Saturday, August 22, 2009

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

39. Among the Mad - sixth in the Maisie Dobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
mystery, 2009
library book
finished, 8/16/09

It is Christmas Eve in 1931. Maisie Dobbs is about to offer a presumably homeless veteran some money when he blows himself up. Maisie is thrown into the air, but isn't badly injured. This event brings us into another story in the tremendous Maisie Dobbs series which shows the reader how the effects of the First World War are long reaching. There's not a person who isn't touched: Maisie's friend Priscilla who lost three brothers, and then her parents shortly afterward; Maisie's assistant Billy Beale who suffers both from his service in that war and poor living conditions since; Maisie herself, having been injured and seen her fiancé injured beyond repair as he stood beside her all those years ago. These are recurring characters whom we get to know better and better with each volume. We see them try to live their lives in the aftermath of the war.

From Among the Mad, I learned some important information such as what being shell-shocked can do to a person. I learned that animals and people were tested for reactions to chemical warfare. I learned about the secretiveness of these experiments and how many prestigious people either knew what was going on or were actually involved themselves. I learned about the horrible treatments given to those in asylums for the 'mad' - not only shock treatments but excessive amounts of insulin to 'startle the brain and lead to a resumption of normal behavior.' And I learned some interesting lighter things.

Maisie put her hands to her face and rubbed her eyes, pinching the top of her nose to fight fatigue.

She moderated her breathing, placing the fingers of her right hand against her coat, just three fingers width below her waist, balancing herself so that she would breathe with ease, and move with dexterity.

She began to cry, pulling her arm away from Maisie so that she could squeeze the bridge of her nose to prevent the tears.

This is the sixth in the Maisie Dobbs series. The others, in order are:

Maisie Dobbs
Birds of a Feather
Pardonable Lies
Messenger of Truth
An Incomplete Revenge

Someday I'd like to read them all again, one right after the other, to immerse myself in Maisie's time and place. Jacqueline Winspear has given us such a gift: an appealing, interesting, complex heroine, intriguing mysteries, and much information about society and life in this particular time period. If you haven't read the books, you'll want to begin at the beginning for time progresses, Maisie ages, life moves forward. This is a wonderful installment in a much-beloved collection of books.

Here is a look at some of the historical characters who appear in Among the Mad.

Oswald Mosley

The book contained two glaring errors. There are notes written by a troubled man and in one it says:

He always used pencil, sharpened with a keen blade each morning and evening

We read several more entries, always noting the pencil, until almost half-way through the book:

The man set down his pen in the middle of his journal

It jumped right out at me, and I can't imagine how it could have been missed. Another was the misspelling of the Prime Minister's name. It is correct - Ramsay - at the top of a page, and toward the bottom, it reads, Ramsey.

Little mistakes, but still surprising to me.

You may read two reviews of Among the Mad here and here.


  1. I have #1 sitting on my bookshelf just waiting for me to take it down and open it!!!

    Those errors are crazy!!

  2. You are a good proof reader! I am a big fan of Jacqueline Winspear and Maisie Dobbs who is a unique character, always looking for a way to not only solve the crime but to find reconciliation. Winspear also gives such a sense of the time.

  3. HI Nan: I too consider the Maisie Dobbs books to be a wonderful gift from Jacqueline Winspear. I finished reading the six books straight through about a month ago. I found I was suffering from Maisie withdrawal for several weeks after. I believe there will be at least one or two more books in the series, and as far as I am concerned, the sooner they arrive in print the better.

  4. I need to continue reading this series. I've read the first one, but just haven't picked up #2 or beyond. I did so much enjoy the first one. Soon I hope.

  5. Staci, they are my perfect books - thought provoking, great stories, and wonderful recurring characters.

    Commonweeder, I don't know how anyone could have missed them! I like what you wrote about reconciliation. That is very true. Very unique ideas in these books.

    Donna, what a treat to read them one after the other. I'll bet it was hard to slip out of Maisie's world. I'd like JW to write a zillion more. I'd like to see Maisie living during the Second World War. She might be like the policeman in Foyle's War - on the homefront dealing with situations that are influenced by the war.

    Kay, I'll certainly be interested to hear what you think of the rest as you read them.

    Kay, honestly those mistakes were such obvious ones. Such a big deal had been made about the fellow's pencil, and then to give him a pen! And Ramsay misspelled on the very page it is written correctly!

  6. Wonderful post, Nan! I hope to read this series one day soon.

  7. Nan-- Here's the link to my review of Among the Mad

    You're more than welcome to use it. :)

  8. JoAnn, I'll be watching your blog to see what you think.

    Thanks, Cathy. I just added the link.

  9. This sounds wonderful, and I'll be coming back to this post to see the photos again once I read this one.

    Those sorts of typos bother me too, and yes, I do notice them and wonder how editors do not!

  10. Tara, maybe there aren't any editors. :<)

  11. You'd make a great proof reader - I never catch that stuff - in print or in the movies.

  12. I'm glad it's not just me that gets peeved by small but glaring errors that should have been picked up by the proofreader if not the author themselves.

    As for electric shock treatment and the like they were, believe it or not, still going on in the 1960s! I knew someone who received it. How horrendous is that.

  13. Oh, Susan, I'm even worse in movies. I'll say, wait a minute her hair was curly in the last scene and now it is straight. :<)

    Scriptor Senex, there seem to be more errors like that in newer books. I just heard that newspapers were letting copy editors go to save money. That's awful about the shock treatments. In the movie, Revolutionary Road, which took place in the mid-fifties, there was a character who had had them. I was familiar with them, but not the insulin. I think that may have been used only on women. Terrible, terrible.

  14. This does sound like a series that I would like to read. I will look for them at my local library.

    Ever since I knew an old lady who lost her husband in WWI and never remarried, to reading Vera Britain this era holds my attention. It changed so much in the world.


  15. Christy, I can't read about the battles, but I do like to read of the aftermath in society. I can take a mention here and there of the war details, but not much.

  16. An excellent review, Nan. Interesting to see the photos of the politicians in the book, I meant to look them up myself but forgot. I knew what Ramsay and Baldwin looked like of course but it doesn't harm to refresh your memory. Mosley looks very arrogant doesn't he? He was apparently extremely charasmatic and, like Hitler, a skilled orator. I found it fascinating reading about his relationship with Diana Mitford in Mary Lovell's book about the Mitford sisters. He was a serial womaniser and she had a lot of trouble with him.

    1. I HAVE to read the Lovell book. I own it, of course. Reading more is one of my compensations for the grandchildren getting older and me not seeing them as much, as is blogging and reading blogs more.


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