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 metand the writer mentions Maisie by name. After being questioned and cleared by Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane of Scotland Yard's elite Special Branch, she is drawn into MacFarlane's personal fiefdom as a special adviser on the case. Meanwhile, Billy Beale, Maisie's trusted assistant, is once again facing tragedy as his wife, who has never recovered from the death of their young daughter, slips further into melancholia's abyss. Soon Maisie becomes involved in a race against time to find a man who proves he has the knowledge and will to inflict death and destruction on thousands of innocent people. And before this harrowing case is over, Maisie must navigate a darkness not encountered since she was a nurse in wards filled with shell-shocked men.
In Among the Mad, Jacqueline Winspear combines a heart-stopping story with a rich evocation of a fascinating period to create her most compelling and satisfying novel yet.
About the Author
JACQUELINE WINSPEAR is the author of several 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.
Date of Birth:April 30, 1955
Place of Birth:Weald of Kent, England
Education:The University of London¿s Institute of Education
Read an Excerpt
Darling JimA Novel
By Moerk, Christian
Henry Holt and Co.Copyright © 2009 Moerk, Christian
All right reserved.
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.
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.
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Reading Group Guide
Discuss the ways in which The Great War has affect Massie Dobbs both personally and professionally, as psychologist and investigator. How do her experiences with soldiers and in combat palpably help her to solve the case at hand?
What are the differences and similarities between Stephen Oliver and Billy Beale's wife, Doreen? What distinguishes their psychological states?
Many of the characters in Among the Mad grapple with mental distressDr. Lawrence, Professor John Gale, Detective Chief Superintendent MacFarland, Dr. Elsbeth Mastershow do their individual psychological states bring dimension and suspense to the novel as a whole?
Under threat of mass terror, Stephen Oliver demands that the government immediately pay full pensions to all veterans those who had sustained both physical and psychological injuries. At the same time, he writes in his diary "I just want to be heard." Is he an activist or a terrorist, and to what extent do you sympathize with him.
Though set in 1931, Among the Mad addresses many issues that are a part of our contemporary worldthe political fall-out of wars, terrorism, a struggling economy. How does Jacqueline Winspear's evocation of these troubles in another time shed light on turbulent days in the present?
Maisie Dobbs thrives in a career largely dominated by men. But what are some of the advantages she has over MacFarland and Urquart? In what ways does she successfully deflect their antagonism? Were you surprised to find social commentary on equality threaded through the mystery? Along those same lines, do you think that Maisie's intuitions as a detective are distinctly female, or are they coming from a different, higher place?
Stratton, Darby, and MacFarland immediately suspect Mosley's New Party and the student union activists are responsible for the letters, while Maisie takes her time to investigate the real identity of Ian Jennings and to take a closer look at Ms. Catherine Jones. How are the two approaches different? Do the other detectives miss the forest for the trees by looking at groups instead of individual motivations?
Were you surprised by the brutality that Steven Oliver faced at the hands of people who were charged with healing him? How is such corruption possible? Is it ever for the greater good?
Beyond acting as her loyal assistant, what role does Billy Beale really play in Maisie's life? Does she need him on an emotional as well as professional level?
Discuss Dr. Masters' story about the lion and the gazelle on pg 136, and her rather spiritual understanding of shell shock. Do you agree with her, and if not, what metaphors would you select to illustrate that kind of suffering?
Would you describe Dr. Lawrence as a tragic character? How do you feel about Maisie's final gesture to reconcile with her at the end of the investigation?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
On Christmas Eve 1931, Psychologist and Investigator Maisie Dobbs and her assistant Billy Beale, having finished a report for a client, are strolling on a London street to deliver their findings when another pedestrian detonates a bomb. He dies while Maisie is slightly injured, Billy is okay physically because Maisie seeing something off kilter with the culprit told him to head back to the office, which he started to do until the explosion.
The next day the Office of the Prime Minister receives the first of several threatening letters warning of terrorist activity; this note also contains the name of Maisie Dobbs. She joins a government investigation team trying to find the anonymous writer and prevent the threatened attacks.
This is a terrific Dobbs entry that as usual brings alive London at a time when the Great Depression is causing global havoc. Maisie is terrific as an early psychological profiler though some of her descritpors are based on hunches as no validated database yet exists. More a thriller than an investigative tale, series fan will enjoy the latest Maisie Dobbs psychological sleuthing case (see PARDONABLE LIES and AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE).
Jacqueline Winspear has done an outstanding job with this series. I have recommended it to any of my friends that still read. My husband and both my daughters have read the whole series also and were very impressed(especially my husband as he rarely reads fiction). Watching Maisie's life unfold and watching the characters grow and change is extremely enjoyable. I recieved this on my brithday weekend and spent one very relaxing day reading the whole book. Absolutely wonderful book and series!
The Maisie Dobbs books are some of the few in my permanent collection of fiction. It's easy to identify with Maisie from my perspective. Yes, she lost so much, but she gives of herself even more. She may end up in a conventional relationship, but in the meantime, she epitomizes the independent woman trying to make a living and do some good in the world. Among the Mad is really a mirror from Maisie's time to ours. Evil is out there, it isn't going away, and it only succeeds when good people do nothing to counter it. This book also highlights the sameness of the turf wars between police and intelligence agencies of her time and our time. A timely insight into the problems of our own time, for it takes place at the beginning of the Great Depression, the economics, the military veterans issues, the governmental issues. An amazing insight from our past. For an absorbing read that challenges one intellectually and morally, there is no better fiction writer living today than Jacqueline Winspear, and I read a lot of mysteries and crime fiction, bot British and American. She pulls no punches and takes us inside the life and mind of an extraordinary woman of her time, of any time. I highly recommend the entire series starting with Maisie Dobbs.
“…inside the villain is a victim…” Among The Mad is the sixth book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. After witnessing a suicide in the street near her office, Maisie is seconded by Special Branch to help investigate a case, possibly related, involving letters containing non-specific threats to the public, and finds herself visiting No 10 Downing Street. It is of concern that MI5 are also involved, but Maisie’s special skills and her unique perspective prove helpful when the team are working to a deadline. Billy’s wife, Doreen is hospitalised, and Maisie’s close friend, Pris is not coping well with her move from Biarritz. Winspear gives her readers another interesting plot with a twist or two, and she touches on many issues: reactive depression, its various manifestations and shocking treatment regimens; the high prevalence of shell shock and the scandalously inadequate support given to affected servicemen; and research into chemical weapons and victims of experimentation. For this investigation, Maisie has to visit the Battesea Dogs Home, hospitals, research facilities and an orphanage. She manages to save the day at no small risk to herself, as well as proving herself a supportive employer and a resourceful friend. She makes a purchase that may well come in handy in future investigations. Another excellent instalment in the Maisie Dobbs series, and readers will look forward the next book, The Mapping of Love and Death.
The best of this series so far. Starts with a bang and never lets up.
I always look forward to new releases in the Maisie Dobbs series, and Among the Mad did not disappoint. To me, the most interesting element of the series is the setting, 1930s England. The long-lasting effects of WWI on the minds, bodies and spirits of those impacted by it are not often a theme in fiction, and I have enjoyed learning a bit more about it. I also enjoy following a strong, working, single female in a time when being those things would have made for many challenges, both professionally and personally.
Very Thoughtful and insightful writing on a subject as new as today as it was in England after WWI - the setting for this book. The story is moving and very interesting with good plot and strong characters as is usual with this wonderful writer. While this is in a series, it is also a good stand alone story too.
I galloped through this one--it was definitely suspenseful and held my interest. However I don't really remember it anymore so I would have to say I found it less emotionally involving than some of the others. Still, a good read.
Maisie Dobbs in 1931 witnesses the suicide of a man who apparently had been injured during WWI. She tries but is unable to prevent the tragedy from happening, and starts reliving the horrors of her time during he war.Because of her efforts she is drawn into a rapidly advancing chemical warfare attack on the city of London - first 6 dogs are targeted, then 50 birds, 1 man - all the while the authorizes are warned by demands asking for better treatment and pensions for ex-soldiers.Maisie while working with Scotland Yard on this investigation, is also endeavoring to aid Billy's wife Doreen and get her the best mental health care possible as well as her friend who is spiraling near to alcoholism.The book paralleled the different types of mental illness - those resulting from war, depression, and alcohol dependency and yet it flowed so effortedlessly because of Maisie's character's involvement in all the aspects of the story. Seeing the mental health issues described from the 1930 POV in comparison to the 21st century - the reader can see that there has been improvement in the medical handling but that there is still room to go. I've read the first in the series and now this one - definitely need to go find the others.
As Maisie Dobbs and her assistant, Billy Beale, walk down a London street on Christmas Eve, they narrowly escape serious injury when a man commits suicide by blowing himself up. Maisie is soon called upon by Scotland Yard to help with an urgent investigation. The government has received an anonymous threat warning of mass destruction. There is reason to believe that the letter writer is somehow connected to the Christmas Eve suicide bomber. With very few clues to the identity of either the suicide bomber or the threatening letter-writer, Scotland Yard needs to find a different approach for this investigation. Maisie describes herself as Psychologist and Investigator, and her psychological skills provide the most hope for the prevention of a great tragedy.Jacqueline Winspear successfully weaves social commentary into a suspenseful novel. As in all the books in this series, Winspear calls attention to the psychological trauma of war, the failure of society to re-assimilate veterans, and the failure of the government to compensate veterans for their sacrifices and to provide adequate treatment and care for the psychologically wounded. By using Maisie's voice to analyze these issues, she provokes something deeper than a fleeting emotional response. Maisie's character is anything but emotional.Character is as important as plot in the Maisie Dobbs novels. Maisie's character grows and develops throughout the series, as do the personalities of supporting characters. While it's certainly possible to enjoy this book as a standalone, I would strongly encourage reading all of the books in this series in order.
Maisie is maturing as she heals from the trauma and losses she has experienced. She recognizes how she holds back in relationships, including that with her closest friend Pricilla, and begins to more actively reach out. Maisie reflects and analyses her behavior, perhaps too much, but she is able to make conscious choices and changes. In Among the Mad Maisie sees a despondent veteran commit suicide and wound bystanders; she then finds herself assisting Scotland Yard and the Special Branch to stop further attacks. As in other Maisie Dobbs books, Winspear captures the atmosphere of post-World War I England. Poverty is rampant, especially among the neglected and traumatized veterans. Additionally anarchists, communists and labor unions threaten the stability of England. The use of chemical attacks and the presence of veterans suffering from shell shock (now called Post-traumatic stress disorder) give this story a contemporary feel.
Winspear continues to write absolutely stellar mysteries featuring Maisie Dobbs. The stories are in the same vein as Agatha Christie -- more murders of the mind, requiring intellectual sleuthing, than "whodunits." Maisie -- and all the characters in the novel -- are so well fleshed out, and the place and culture so well set, each novel is a learning experience too. Even if you never touch mysteries, this is one series to pick up, and read through in order.
Set in London between the wars, Among the Mad is the sixth book in the Maisie Dobbs Mystery Series. The early 1930's is an interesting time period in England's history and an excellent place for Winspear to set loose Maisie, a self sufficient, independent women, highly over educated for the time period and unafraid to plunge right into the thick of things. Among the Mad focuses on the story of soldiers recovering from the physical and psychological repercussions of war, the government's role and responsibility for their care and protection, and the shortages and economic hardship that face the majority of the population, in stark contrast to the lifestyle of the upper class; all of which draw interesting parallels to today's current events. On top of this intricately woven social commentary Winspear overlays a suspenseful story of madness and terrorism. A book for lovers of detailed period pieces this is not a traditional mystery, as much of the story is told from the view point of the terrorist, but more of a psychological suspense. Would be appropriate for Young Adults.
There are so many bad mysteries out there, that it is a treat to come across a series as intelligently written as Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs books. In this latest editions (#6 in the series), Maisie witnesses the suicide of a disabled war veteran on Christmas Eve. Just getting over the shock of this event, she is called to Scotland Yard to assist in a case to find the author of threatening letters to members of the British government. The writer of these letters then proceeds to use deadly chemical weapons to kill - first animals, but then a member of the government.As the team races against time to find the killer, Maisie uses all her psychological skills that readers have come to enjoy in the previous volumes. The author also makes a powerful statement about the use of chemical weapons, the treatment of war veterans, and the callous attitudes of those who send men into war in the first place.This book will keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat and at its conclusion will leave us looking forward to the next installment.
Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs books always provoke thought on the part of the reader. This book has a darker outlook than most, dealing as it does with people severely damaged by human conflict in the first world war. It also subtly points out that some things never change in terms of how government agencies operate. Intrigue and back-stabbing have been around forever. It's a good read, but don't expect a particularly cheery feeling at the end. The good news is that Maisie has pulled herself back together again.
The sixth installment in the Maisie Dobbs series. A madman has given London an ultimatum - address the needs of the poor and neglected, especially Veterans of the Great War by New Year's Eve -- or he will unleash chemical warfare on the unsuspecting populace. Ms. Winspear uses this as a jumping off place for various reflections on shell shock (PTSD) and other forms of mental illness. A shame that some 90 years after the events in this novel, mental illness should still carry the lingering disrepute in some quarters. Equally relevant to those concerned today with the treatment of modern era soldiers and their families.
Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear is the sixth book in the Maisie Dobbs Series. In this book Maisie who is very familiar with injuries that are suffered as a result of wars as Maisie served as a nurse during the war and her character brings that experience and knowledge with her into these novels. Both the psychological and physical scars and the trauma or these events are identified throughout this book. As the book begins, Maisie observes the horror of a suicide on the sidewalk but then becomes pulled into a larger challenge when asked to work with Scotland Yard and the government on investigating deaths of animals and threats of terrorist acts. This book is a bit depressing as she is working with the issue of mental instability and illness. In addition the main story line, Maisie¿s assistant Billy is also dealing with his wife¿s mental breakdown following the lost of their baby girl and she wants to offer the family her support and assistance. Exploration into the issue of mental care facilities, asylums and the treatment of the mentally ill during the early 1930¿s is a difficult one. The book is well written and the characters are well developed. From the brilliant scientists to the staunch police officers this book will bring you an even greater understanding of Maisie as the primary character in the series. Her relationship with her best friend Priscilla is also expanded upon and plays a role in humanizing Maisie and her own needs. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those who enjoy a light mystery or a bit of historical fiction but would also recommend that this series is best read beginning with the earlier books as the stories build upon each other over time.
These books just keep getting better. If you read series at all you know this is not an easy task. But Jacqueline Winsprear pulls it off each and every time. This is by far the most suspenseful of all the books and it keep me on the edge of the page the whole time. What¿s most remarkable about this entry into the series if the formula was stirred up a bit. While still have all the great elements that I love about a Maisie Dobbs book there was a major change dropped into the mix. For the first time we are let in on the thoughts of our culprit. By way of his journal entries we get into the mind of the person planning nothing short of a terrorist attack on London. This not only added to the tension of the story but gave us insight into the wounded mind of a man destroyed by war.Here¿s the thing that keeps me coming back to the books in this series, all the characters are so interesting and real. I love both the central characters and the new characters introduced for each new story. In this story we get to see Maisie start to really embrace life and put her experiences in the war firmly behind her and start looking for both joy and companionship. Realizing her loneliness and need for human connections she reaches out to Priscilla and her family. I can¿t even tell you how much I love Priscilla. And I adore she has been given more depth with each new story. Here we see that Pris isn¿t as ¿over¿ the war as she may have seen earlier. Back in London Priscilla must truly deal with the loss of her family and her fears of the future for her own boys.In contrast to Priscilla¿s fears for the future is Doreen¿s inability to let go of her horrible loss in the past. Doreen, Maisie¿s assistant Billy¿s wife, cannot get past the loss of their daughter. The Beale¿s lost their daughter Lizzy in the fourth novel in the series Messenger of Truth. Where that story showed the inequity the lower classes had in treating illness this story showed just how awful some of the treatments towards the mentally ill were. Particularly, if you were poor. The treatment Doreen first received was just frightening.This story also bring to light the treatment of men and women damaged psychologically by war. Though the setting is 1930s England I¿m sure there are some parallels to the lack of attention paid to mental illness as a result of war. Other comparisons can be made to today¿s fears of chemical terrorism. It was so interesting to think there is nothing new under the sun. Where we may think worrying about terrorist with chemical weapons is something new, it obviously is something that has been around a very long time. Boy, did tht add to the suspense.I mentioned there were some wonderful new characters introduced. We met Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane. (Boy, is that a mouthful-I tell you they sure know how to drag out the names of their Police officials) Let me tell you, Robert MacFarlane can go toe to toe with our Maisie. He even calls her on her habit of mimicking people in order to make them feel more at ease and easier for her to relate. While I hope there is not a romance between the two (something it seems Robert would like) because I am standing strong for team Stratton, I hope MacFarlance is around for awhile. He has broken down some of Maisie¿s barriers. Maisie also has to deal with members of MI-5 and I can only hope we see more of that. I can see story lines coming as WWII looms in the near distance.This was a jam packed edition to the series with both the mystery (maybe the best so far) and the personal stories grabbing me and holding on to the end. I can¿t wait to see what¿s next. I have high hopes for the next in the series. I know I have said this over and over and over (and over and over-that¿s five times over for each in the series so far) but this is my favorite so far. At first I hesitated saying this because I starts to lose it something to say it for each book. But they do just keep getting better. Winspear adds layers wit
In this installment we find Maisie racing against time to stop a terrorist, think the Unabomber type before he kills again. Cute little animals and people are not safe while this psychopath is on the loose. Yes, the descriptions of those poor little doggies unfortunate ends disturbed me even more than the junior prime minister's death. I must say though that the description of his untimely demise was particularly grisly for a Maisie Dobbs novel. At the same time this is happening, poor Billy Beale is dealing with the mental breakdown of his wife Doreen who cannot get over the death of their little girl Lizzie. I still maintain that Maisie should have done more to help Lizzie when she knew that she was sick and that Billie couldn't afford to take her to the doctor. At least now Maisie pulls some strings to get Doreen out of the medieval institution she has been taken to and into a more modern psychiatric facility that can help her. It was nice to see a more caring side of Maisie again. She even took time out to help poor Priscilla who is still having trouble adjusting to the loss of her entire family despite the fact that she now has her own children. It was also nice to see Maisie finally getting the respect she deserves from the boys at Scotland Yard. The one thing I don't like is Maisie's relationship with potential suitors. Poor inspector Stratton is always cut off at the pass. I get that Maisie misses Simon but she always seems so standoffish when it comes to love relationships. I would like to see her expand in that area. Two more novels to go and I'm off to The Mapping Love and Death.
Another riveting Maisie Dobbs mystery, this time starting with the suicide of a wounded WWI vet just as Maisie approaches him.
Jacqueline Winspear¿s Maisie Dobbs series is a particular favorite and this, the sixth novel, did not disappoint. Admittedly, I have struggled to connect with other author¿s historical mystery series, but that has never been the case with Maisie Dobbs; they seem to get better with each new addition.The setting takes us to familiar territory for fans of the series. The time period is the holiday season of late December 1931 and January 1932 in and around the city of London, England. In this installment, an expert in chemical weapons threatens to use his knowledge to punish the government for neglecting homeless, ill, disabled and unemployed veterans living as the unseen of the city. Maisie Dobbs, a former World War I nurse in France, and currently an investigator and psychologist, confronts difficult issues including a legacy of untreated mental health conditions experienced by World War I veterans, the inhuman treatment of women in mental health institutions, the emotional toll of war on a nation and its people as a whole and individually, and the effects of chemical war weapons, including during their research and development.As always, Maisie confronts her own demons resulting from her wartime experiences as Winspear examines the human need for home, love, companionship, friendship and the healing power found in our human interactions. Winspear takes the genre of historical mystery and raises it to do much more than entertain, but to examine who we are and why we do what we do. I highly recommend reading this novel if you enjoy well written, interesting mysteries, which take the readers deeply into examining the human condition and for anyone who enjoys the time period of World War I and/or the years between the World Wars. Finally, this book and the series as a whole, is very British¿.so if that is to your liking as it is to mine, then Maisie Dobbs and Among the Mad might be for you.
Another great addition to the Maise Dobbs series. The author continues to develope the main character, Maise Dobbs. I appreciate how the the author shies away from having Maise find a love interest as a means of making her happy. Instead she holds tight to the independence she gained through her financial independence. I also really enjoy how much effort and research Ms. Winspear puts into developing the setting; London itself is a character that comes alive in her capable hands. Additionally, she address the lingering consequences of the "Great War" in a manner that makes her (the author's) feelings about war clear, but doesn't bash the reader over the head with misplaced proselytizing. Not to mention, there's a well crafted mystery thrown in.
Maisie Dobbs is hired as a consultant to Scotland Yard when it gets a threatening letter that mentions her name. It isn't that Detective Chief Superintendent "Robbie" MacFarlane believes for a minute that Maisie would harm anyone ... but he does believe her special skills and insights might help in the investigation.Readers are also given brief glimpses into the actions and mind of the letter-writer, whose threats will be carried out if the government doesn't do something -- and now -- to help the unemployed, especially veterans of the Great War. The plight of war survivors is a theme that has run through all the books in this series.What struck me most was the author's ability to imagine herself as one of the disenfranchised, to give a voice to both the hopes and despair of those who are often invisible, and to make readers sit up and take notice, to empathize. That's what makes Maisie Dobbs such a singular character in mystery fiction. And, while one of those characters is ready to kill to make those like himself more visible to the powers-that-be, Maisie's assistant, World War I veteran Billy Beale struggles to come to terms with his wife's psychiatric illness and the horrible hospital she -- also one of the disenfranchised -- is taken to for treatment. Among the Mad is not a lighthearted mystery, but it is a book that resonates today -- another economically depressed era during which returning war veterans are forced to fight again for the treatment they deserve. 02/25/2010
An excellent book! Even if you haven't read the earlier Maisie Dobbs novels, this one is worth it. Gripping plot, fascinating social commentary, and excellent psychological insights. Couldn't stop until I finished it!