December 20, 2011

Maisie Dobbs

I've always been tempted to read the Maisie Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear, mostly because they have pretty covers. I finally got around to them a few weeks ago when I grabbed Among the Mad, book six in the series, on audio book at the library.

Read by Orlagh Cassidy, the audio version brings thoughtful, precise, caring Maisie Dobb to life. Set at Christmas/New Year's of 1931, the story opens as Maisie, private investigator and psychologist, and her assistant Billy, are injured when a man commits suicide by blowing himself up on Christmas Eve. Her contacts at Scotland Yard hear of her proximity to the bomb, and so when a letter arrives threatening more attacks, they bring her in.

Among the Mad is an apt title on several levels, because the case sends Maisie into the world of the mad -- hunting through the records of shell-shocked and mentally unstable veterans of World War One. She also deals with the mental instability of her old friend Priscilla, who is struggling with debilitating fear about her sons, and Billy's wife Doreen, who has never recovered from the loss of their daughter. The holidays seem to bring out this sense of dread and loss in many who are already slightly mentally unstable, says Maisie's friend, a doctor at a mental hospital.

At first Scotland Yard is apt to blow off the letter, until the letter-writer proves his point by killing with one of the gases used in the trenches during the war. No longer just a disaffected soldier, he has become a true threat, and Maisie and Scotland Yard must work quickly to find him. Using her trademark empathy and awareness of others, as well as her intuitive sense of what is pertinent and what is not, Maisie hopes she can narrow her search to the proper man before it's too late.

I like the slow, thoughtful, and yet perspicacious way Maisie approached the case. She's really a unique character -- an independent, modern woman, set in an earlier time, who uses "templates" (essentially profiling) to search for the proper man in this case. Maisie's concern for others, rational thought process, and intelligent attention to tiny details make her a formidable investigator indeed.

Rating: 4.2 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Yes! Actually, I think I might buy one of these books for my grandma for her birthday! Shh, don't tell her.

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