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Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs Novels) Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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Audio CD, Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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Jacqueline Winspear on Among the Mad
As many of my readers know, my grandfather suffered both physical wounds and shell shock in the Great War, and as a child I remember having to be quiet around him, so as not to excite or trouble an elderly man with terrible memories. Later, in my mid-teens, I attended a school where we were required to undertake community service one afternoon each week (and we had to attend school on Saturday mornings to make up for it!). So, on Wednesday afternoons, I joined a small group who visited a psychiatric hospital--to talk to the patients, make the tea, read to them and generally offer kindness and companionship. I can recall many of the patients, some who were obviously not able to live outside an institution, and others who inspired one to wonder why they were there at all--and when you found out, the reason was often shocking. I remember one patient I talked with each week, an astoundingly sharp, intelligent man. He had been a top-ranking surgeon, one who was regarded as almost without peer. He was also a madman, a murderer. I thought of him often while writing Among the Mad.
Last year, during my book tour, a military chaplain came to one of my events and stayed behind afterwards to talk to me. He told me that he recommended my books to the families of those who have suffered loss during the Iraq war, and especially to people who are trying to accommodate the special needs of a soldier suffering from what we today call Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). He added that in reading a story where such losses are suffered in a time of war, yet separated by history, it facilitates a deeper understanding of what the returning veteran might be experiencing, and challenges involved in coming home from war.
The recent news that servicemen and woman wounded by PTSD will not be eligible for the Military Order of the Purple Heart--awarded to US military personnel who have been wounded or killed in a war zone--struck a chord. In Britain during and following the Great War there was much controversy about war neuroses, and many soldiers were denied a pension as a result of a clampdown on the diagnosis of shell shock. In my second novel, Birds of a Feather, one of the characters says, "That’s the trouble with war, it’s never over when it's over, it lives on inside the living." Such a sentiment is never more true than in the case of the man or woman who has served their country in a time of war, but who has to live with that war reverberating in their mind every single day for the rest of their lives. Maisie Dobbs is such a person, as is the person she is in a race to find in Among the Mad. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Winspears sixth Maisie Dobbs novel (after 2008s An Incomplete Revenge) raises the stakes considerably for her psychologically astute sleuth. On Christmas eve 1931, a man Maisie passes on a London street detonates a bomb, killing himself and slightly wounding Maisie. This traumatic event turns out to be linked to threatening letters the British prime minister starts to receive, the first of which mentions Maisie by name. Maisie joins a high-powered investigative team devoted to averting the cataclysmic disaster promised by the unknown author of the messages. By providing the letter writers perspective, Winspear removes some of the mystery. In addition, Maisies speculative guesses about the profile of the criminal, while accurate, have less logical grounding than traditional puzzle fans might prefer. Still, Winspear does her usual superb job of portraying London between the world wars. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Maisie Dobbs is a brilliant young working-class woman who gained an elite education under the sponsorship of the aristocratic family that employed her as a maid. Cutting short her university studies, she volunteered as a nurse in World War I, where she witnessed the conflict’s senseless carnage first-hand and was wounded by the same artillery shell that eventually killed her fiance. Now, after years of apprenticeship with a physician who was involved in top-secret intelligence work, she is on her own. Maisie bills herself as a “psychologist and investigator,” and she quickly proves her skill in both arenas.
In Among the Mad, the sixth novel of twelve (so far) in the series, 33-year-old Maisie finds herself and her sidekick, Billy Beale, pressed into service by New Scotland Yard’s secretive Special Branch. Together with her on-again, off-again friend and collaborator, Inspector Stratton, and the head of Special Branch, she is charged with finding the man who has threatened the Prime Minister himself. The wide-ranging search takes her and her colleagues into the worlds of Britain’s emerging Fascist Party, the militant labor movement, the country’s growing chemical-warfare program, and the network of asylums where shell-shocked soldiers and others deemed “mad” are locked away.
The action in Among the Mad unfolds over the last week of 1931 and the first month of 1932, a time when Britain was experiencing the worst of the Great Depression. As its title suggests, one of the book’s overarching themes is the primitive care of mental illness in that era. As in previous novels in the series, the persistent impacts of World War I loom large, too. But equally important is the emphasis on the desperation of the millions of men now out of work, many of them veterans of the war. With cameo appearances by two prominent historical figures—Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and future Fascist Party founder Sir Oswald Mosley—Among the Mad qualifies as a superior historical novel as well as first-class detective fiction.
The war goes on though for so many of those who participated in it. Millions of men and women who were grievously wounded either physically or psychologically - or both - continue to struggle with their wounds and with trying to make a place for themselves in the world. Maisie Dobbs' work as a psychologist and investigator often seems to bring her into contact with these desperate people and that is the case once again in Among the Mad.
It begins with Maisie walking down a London street with her assistant Billy Beale, on their way to meet with a client. Suddenly, Maisie gets one of her premonitions. She orders her assistant to go back as she walks forward toward a disabled man sitting on the street. He has one missing leg and the other injured and Maisie feels the distress coming from him. As she approaches him with her arm outstretched, he detonates a hand grenade, blowing himself up and injuring some of those on the street. Luckily, Maisie is not seriously injured but she is deeply affected by the event.
The next day the prime minister's office receives a letter threatening a massive loss of life if the writer's demands are not met. Curiously, the letter mentions Maisie's name which leads her to be investigated by Scotland Yard's elite Special Branch. She is cleared and then seconded to the Special Branch as a part of the team investigating the letter and trying to prevent a terrorist attack on the city.
While Maisie is involved in this case, she is also trying to help Billy, whose wife has descended fully into the abyss of melancholia following the death of their small daughter several months before. She is finally deemed to be a danger to herself or her two living children and she is committed to an institution for the care of the mentally disturbed, but this particular institution turns out to be a chamber of horrors and Maisie and Billy work to get her moved to a more humane facility.
Meanwhile, an incident at a veterinary facility results in the death of several dogs from some sort of chemical attack and this is followed by the killing of a number of birds by, apparently, the same means. Further letters received at Special Branch warn that the next victims will be human. And, indeed, a young government official is then killed. The letter writer warns that the next event will be a mass killing.
Maisie and the rest of the team race to find the writer of the letters and to stop him before he can accomplish that killing. They each follow different leads and Maisie investigates those who have been involved in research into chemical warfare. Her inquiry leads her into the world of shell-shocked men, a world of the darkness that she first encountered as a nurse during the war.
Jacqueline Winspear once again explores the theme that she has adopted as her main topic in this series, which is that of the treatment of those who fight a country's wars when they return home, often battered and damaged, from those wars. It was an issue after the First World War and every war since and it is still an issue today. We can read it in the headlines of any of today's newspapers. Winspear, through her character Maisie Dobbs, is an advocate for the humane treatment of such victims of man's inhumanity. These novels seem very timely in that regard and they give us pause to think about how far our treatment of shell-shock - now called PTSD - has come in a hundred years. Or not.
All violence and sexual mentions are done with the sensitivity of years past.