Among the Mad

May 1st. 2009

Several years ago, my bookseller friend, Vickie at Barrons, turned me on to a new author–and a potential character series–by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs, a British WWI nurse returns to London and takes up as a protege to a gifted, and well respected, psychologist and criminal analyst. The character’s backstory is well-written and fascinating, but the circumstances Maisie faces as a self-employed ‘detective’ in between the wars is an interesting social study as well. Throughout the course of four or five novels, Maisie heartaches and passions are revealed in a carefully controlled style we come to expect from the Brits. This latest book, Among the Mad, continues her empathy for wounded war veterans, but takes it to a frightening (and oddly current) level. Maisie, as a former battle field nurse, knows intimately the effects of  “shell shock.” A character in an earlier novel, Birds of a Feather, says “that’s the trouble with war, it’s never over when it’s over, it lives on inside.” She paints poignant humanity on the scarred faces of those homeless veterans who wander the streets, even one who  sends letters to the Prime Minister insinuating utter destruction unless attention is given to war veterans. Though this is all set in the film-noir style of the 1920’s, the themes ring awfully true in our own day of bringing home veterans.  I recommend you read Among the Mad, but please start with the first book, Maisie Dobbs, to best enjoy the journey of this thoughtful and intelligent heroine.

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