Each novel in the Maisie Dobbs series focuses on a small aspect of the after-effects of war, and as the title hints, the fifth deals with mental illness. Among the Mad has the heroine using her peculiar investigating style and talents to help the brass at Scotland Yard to track down an anonymous terrorist who has threatened to kill citizens of London. When his demands are not met – pensions for certain WWI survivors – he chooses his first victims, and his method is alarmingly close to a gruesome way thousands of men died in the Great War: poisonous gas. During the course of her inquiries, Maisie comes to realize that of the thousands of shell-shocked men who returned from the war, many were not given the help that they so urgently needed and indeed, earned in service to their country, and it is one of their number who knows far too much about chemical weapons. As she gets closer to the killer, she also begins to glimpse some governmental machinations employed during the war, the consequences of which might be at the root of the killer’s mad threats. In her calm, methodical way, Maisie also helps her trusted assistant Billy Beale cope with his wife’s slide into deep depression, and her gets her friend Priscilla to face her unhappy memories of the city instead of drowning them in gin. At the same time, Maisie’s somewhat cold exterior begins to melt – just a bit - as she finally lets go of some demons in her own war-time experience. Among the Mad is a highly empathetic look at mental illness, and is overall a well-written, atmospheric novel of the inter-war years in London. Find it here in our on-line catalogue in print or as an audio book-on-CD.


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