying much except to gossip about a dashing young storyteller making the rounds of local pubs and romancing young women, some of whom have turned up dead. The diary tells of a chain of pub stories involving the adventures of a conflicted wolf-prince roaming the countryside and the real-life violent love between the storyteller and the writer's aunt and sister. Niall becomes obsessed with the case and goes where even the police fear to tread to reveal the shocking truth of the serial murders. This darkly gothic tale of contemporary wolverine romance endeavors to have something for everyone: a quaint Irish setting, Celtic mythology, and grisly multiple murders. In an effort to include many of the current themes in popular fiction, this debut novel does not quite hit the mark and will disappoint both gothic and vampire readers alike. Still, the publisher is pushing this with a five-city author tour and publication in 14 countries, so larger collections should purchase a copy. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/09.]
—Susan Clifford Braun

Kirkus Reviews
Psychologist and private investigator Maisie Dobbs (An Incomplete Revenge, 2008, etc.) returns for the sixth time in this bleak, haunting mystery. Her almost preternatural intuition can tell Maisie there's something broken in a wounded veteran seconds before he pulls the pin on a grenade, killing himself and stunning a street full of Christmas shoppers. Maisie is saved at the last moment by her diligent assistant, Billy Beale, but the Depression has hit Britain hard in the winter of 1931, and there are other desperate men still lurking. This is a London full of suffering souls, from Billy's wife, Doreen, sick with grief over their lost daughter, to lonely Maisie herself. When an anonymous letter threatens more violence to come, Scotland Yard calls on Maisie to track down the would-be killer. Special Branch and Military Intelligence join them, sometimes cooperating, something butting heads, as they comb fascist meetings and asylums for someone capable of visiting the gruesome deaths of the Great War on innocent civilians. As the investigation closes inexorably on the madman in a race against the clock, Winspear manages to offer a final glimmer of hope among the despair. The lamentation over economic crisis, terrorism and traumatized veterans feels both true to its setting and disquietingly contemporary. Well-crafted and well worth reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805082166
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/17/2009
  • Series: Maisie Dobbs Series , #6
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Winspear

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.

Biography

Lovers of British mysteries and historical novels will find something to appreciate in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs books. Maisie, a housemaid-turned-student-turned-nurse-turned private investigator in early 20th-century London, manages to straddle Britain's class system by being a woman of exceptional "bearing" and intellect who happens to come from working-class stock. As an investigator, she's green, but sharp and ambitious. She's also surrounded by vividly sketched secondary players, such as her benefactor, Lady Rowan, and mentor Maurice Blanche.

In Winspear's first Maisie story, we learn the character's background: Forced by family circumstances to go to work as a housemaid at an early age, Maisie Dobbs' curiosity and intellect are noticed by her employer, Lady Rowan. Rowan takes care of her education, and she makes it to university – but the Great War interrupts her ambitions. She serves as a nurse in France, then returns to England and starts her career as a private investigator in 1929. Her first case seems like a simple investigation into infidelity; it grows into something larger when it leads realizes there's something amiss at a convalescent home for war veterans called The Retreat.

Winspear's talent didn't go unnoticed when her first novel was published in July 2003. Maisie Dobbs was named in "best" lists in both the New York Times and Publishers Weekly. It was also nominated in the best novel category for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. There was an almost palpable sense of relief in the reviews, pleasant surprise that someone had offered not only a solid addition to the historical mystery genre, but had given it further depth and breadth. As an NPR reviewer put it, "[The book's] intelligent eccentricity offers relief."

Telling Maisie's stories using a warm third-person narrator, Winspear charms with her ability to convey the historical context surrounding her characters, particularly regarding the impact of the Great War. For this reason, and because her mysteries steer clear of graphic violence or sex, her books are often recommended for younger readers also. Far from hardboiled, Winspear's characters are very human, and she delivers a little romance and heartache along with the criminal wrongdoing.

Part of the appeal in Winspear's books also lies in her ability to bring a deeper, more philosophical atmosphere to the proceedings. Maisie is trained in Freudian psychology and is as interested in helping as she is in solving. A case referenced in the second Maisie story, Birds of a Feather, for example, "would not be filed away until those whose lives were touched by her investigation had reached a certain peace with her findings, with themselves, and with one another." Reading Winspear's Dobbs series may not bring inner peace, but there is something relaxing about spending time with her appealing characters.

Good To Know

Winspear also works as a creative coach. She writes on her web site, "As a coach I am engaged by those who want to establish clear intentions for their artistic endeavors, to support and encourage so that they sustain a level of energy and empowerment which is demonstrated in work that is rewarding, inspiring -- and finished!" Winspear also writes about international education.

Winspear loves outdoor pursuits such as horseback riding, hiking, sailing, and mountain biking; she's also an avid traveler, according to her web site bio.

In our interview, Winspear shared some fun facts about herself:

"My first ever job after college was as a flight attendant. I wanted to travel and could not afford it, so I decided to get myself a job where I could travel. I did it for two years and had great fun."

"My worst-ever job was in an egg-packing factory when I was 16."

"I love dogs, horses and generally all animals. I will always stop to check on stray dogs -- I once ended up in the emergency room with a tick embedded in me which had jumped off a dog I had rescued from a busy road. It was a deer tick, which carries Lyme Disease, so I wasn't taking any chances. Funnily enough, when I opened the only magazine in the emergency room, it was to a page carrying an article on tick bites and disease. It stated that you have six hours after the tick embeds itself, before it begins to release the bacteria that cause disease. I counted the hours from rescuing the dog, and by the time the doctor came in I was pleading, ‘Get this thing out of me!!!'"

"My favorite way to unwind is to go for a walk with my husband and the dog at the end of the working day, then we go to our local health club for a swim and to sit by the pool and read for a while. I love time with family and friends, but completely relish time on my own when I have no agenda to follow, no to-do's, just me and time alone."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jackie Winspear
    2. Hometown:
      Ojai, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 30, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Weald of Kent, England
    1. Education:
      The University of London’s Institute of Education
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

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.

"Miss Dobbs?"

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.

"Forgotten something?"

"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

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1.

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?

2.

What are the differences and similarities between Stephen Oliver and Billy Beale’s wife, Doreen? What distinguishes their psychological states?

3.

Many of the characters in Among the Mad grapple with mental distress—Dr. Lawrence, Professor John Gale, Detective Chief Superintendent MacFarland, Dr. Elsbeth Masters—how do their individual psychological states bring dimension and suspense to the novel as a whole?

4.

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.

5.

Though set in 1931, Among the Mad addresses many issues that are a part of our contemporary world—the 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?

6.

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?

7.

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?

8.

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?

9.

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?

10.

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?

11.

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?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 53 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(16)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

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1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is a terrific Dobbs entry

    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.<BR/><BR/>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.<BR/><BR/>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).<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2009

    Another excellent book in this series

    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!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    I love the world of Maisie Dobbs!

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 25, 2014

    ¿¿inside the villain is a victim¿¿ Among The Mad is the sixt

    “…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. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Unique Moment in Time

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved this new one in the series.

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2014

    I love Maisie Dobbs

    I love Maisie Dobbs. Read them all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2013

    If you like historical fiction, you will enjoy this mystery series.

    It is always a learning experience to read a Maisie Dobbs mystery. This one is timely in that it relates the use of chemical weapons in WWI by the Germans and the efforts by the British to find antidotes, quite astounding revelations. The issue of veterans suffering from their military service, lack of adequate benefits, as well as PTSD, is addressed in the search for an assailant. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, although not termed as such, is present in civilians' and veterans' lives as this sorry is followed. As usual, Miaisie's own time on the Front gives her a special insight.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    If you're into MAISIE, you'll love this one.

    The best of this series so far. Starts with a bang and never lets up.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012

    Maisie Dobbs series

    I love the excellent writing and great way the author holds the readers interest and emotion with the way she weaves the story line. These are GREAT!









    ?..

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  • Posted March 14, 2012

    FANTASTIC111

    I have yet to read a Winspear book that was not well written with an engrossing story behind the good writing. And I have read every book she has written. More power to you Ms. Winspear, keep up the excellent work.

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  • Posted June 10, 2011

    wonderful+series

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Posted February 20, 2010

    A good addition to the Maisie Dobbs series

    I really enjoyed this book. I've read all the others and if you like them, you will like this one, too. I don't know as much about the years inbetween WWI and WWII, especially in England, so the plots of these books are always full of things I didn't know before. But I don't feel like I've been in school. Maisie's stories are all well written, and interesting. They are all a little sad, but still very worth reading.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    maise dobbs reigns....

    Wonderful addition to the unfolding story of Maise,her friends and family. A refreshingly different type of mystery, enriched with details of post WWI England and the world. I have "turned on" many friends to this wonderful series... and all agree that it is a pleasure read!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 30, 2010

    Fun Series

    Maisie is a great character and if, like me you like the 1930's/40's and mysteries and detective stories, the Maisie Dobbs series is civilized reading. Very enjoyable!

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  • Posted January 24, 2010

    Among the Mad

    Although the story is written in England after the 1st World War the main theme of this story is relevant to our time. Maisie Dobbs witnesses a public suicide that leads her into a plot involving a terrorist act. She and Scotland Yard race against the clock to find a person who has threatened violence unless demands are met.

    The underlying theme is about people who have given their lives for their country and returned only to find no one cares. The ones that survived have carried their emotional and physical wounds into a world that does not want to see. This is the story of one person's demand for recognition.

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  • Posted January 24, 2010

    a good read

    not as good as the first few books but well worth reading = the author has an amazing ability to make you feel that you are there in the time period of the book. very well done. interesting info on the period after WWI and during. highly recommmend her books.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    Winspear remains consistently entertaining.

    Have been with this series since the first publishing and have enjoyed each book. Jacqueline Winspear keeps her plots fresh and the characters have grown with each story. The psychological approach with a touch of mysticism makes this female sleuth of the 30's believable. As long as Winspear can avoid the pitfalls that lead to a boiler plate novel I will continue to look forward to the next "Maisie Dobbs" case.

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  • Posted September 27, 2009

    Intriguing and thoughtful

    Winspear has a unique style that draws you in even if somewhat offbeat and weird. I have read everything else she has written and this last book is not one of my most favorites but it is still quite good. I think reading these in the order they were written is helpful; you see how Maise develops and grows as a character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2009

    Disappointment

    I loved all of the previous books but I found this one disappointing and lacking in plot.
    Also found it lacking in her ususal description of the period clothing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews

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