Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
Among the MadIt’s Christmastime in London in 1931. The depression is apparent all around. Maisie Dobbs is a self-employed private investigator who manages to get on and keep on her employee/assistant as well. She also stops and helps the homeless, especially those who appear to be wounded servicemen from the Great War. On Christmas Eve she is walking over to give one such man with an amputated leg some coins. Instead, she watches him blow himself up there on the sidewalk using a hand grenade.
She spends a quiet Christmas Day with her father in the country. Although she hadn’t planned on returning to the city until the 27th, an official car shows up on their doorstep. Scotland Yard would like Maisie’s help. Once she is there she learns there is a terrorist threatening London. He demands that the government start assisting the disabled veterans from the War immediately.
When his demands are not met within 24 hours, he proves his point with a group of dogs. He plans to use chemical weapons more devastating than the mustard gas or other chemicals used during the War itself. Not only is Scotland Yard involved, but so is Special Forces as they try to protect England’s secrets. The two agencies both want the terrorist caught and stopped. Otherwise, they appear to have different agendas. Maisie is caught between them both. The terrorist has New Year’s Eve scheduled as his final assault if his demands are not met.
While I was in the middle of the novel I wrote this in my blog:
“Among the Mad concentrates on the care of the shell shocked and the depressed. [Jacqueline] Winspear twines in the case that Maisie has been hired for with the wife of her assistant Billy Beale. Doreen is sinking into deep melancholia after the death of her young daughter less than a year earlier. Maisie is investigating the threats of a man who also appears to be depressed and has slipped over into mad. This man is threatening the people in London, specifically those in the government. He wants the soldiers from the war to be treated better, to receive pensions that provide a living wage, and to receive the respect they deserve. He otherwise will kill unspecified targets. He is using chemical warfare to achieve his ends.
I’m impressed each time I read one of these how Winspear sets these books 75 years ago yet makes them still current. She reminds us there there’s ‘nothing new under the sun'”
Although physical disabilities are abundant throughout this novel, Winspear reminds the reader that some war wounds are mental rather than physical. Post-traumatic stress disorder was just being recognized at that time. It’s understood better now, and is treatable. But curable? Our minds can handle only so much. I doubt it’s curable. Instead, the sufferer has to learn to live with the past and the shock and get past it.
Maisie is responsible to herself in her job. This time, though, she has agreed to take on a consultant’s position with Scotland Yard. Special Forces also gets involved. She is caught up in the politics of protecting people and protecting the country’s secrets. When the case is wrapped up, she is cautioned not to repeat the story of that week’s happenings. Yet it’s not something she will forget, either.
Among the Mad will keep you pulled in waiting to see what happens. It stands well on its own and as another story in the Maisie Dobbs series.