Among the Mad ~ Jacqueline Winspear
Genre: Adult Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Maisie and Billy are scooting through town on Christmas Eve, 1931, to wrap up a few loose business ends before returning to their respective families for the holiday. In the middle of the festive cheer, however, Maisie stumbles upon a devastating suicide that injures innocent bystanders, as well as taking out the man in question.
Shaking off the gruesome incident, Maisie leaves town to spend time with her father. Their countryside repose is shattered when Scotland Yard’s Special Branch summons Maisie back to the city. As it turns out, Maisie was mentioned in a Christmas letter to the Prime Minster. Far from a card wishing warm and fuzzies, the note was an announcement, outlining specific horrific events to occur, similar to, but larger in scale than the Christmas suicide, if certain demands are not met.
Related, by name and by reputation in trade, Maisie is tapped to team up with the boys at one of the most exclusive branches of Scotland Yard to embark on a deadly race against time and sanity.
The effects of war on the story are far more class-oriented than they have been in the previous outings and Billy’s situation, as well as Maisie’s past circumstances, are well woven into the web of economics. The other intellectually intriguing, albeit difficult to swallow, component of the story’s core, was centered around traumatically induced mental illness. We just know so much more about the effects of trauma and everyday brain chemistry on the human psyche, now. Thus, it’s pretty shocking and appalling to trip back through history to see how the protocol for such things used to run. Between post traumatic stress syndrome, severe depression and substance abuse, the fare was far from light in this addition but it was well done, as always.
The pace of the book reads a bit like if Winspear got together with Tom Clancy and Tana French, which, as you know, might make this one of my all-time favorite books. With the Prime Minister and special branches involved, it carried the political weight of anything Clancy has turned out with war rooms, sinking subs and talking heads. Tana’s theoretical influence, I thought, showed in Maisie’s “old boys” swing with the multiple forces, Stratton and Billy. She holds her own as well as Cassie ever did and the rapport among the team was just so reminiscent of Rob, Frank and Cass that I can finally say I do love my Maisie books nearly as much as Tana’s adventures.
Though I skipped around a bit between this addition and The Mapping of Love and Death, I have to say that I’m glad. I enjoyed this much more than the following story, simply for subject and execution. I do still love The Mapping of Love and Death for its own purposes (particularly pertaining to loose ends wrapped up in the more personal story bit) but there was a certain spark that set this volume aside from the others, altogether.