I’ve been reading Jacqueline Winspear’s newest Maisie Dobbs novel Among the Mad on the bus and during lunch breaks. I am not much of a mystery reader but so many bloggers have mentioned how much they enjoyed Maisie Dobbs that I thought I would give the book a go. I finished it on my bus ride home about five blocks from my stop. And yes, I enjoyed it very much.
I liked that Maisie is a strong woman in a time when women had to work hard to make it in a profession like psychologist and detective. I like that she felt as though she had depth to her. She wasn’t formulaic at all and neither was the story for that matter.
The plot in a nutshell. It is Christmas Eve, 1931 and Maisie and her assistant are off to meet a client. As they walk down the street Maisie sees a man sitting on the sidewalk against a building. He is a soldier from WWI, out of work and obviously wounded in the war. She is going to give him a few coins when he pulls a grenade from his coat and blows himself up. Maisie fortunately wasn’t too close, but she was close enough to get a nasty concussion. She is called to Scotland Yard and questioned about a letter in which her name is mentioned in relation to the dead man. The letter is also a threat of more to come, only worse.
Working with Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, Maisie follows leads and hunches and uses her knowledge of psychology and her personal experience in the war as a nurse to try find the letter writer before he unleashes a deadly biological weapon on the unsuspecting citizens of London.
There is quite a bit of talk about soldiers, former soldiers and their mental health. Shell shocked is what we now call post traumatic stress disorder. And just the other day when I was talking to my Bookman about the book, a story about PTSD and the Iraq war came on the radio. And to add to the relevance of the book, at work I am putting together a bibliography for an upcoming speaker event on bioterrorism, ethics, and the law. Something else I enjoyed about the book was that there were several women characters, Maisie included, that made it clear that war does not just affect soldiers.
Maisie Dobbs is a recurring character in a series and Among the Mad is not the first book. But I found that it didn’t matter that I had not read any of the other books. I learned all I needed to about Maisie’s past in the context of this book. But since I liked Maisie, I don’t doubt that I will find myself reading another one of Winspear’s books sometime.
It happens that Danielle recently interviewed Winspear. So, if you haven’t already, do venture over to A Work In Progress.