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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Among the Mad

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
Published by Henry Holt & Co.- ISBN 978-0-8050-8216-6
Hardcover version $25
Reading for bookclubgirl's Mad For Maisie Readalong

The sixth Maise Dobbs book, Among the Mad, is one of the strongest entries in the series. Instead of a case coming to private investigator/psychologist Maisie Dobbs, she is a witness to a crime. A man blows himself up in the middle of a crowded London street,  mere feet from Maisie.

Something about the man, who looked like an injured war veteran, stood out to Maisie, but she could not stop him. Detective Chief Superintendent Robert McFarlane recruits Maisie to assist Scotland Yard's Special Branch with this case. Maisie is not fond of MacFarlane, but she knows she has a duty to assist the police in apprehending the person responsible for the bombing.

A letter was sent to to the Home Secretary stating that more serious bombings would occur, and many more people would lose their lives if their demands are not met. The writer is decrying the poor treatment of returning war vets. They cannot get jobs, decent health care or monetary benefits they are owed.

I liked how relevant this story is to today's readers. Although the story takes place in 1931/1932 London, it echoes the experience of soldiers who have served and been wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The weapons of mass destruction, via a chemical bomb scare, is relatable to many of us who live in large cities.

This novel has a few differences from most Maisie novels. There is more action, a sense of urgency as Maisie races to find the culprit before anyone else is hurt. Maisie also puts herself in harm's way as she directly confronts a dangerous man.

Although the reader doesn't know the exact identity of the bomber, we are privy to his writings, and know his motive and thoughts. That is an interesting twist to this novel, as we are usually in the dark until the very end as to who did it or why.

I always learn an interesting fact from these novels, and in this one, I learned that dogs were used as message carriers, went on patrol, and were used to increase morale among the soldiers.

Billy's wife Doreen continues her downward emotional decline following the loss of their young daughter. She has to go to a mental hospital, and the conditions there are frightening. Billy's anguish over his wife's illness and Maisie's attempts to help their family touched me.

Among the Mad is a real page turner, with a lot of action; it has emotion and the political messages resonated for me as well. This is a superior mystery.

Rating 4.5 of 5

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