Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs Series #6)

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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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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.
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.
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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616841898
  • 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.


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

Darling Jim

A Novel
By Moerk, Christian

Henry Holt and Co.

Copyright © 2009 Moerk, Christian
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780805089479

Chapter One

Malahide, just north of Dublin. Not so long ago.

Long after the house had been disinfected for new occupants and the bodies rested safely in the ground, people still didn't come near it. "Cursed," whispered the neighborhood gossips and nodded meaningfully. "Deadly, a haunted house!" cried the children, but they only ever mustered up the courage to take a step or two into the front yard before losing heart.

Because what Desmond the mailman had been the first to see inside had been unnatural strange.

Everybody liked Desmond, even if he might have been a little too nosy for his own good. He was also a slave to ritual, always noticing if anybody's grass needed tending or whether the paint on a flagpole had begun to chip. Taken together with his guilt of having seen details without understanding their true meaning, these otherwise sociable qualities cost him his sanity.

On the last day of his life that gave him any joy, this most demanding connoisseur of his customers' coffee delivered the day's mail in the quiet neighborhood just down the street from the train station in Malahide as slowly as he decently could without being called a Peeping Tom. He started where the bars of New Street met the faux-Bavarian ugliness of the concrete marina and took a left, continuing out to BissetsStrand. As usual, old Des peered in the windows to see if anyone he knew might be waiting inside with a fresh cup, and he wasn't disappointed; he'd drunk two before reaching the end of the first block. Most residents had come to accept his lonely need for attention. Just "happening by" for a spot of the morning java made him feel, it was understood, as if he were part of someone else's life, just for a bit. He always said, "The bean smells lovely." He never outstayed his welcome. And he smiled when he saw you—that's what made everyone surrender to this strange little creature—flashed a grin as wide as you please.

Before he found the corpses, Desmond was universally viewed as harmless.

His life off the clock, such as it was, was spent at the safe remove of Gibney's, where he stole glances at the local wives when their husbands weren't looking and lost his meager paychecks at the bookmaker's next door each time there was a hurdles horse race on TV, which was often. He had trudged his black mailbag up and down the old beach town's cracked pavements for more than eighteen years, staring at the same ash-gray houses where the nearby sea had eaten away at the paint, and found the monotony comforting. Going in to the city, just half an hour away by train, would have required a desire for surprise and a worldliness he couldn't have imagined pursuing. Besides, it would have upset his carefully planned route, which netted at least four good cups before lunch.

When he walked past on the footpath, people inside their kitchens could hear him hum. Nonsense tunes, really. He had lousy pitch but bobbed his head to the beat, which counted for more than talent. He was happy the way only children under the age of twelve usually are.

Later, people took bets on whether that humming should have warned them.

It was on either the 24th or the 25th of April, just after ten in the morning, as far as anybody could recall, that the town's tolerant opinion of Desmond changed forever. The sun didn't shine. God averted his eyes from number 1 Strand Street and, instead, sent rolling clouds draped in suicide gray in from the sea to obscure something imminent not meant for public consumption. A prophetic color choice, as it should turn out. And so Desmond Kean, waving in blissful ignorance to old Mrs. Dingle on the second floor of Howard's Corner and tipping his cap to that nice Mrs. Moriarty just opening up her hair salon, proceeded toward the end of his daily route.

When he had handed out mail to the drab granny houses out on Bissets Strand, turned back, and again reached number 1, on the corner of Old Street and Gas Yard Lane, he hesitated all the same. The bag was nearly empty, and he only had to deliver two adverts from the local supermarket to Mrs. Hegarty inside. In the days to come, Desmond would go back and forth in his fevered mind, trying to remember how far back he should have noticed that something was wrong with how that house made him feel. It looked ordinary enough, its façade a faded cream with fake Swiss wood latticework above the doorway. But from the very beginning, something just out of reach whispered a warning about the house's occupant that he had been too polite to hear.

Mrs. Hegarty, who let Desmond call her "Moira" only after a year of sporadic—and persistent—visits, had come to town nearly three years ago from nowhere she cared to talk much about. People said it was a small town way out in West Cork. She was still a handsome woman at forty-five, and her face had the lucky kind of defined bone structure that would wear well into old age. On the rare occasions when Desmond's clumsy jokes managed to coax a smile, she was beautiful. But she had also acquired a hardness to her that blossomed into open hostility whenever people tried to get too friendly. Invitations to tea from neighbors were first met with polite refusals. And when some tried bringing her cakes to drive the point home, she left them untouched on her front porch, where wild cats finally ate them.

Among the many curious neighbors, only Desmond was ever invited into the house for coffee, probably because of his innocence or willful blindness to people's hidden side. Then, sometime last January, Mrs. Hegarty had abruptly stopped answering the door when he rang the bell. His subsequent attempts to reconnect with her whenever they happened on each other in the street were also rebuffed. Mrs. Hegarty, rarely seen outside her four walls as it was, would simply trail past him without a word in that old greatcoat, a scarf wrapped around her head like a mummy. She never again asked him inside. Desmond and everyone else simply assumed she'd had a tragedy befall her, didn't pry, and gave her the space she obviously craved.

And yet.

Now that Desmond stood outside Mrs. Hegarty's front door with the colorful adverts in his hand, he hesitated because of that feeling he'd had these last few weeks whenever he walked past. Recently, there had been sounds from inside that Desmond had written off as coming from a TV set, or maybe the radio. They had sounded like whimpers, even the cries of a young voice. Once there had been a loud thumping noise, and the drapes on the second floor had been yanked open briefly before being shut once again. But since Desmond was only curious, not investigative or even brave, he explained it away as the eccentricity of the lonely, a tribe to which he himself belonged.

The closer he came to the mail slot, the more the little hairs on his hand stood to attention like a blond forest. He thought he smelled something. Like spoilt stew. He wasn't sure where it was coming from; could have been seaweed rotting on the beach nearby. Or someone's fridge where the power had gone out. But he knew it wasn't.

Desmond finally ignored his imprecise feeling of foreboding, bent down, and pushed open the slot. He jammed one of the Tesco adverts inside. He noticed a pile of unopened mail on the floor.

And then he stopped.

Far inside, near where he knew Mrs. Hegarty's sitting room was, he saw what was probably a hand.

It was blue-black, ballooned thick like a surgical glove, and stuck out from somewhere in the adjoining room. The arm connected to it was fat and sausagelike, too, as if filled with water. A watch lay next to it, its band snapped clean off the wrist from the swelling. Desmond craned his neck and could just glimpse some more of Mrs. Hegarty's remains, dark stains all over her Sunday best. He could have sworn that, despite all that, she was smiling. Des just avoided getting sick all over his shoes and ran down to tell the gardaí.

And for the first and last time in his life, he left a piece of mail undelivered.

AFTER THE REGULAR guards from up the street forced the lock open, they stepped aside and made room for the astronaut-looking forensics team from Garda headquarters in Phoenix Park. Two men silently entered, backed up by a canine unit. The dogs howled and whimpered as the crusted blood called out to them, and their handlers had to hold them back. One astronaut wearing a white full-body HazMat suit knelt by Moira's prostrate body and examined her skull. There were several depressions in it just above one eye, as if someone had struck her over and over with a blunt object, but not hard enough to kill instantly. Cause of death was later determined at the inquest to have been caused by a massive subdural hematoma. In other words, Moira Hegarty had suffered a stroke after being beaten and died only minutes afterward. The body had been lying there for at least three days. One detective superintendent initially thought it was a robbery-homicide. Once he learned the full story, however, he was later heard to remark under his breath that "that fucking bitch deserved every blow she got." Because her death, as far as the cops were interested, was the least of it.

There were scuff marks on most of the walls, too, as if more than one person had tumbled around the ground floor, trying to gain control of the other. Shoe polish and brown leather skid marks had been smeared on the floor panels, and paintings of the Holy Land were askew. Those signs of struggle were replicated in every room downstairs, and it made the rookies nervous. One local garda opened the press under the sink and found rat poison in large quantities. Another discovered a necklace on Moira that was forged in iron and welded shut at the nape. A smaller ring with more than ten different keys was connected to it. Any one of them would have been impossible to pry off. "Must have jangled when she took a shower," another remarked, in a poor attempt at dispelling the unease they all felt. Once removed with bolt cutters, the keys were found to fit every lock in the house—from the outside. They found no other keys. And most of the doors were locked shut.

Forensic analysis indicated that Mrs. Hegarty suffered the injuries upstairs, then managed to make it almost down to her couch, collapsing just inches away. A fine blood trail from upstairs pointed the way.

The cops stopped laughing when they walked up to the second floor to verify this theory. It took two of Malahide's finest to shove the door open. One caught the nervous look of his partner when they put their shoulders into it. Because the smell from inside was stronger than it had been near Mrs. Hegarty. They weren't ashamed to have an armed officer accompany them as they revealed the truth of what Desmond saw and yet had missed so completely.

The girl lay bunched up against the door, her hands folded around a rusty shovel as if in prayer.

"Jesus!" exclaimed the youngest garda, and steadied himself on the doorjamb. Downstairs, the dogs howled, and their claws clicked around on the wooden floor.

Her red hair had been turned nearly black by sweat and filth. The fingers, slender and elegant, had only two nails left on them, and her ribs showed through the thin film of what once had to have been a yellow summer dress. Poor thing had died hard, the Garda established, but they couldn't immediately determine whether it was the knife wounds in her abdomen or something internal that killed her first. The shovel had her fingerprints on it, however, and its head matched the marks on Mrs. Hegarty's forehead. It was concluded that she had followed the older woman halfway down the stairs before something had broken off that chase. A knife was recovered from behind a chair, and Mrs. Hegarty's prints made it clear that she had stabbed the young woman not twice but at least nineteen times.

"Poor child bled out quick," a veteran cop remarked, blowing his nose.

Forensics quickly reconstructed the scene. A desperate battle had taken place on the second floor, where Mrs. Hegarty had tried to beat back the weakened girl's surprise attack and ultimately succeeded. But the young woman hadn't surrendered without a fight. Almost as an afterthought, forensics realized that not only did Mrs. Hegarty's keys fit in all the locks, but no room in the house had a keyhole on the inside. Remains of raw potatoes and moldy bread were found under the bed, where the girl had clearly been forced to save her rationed, meager food. It was determined that she'd lived inside the house for at least three months. Leg irons and handcuffs were gaping open on the bed railing, and both looked well used. The smallest of the self-established prison warden's keys fit snugly in them. Poor divil had cuff burns where the metal had eaten into her skin. Two bent hairpins, caked brown by the girl's own blood on the floorboards, were determined to be her homemade handcuff keys.

She had been a prisoner. For a long time. There was no other conclusion.

And the warden, the kindly woman doling out coffee to Desmond, had never been found out until it was too late.

"We had no idea," said the out-of-breath gentleman from Social Services, blinking in the camera lights right behind the cops, when confronted with the queasy notion that Mrs. Hegarty, the shut-in from somewhere out west, had evidently kept a live-in slave right under the noses of her neighbors. "We shall immediately make further enquiries." But as the man avoided the stares of angry onlookers and exited the house by the front steps, everyone knew that was so much bullshit. The woman who had lived quietly at the end of the street was an unmitigated monster. And nobody had cared enough to notice, least of all the government.

Through all this, while the astronauts, the flatfoot cops from around the corner, and the dogs all dissected their part of the unfolding mystery, Desmond knew that to be true more than anybody else. From the time the first ambulance came to carry that poor girl away, he stood right across the street, clutching a railing for balance, staring at number 1's chocolate-colored front door. And when darkness came, he still hadn't moved. An unhappy, ghostly smile had replaced the genial one he usually wore. And slowly, the same people who had tolerated Desmond's fussy demeanor now began looking askance at the prematurely balding man trying to catch a glimpse of the young girl's battered corpse being loaded into the ambulance. Those furtive glances into their kitchens took on a completely new and unsettling meaning. And it felt so good, besides, to smear one's collective guilt onto the only available patsy.

"Pervert!" a mother was heard to remark, cracked lipstick forming the words. "Sick bastard," added another. Both had served him coffee with a smile days earlier.

But even if his untoward glances could have been taken for untimely curiosity, or even sexual titillation, they were wrong. Had they been able to look into Desmond's heart, they would have discovered nothing but the blackest, stickiest guilt and shame. Those thumping noises now made sense to him. The yelps coming from the top floor could have—no, definitely had—been cries for help mere days before a violent death. Desmond nodded meekly at the neighborhood women, who didn't meet his eyes but kept theirs fixed on the front door of number 1, as if staring at it long enough would make them better neighbors.

NIGHT HAD FALLEN. The astronauts had finally folded their tents and carted the results back down to HQ. The throng of onlookers had thinned, but barely, when Desmond heard a sound from inside the house that fell somewhere between a shout and a yell. Someone had been surprised, and not by anything pleasant. Within seconds, the same young garda who had found the girl appeared in the doorway, his already ashen face pulled in directions that were all wrong. What ever he'd just seen exceeded his tolerance for human ugliness.

"Sarge," he said, swallowing hard. "Something we missed before."

One of the dogs had refused to move, but instead hugged the carpet and began to weep when it passed a bookcase on the second floor. Not to howl, like before, but to mourn what ever it sensed nearby.

When the gardaí finally moved the bookcase and opened the blinded door hidden behind it, they found the second girl.

"LOOKS YOUNGER THAN the first," said the coroner later in the week, after performing proper autopsies on all three women, and he snapped his rubber gloves off with a practiced gesture that gave him no joy at all.

This last one had been tucked away inside a tiny crawl space that was really part of the outer wall. Reached only through a door tiny enough to have suited a doll house, a narrow air duct led from the first girl's room to her damp corner. Absent any ID, she was determined to have been in her early twenties, with black wiry hair that would have been beautiful when it was still clean enough to be brushed. Her skin, except for sores brought about by poor hygiene and lack of protein, was unblemished by blows. In contrast to the first girl, she had died of massive organ failure, brought about by gradual poisoning and malnourishment. Her arms were so thin no muscle tone remained. When they found her, she lay in a dirty blanket like a whipped dog. Like the first girl, she bore marks of having been routinely shackled. In fact, one of the officers gently unlocked a set of leg cuffs that had caused her ankles to bleed. What nobody had a satisfactory answer for was why both palms were ink-stained. A leaky ballpoint pen was eventually found, but no paper. If she had been writing to somebody in the darkness of her prison cell, what had she done with the message?

A few days went by while the guards inventoried every stick of furniture found inside the house.

Then, when one of Moira Hegarty's many keys was found to unlock a dresser drawer, the story grew worse. And even the foulest gossip in Malahide was momentarily silenced at the sheer calculated ugliness of what the law dogs found.

The drawer first yielded two driver's licenses. One was made out to a red-haired, well-nourished Fiona Walsh, twenty-four, of Castletownbere, County Cork; clearly the first girl found on the top floor. The other belonged to twenty-two-year-old Róisín Walsh, whose black locks and pale skin in the photograph bore little resemblance to the skeletal creature now lying on the metal slab next to her sister. It was unclear how and when the girls had arrived at Moira Hegarty's house, but that's not what moved newspapers off racks that week. No, the salient detail that gave the Evening Herald and the Irish Daily Star golden days for far longer than the initial shock value of the news was something most had already guessed.

Fiona and Róisín weren't just two sisters who had suffered a grim death.

Moira—their jailer and killer—was their aunt.

SLAVE SISTERS SLAIN BY KILLER AUNT, barked one headline. BEAUTIES AND THE BEAST BLARED another. And despite their lack of tact, both were right. The girls were found to have ingested small, steady amounts of the anticoagulant rat poison coumatetratyl over a period of at least seven weeks, probably mixed in with their water and what passed for food. "Put simply," the coroner said, "the girls' organs gradually fell apart, and any cuts they sustained wouldn't have healed. The youngest died of internal bleeding. And each would appear to have been chained to her bed at night. Their aunt really planned this one out." The newspapers, as well as Desmond's neighbors and former friends, just called it diabolical, which was true enough, too.

But the dresser drawer still didn't offer up any clues as to why any of this had happened.

Among the inventoried effects were several sealed plastic bags with clumps of black dirt inside. Upon further analysis, the bags were also found to contain a button, one damask napkin, a crumpled pack of Marlboro Lights, and a used 12-gauge shotgun shell. None of these items seemed connected, but for the fact that the dirt on them had the same pH value. Some stationery was found, too, of which exactly one envelope and a sheet of expensive writing paper had been used. But forensics couldn't determine for what purpose. Perhaps Róisín had used it but, if so, the questions went, for what?

After a few days, the neighborhood grew restless and less enamored of the cops' authority. Kids dared one another to cross the white-and-blue Garda tape and grab a trophy from the wall, a stunt never repeated once the house had been shuttered and silenced and officially become inhabited by ghosts. One boy made off with a plastic Jesus figurine with a 40-watt bulb inside it to illuminate the halo. Another managed to get as far as the corner before a garda nabbed him and made him give back a gilt-edged portrait of the once-so-revered Taoiseach Eamon de Valera, the prime minister's long face seeming to disapprove of the dead woman who had hung him above her mantelpiece.

The police were rapidly running out of clues and got ready to close the case.

Then the house offered up one more secret all by itself.

It came in the form of a previously overlooked scuff mark by the back door, which looked like someone had nearly ripped it off the hinges trying to get out. A fingerprint was found on the handle that didn't match any of the three dead women's, and theirs were the only ones otherwise discovered in the house. But a third soiled bed was found in the basement, and more of the same unknown prints were found on a sewage pipe. Whoever it was had managed to saw through the pipe with a primitive cutting tool and had very likely fled the house with handcuffs still attached to at least one wrist.

The two girls hadn't been suffering alone. Someone else had been there with them, until very recently, a someone who was still out there, alive. And undiscovered.

When the last floorboard had been unpeeled and every spoon in the kitchen itemized without turning up anything new, number 1 Strand Street was finally cleaned out, boarded up, and offered for sale by the city. And as tantalizing as the unknown fourth person in that house might have been, with no apparent clues or even a single living relative to suggest any compelling explanation for the carnage, the gardaí quietly shuttered the case after a few months. Even the press eventually moved on to fresher kills.

Around the town's bars, the case was still being tried, however.

"Moira was off her head," went one popular theory. "She had it in for the girls. Murdering their beauty for jealousy's sake." Another version had the girls plotting to murder their aunt for her money in an extortion scheme that had backfired on themselves, but no cash was found anywhere in the house. "What a waste," the neighbors said, and they were right, what ever the truth. "The mystery guest was Moira's lover, who killed them all and left before getting what was coming to him," went one particularly fanciful notion. But none of these theories lasted any longer than the time it took to utter them.

"What happened here began somewhere else," a regular down at Gibney's finally ventured one night after a half pint of stout and a lot of listening to crap gossip from people with more alcohol in them than common sense. "This kind of bloodletting takes years of hatred to ripen properly."

If the boys in blue down on the Mall could have heard him just then and put down their breakfast rolls, they might well have cracked the case. But they still wouldn't have understood the half of it. Because the story the women inside Moira's house nearly took to their graves did begin somewhere else, in a small town in West Cork where everyone was driven by something far stronger and more combustible than hate.

It was love that put Moira and her two nieces into the quiet section of the tiny graveyard behind St. Andrew's Church.

The kind of love that burns hotter than a blast furnace.

AT THE SAD little funeral carried out and paid for by Social Services the following week, no relatives or friends came by to pay their last respects to the Walsh sisters and their murderous aunt. Fiona and Róisín were placed a few feet apart from Moira, which the funeral director insisted upon, "because I'll be damned if that awful woman should be able to reach out and touch those poor children." As if to mock the two young girls, God had turned the coke-colored weather cape inside out and now shone bright sunlight through a misty rain, creating a banal rainbow beautiful enough to make the only guest in attendance weep so loudly it bothered mourners at another funeral two graves over.

Desmond appeared to have aged ten years inside of a month.

From the day the two Walsh sisters and their aunt had been carted out to the meat wagon, he hadn't been seen in public. That's because the first thing he did when he came home to his freezing little flat was to take off his uniform and burn it. As days turned to weeks, the usual sounds of rare Jelly Roll Morton tunes seeping like golden pearls underneath the door from his old stereo went silent. Neighbors thought they heard quiet weeping. Children stuck their noses near his windowpane to catch a glimpse of the weirdo, and a few saw a flash of messy hair atop a pallid face. "Freak!" they whispered to one another, threw rocks at his front door, then ran home laughing. Parents knew, of course, but allowed that bit of exorcism. Better someone other than they take the blame for what had happened. What's more, it appeared to have worked. A nice unsuspecting Polish family would eventually move into number 1, which once again looked like just another house on the block.

Desmond wore a shiny black suit with worn elbows and knees, like a waiter at a ferry cafeteria. He trembled as Father Donnelly said the requisite prayer. And he had to cover his mouth with both hands when the priest got to "Blessed art Thou amongst women." Below the church hill, the soot-colored rooftops were slick with rain. Desmond remained standing long after the graves had been properly padded and marked. He still stood there as it really began to pour.

When he started back for his flat and nodded at a group of kids in the street, that's the last anyone ever saw of him.

If it hadn't been for another postman, named Niall, whose curiosity likewise picked him out of his humdrum existence and catapulted the poor lad headlong into the biggest adventure of his short life, the whole story might have ended there.

But the secret of the Walsh sisters was only just beginning to unfold.

Anybody walking near the cemetery that night might have had enough imagination to see the girls' spirits rise from their cheap state-sponsored coffins and hover in the air near the ser vice window of the post office, tapping on the glass. For they had unfinished business inside.

Desmond, poor soul, had been closer than he thought.

And neither Fiona nor Róisín, even in death, would be denied.

Excerpted from DARLING JIM by Christian Moerk
Copyright © 2007 byChristian Moerk
Published in 2009 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


Excerpted from Darling Jim by Moerk, Christian Copyright © 2009 by Moerk, Christian. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions


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 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?


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 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?


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?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 53 )
Rating Distribution

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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.

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  • 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


    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


    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


    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.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews

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