Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s Among the Mad

Posted July 29, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s Among the Mad

Among the Mad


by

Jacqueline Winspear


This historical mystery is a hardcover edition that was published by Henry Holt and Co. on February 17, 2009 and has 303 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
five-stars

Other books by this author include Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, Pardonable Lies, Messenger of Truth, An Incomplete Revenge, A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, A Dangerous Place, Journey to Munich, In This Grave Hour

Sixth in the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series and revolving around a female private investigator with a unique perspective on crime. Takes place in England in late 1931.

In 2010, Among the Mad was nominated for the Macavity Award for Sue Feder Historical Mystery.

My Take

This is truly sad and demonstrates that no matter how “enlightened”, governments stay the same, using up their young men and throwing them away when they’re useless or no longer needed. By the government. The one advance we seem to have made is that PTSD is recognized now and not automatically considered cowardice.

It’s an interesting change as Miss Dobbs is brought in to interact with law enforcement. She’s a strong woman who intends to include her ways of working, and while skeptical, I suspect they’ll be incorporating some of her methods in future. I do love her insistence on getting paid — go, Maisie! I particularly like how she treats Urquhart!

I suspect there’s a sea change being set up in this one with possibilities opening up for Maisie with Special Branch and MI5. As well as a possible future romance. A curious one.

I would have liked to think we were a compassionate people, but after reading what the establishment does to Doreen in the nuthouse. Jesus. It does make me wonder how much better we’ll be at treating depression 80-some years in our future. Winspear has a curious balance in this: the lower class Doreen’s depression over losing Lizzie and the upper class Priscilla’s own depression. It’s different ends of the social spectrum and shows that money truly can’t buy happiness. Of course, I’d rather be miserable with money than without…

It’s also fascinating to “watch” Maisie profile their target. Dang, she’s good!

There is also more personal growth for Maisie with her realizing her need to make her flat a home. Pictures make a good start.

I love the sense of history and reality Winspear brings to this series. The manners, how women and different social classes are perceived. The need for introductions. The medical conditions and treatments available at the time. Naturally, I also adore Maisie Dobbs. She’s a strong woman, a trailblazer who doesn’t believe being a woman is weak or incapable.

The Story

An act of terrorism, a crippled man unable to work and dismissed as “capable” by the War Department resorts to a grenade in a crowded street at Christmas. It’s followed up by threatening letters to the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister with one particular demand—that Maisie Dobbs be a part of the investigation.

Miss Dobbs find herself working closely with Special Branch and MI5, and yes, there will be clashes between this free-thinking and very moral woman and the mistrusting self-interests of a government intent on secrecy.

The Characters

Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist and private investigator incorporating psychology in her investigative and questioning techniques. Her use of the yogic discipline is much less obvious, which is a shame. Frankie is Maisie’s dad, and he works as the head of stables at Lord and Lady Compton’s country home. Jook is his lurcher. Priscilla is Maisie’s best friend; Douglas is her husband and a poet. Tarquin, Thomas, and Timothy are their children.

Billy Beale is Maisie’s assistant, who still suffers from his wounds in World War I, and married to the very depressed Doreen. Lizzie is the daughter who died in Messenger of Truth, 4. Young Billy and Bobby are their surviving children.

Scotland Yard, Special Branch, and MI5
Detective Inspector Richard Stratton had dated Maisie briefly; he still hopes. Detective Sergeant Caldwell is his assistant (who can’t stand Maisie). Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane is in charge of Special Branch. Colm Darby seems to be MacFarlane’s aide. Gerald Urquhart is with MI5.

Dr. Anthony Laurence is an expert in psychological trauma and is situated at the Princess Victoria Hospital. Croucher is a veteran with memory issues who works as a porter at the hospital. Professor John Gale is a chemist and physicist at Oxford University. Christopher Anton and Walter Mason are scientists under Gale. Dr. Rigby is in charge of the Foundling Hospital. Sydney Oliver is a very dedicated teacher there; his wife, Amelia, taught housekeeping. Their son, Stephen, was a math genius.

Bert Shorter is one of the witnesses at the bombing. Ian Jennings liked to read. Mr. Tinsley has a very crowded used bookstore.

Mr. Baldwin is Lord President of the Council; Mr. Tryon is the Minister for Pensions; Ramsay MacDonald is Prime Minister; and, Robinson is the police commissioner. Oswald Mosley‘s brand of Fascism is displayed.

Maisie is working to get Doreen transferred to Dr. Elsbeth Masters at the Clifton Hospital.

Lady Rowan Compton was Maisie’s patron when she was younger. Dr. Maurice Blanche taught Maisie psychology and how to use yoga to investigate when she was acting as his assistant.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a woodcut style with an old building in silhouette in the dusky blue background, birds circling its roof, its upper floor windows lit up allowing for a silhouette in one to spy on Maisie. A Maisie in one of her new red jackets, a cloche hat, and a dark blue skirt, carrying a portfolio in one hand, the other hand stable on the fender of her little red MG.

The title is where she seeks, Among the Mad, but who are the real inmates in this one?

five-stars

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