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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Among the Mad

Winspear, Jacqueline. Among the Mad.

This is the book I won in Danielle's give-away and the sixth novel in Winspear's series about Maisie Dobbs.

There are several aspects of these novels that I particularly enjoy:

- the way Maisie's character develops from the time immediately after WWI up to 1931, the period of this novel

-Winspear's handling of all of the WWI details and its residual effects on England

-the psychological insight into various characters

-the ambiance of post-war England

-and the mysteries themselves.

All of these aspects are present in Winspear's latest installment. When Maisie and Billy witness the suicide of a war veteran as they walk down a London street, they find themselves drawn into the investigation. The larger investigation involves a threat to the population of London involving poisoned gas if the government doesn't respond to the needs of its war veterans.

The use of poisoned gas by the Germans was one of the most horrorific elements of WWI, and the thought of the use of such a weapon on London is terrifying. Maisie immediately suspects that the author of the note is himself one of the shell-shocked victims of the war; working with New Scotland yard, she joins the frantic attempt to locate him in time.

Of course, the emphasis on the poisoned gas calls to mind Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est (perhaps the best known poem of WWI) and its description of victims of a gas attack.

In addition to the major plot line and its logical digressions concerning shell shock and the treatment of war veterans, the novel follows some of the minor recurring characters and their difficulties.

Among the Mad is one of Winspear's best, a multi-layered look at an era. Winspear has also begun to introduce us to the pre-war period of WWII in her last couple of novels. Hitler is consolidating his power in Germany and many in England are beginning to take notice of the changing political climate.

An interview with Jacqueline Winspear: A Work in Progress.
Other reviews: So Many Books and Curled Up With A Good Book.

Fiction. Mystery/Psychology. 2009. 303 pages.


  1. I didn't read carefully because I didn't want to learn any details. Just wanted to know if you liked it as well as the previous books. One of her best - all right!

  2. This is one of my favorite mystery series, and I'm looking forward to reading Among the Mad. I had an English professor in college whose father was gassed in WWI. Whenever I read about those gas attacks, I think of Mr. Waterstone.

  3. Booklogged - That is what I do frequently when I think I'm going to want to read a book--skim the review. I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews for that reason.

    Cathy - I like Winspear's work because it IS so much more than just a mystery. She manages to put historical events in such a personal perspective.

  4. I was so excited this book hit stores when it did. Thanks to Danielle over at A Work in Progress, I am constantly finding great book ideas for my wife and I saw over there that this was due out before Valentine's Day and made a perfect gift for her. She was very excited to read this latest volume in the series.

  5. Carl - A great gift! I'm sure your wife appreciates the fact that you are so attuned to her reading preferences!

  6. Yippeee, another Maisie Dobbs! Darn, if only I'd come here sooner--already made a book order. Thanks for the great review.

  7. curtissann - It's a great series, isn't it?

  8. I just started reading this! I also didn't read your review too carefully yet but I'll be back. But I totally agree with the aspects you mentioned of why you like the series so much. I love how Maisie has grown up and developed as the series continues and I can only just imagine what will continue to happen as other world events come in to play, etc.

  9. I know I said before I wanted to try this series (I still have yet to), and each review you write, I'm even more eager to try it. Maisie Dobbs sounds like such a great character and I love the time period setting.

  10. iliana - Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    LF - I think you'd enjoy this series--much more than just another mystery!

  11. I just finished the third book in the series last week. Thought it was the best of the series so far. Good to see you liked this one and the seried continues to hold up. Like you said - so much more than just another mystery.

  12. I have just finished this and can thoroughly recommend it. I live in the UK and couldn't wait for the UK edition so bought the Henry Holt edition with American spelling (there are many words which we spell differntly, as you know, and whereas you have just one word for check, which can mean a piece of paper with which you pay a bill, or when you look through something to ensure that it is correct, we have 'cheque' in the first instance, and 'check' in the second.) I think this is the best Maisie Dobbs book thus far. Jacqueline Winspear is spot on for period details and hasn't fallen into the trap of contemporary speech. I have recently read in one novel a character using the current phrase "end of story". OK if now, but this was meant to be the 1940s. I'm sure this wasn't used them!
    Margaret Powling

  13. SuziQ - I think the third one was Pardonable Lies, which was one of my favorites!

    galant - Yes, Winspear does an excellent job with period details, doesn't she? I like the way she slips in so many minor things without being distracting. They add to the atmosphere and the verisimilitude!

  14. Am totally late in leaving my comment, but I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. I think it's my favrite Maisie Dobbs novel yet!

  15. Danielle - Mine, too! Thanks again!