Among the Mad
Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries are among my favorites by a contemporary author. Why? They feature the psychologically complex, evolving main character Maisie, whose exploits provide insight into the forgotten aftermath of World War I. Winspear recreates the bleak reality of the maimed and shell-shocked veterans, left to their own devices to survive in an England devoid of jobs. Maisie is enormously sympathetic to the plight of these men, not least because she lost her own beloved fiancé to the war.
Indeed, the novel begins with one such soldier, a crippled beggar, who Maisie stops to helpV—too late, it turns out, because at that very moment, the man commits suicide with a hand grenade. From there, Maisie, psychologist and detective agency owner, is on the case to identify the hapless man and to prevent other incidents of war-induced violence.
Her dedication and sleuthing skills are so renowned that Scotland Yard and the British intelligence agency enlist her aid in locating and disarming another man intent on causing major carnage on New Year's Eve in order to draw attention to the plight of veterans. Working against the clock, Maisie uses her psychological acumen to head off disaster. After reading the engulfing Among the Mad, readers will never regard World War I as just another piece of history.