Book Review: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

24376529Title: A Madness So Discreet

Author: Mindy McGinnis (Twitter)(website)

Publisher//Date: Katherine Tegen Books// October 6, 2015

Source: Purchased

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Synopsis: Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

Rating : 3.75/5

I was looking for a book to put me into a spooky fall frame of mind. This had been sitting on my shelf for almost a year *hangs head in shame*. The ABSOLUELY GORGEOUS cover lead me to believe this was exactly what I was looking for.

This is NOT a spooky murder mystery set in an insane asylum.

This IS a super-atmospheric psychological revenge story.

Let’s break it down…

What I liked:

  • The Characters. I loved Grace. She’s a very strong character – mentally and emotionally. I know I couldn’t go through what Grace does and come out of it as mentally stable as she does. She’s extremely sympathetic and clever, but extremely complex and damaged. And while I don’t agree with all of her actions – not by a long shot – none of what she does is out of character and can understand the motivation behind it. Grace has a definite dark side that was fascinating to explore. The supporting cast was just as interesting. Dr. Thornhollow was great, ahead of his time and spectacularly off-beat. Nellie (very open about sex and sexuality) and Elizabeth (extremely sweet, but hears voices). Mrs. Crow. The list goes on. It’s an eclectic crew and they’ll stay with you.
  • The Setting. You get a first-hand view of the treatment of patients in asylums – and what got them sent there in the first place, which may or may not have anything to do with mental health. It’s brutal and hard to read at times. It made root for Grace right off the bat and also made me retroactively angry on her behalf, partially because I knew that there were real people who were treated like this. The atmosphere of the novel was also one of the things that stood out. The whole tone was bleak and dark at the start – much like Grace’s mental state – and it really drew me in. And while the atmosphere lightened somewhat as the story went on, the darkness was there just under the surface for the whole novel. It wasn’t the creepy I expected, but it was the perfect thing to read just as the days were getting shorter.
  • The Lack of Romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romance, but there is a tendency in YA to include a romantic subplot when there doesn’t need to be. Not the case here. There’s references to sex and romance (looking at you, Nell) but Grace does not have a love interest. Romance was not needed in this book  – and I think it would have been ill-advised to have it in if there were.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The Absolute Lack of Time Period. This might be a personal quirk of mine, but not once was an actual specific year stated in this book. I went back through it after I read it and I still couldn’t find one. It wasn’t until I read the description information listed on the copyright page where I could even pin down the decade. It’s honestly not that important to the story but it irked me to no end. Like I said, this is a personal thing and 99% of readers probably won’t bat an eye. But me? IT DROVE ME BATTY.
  • The Ending. I’ll come out and say I didn’t hate it, but I sure as hell didn’t love it. It tied up a lot of subplots that I wasn’t sure about…but not how I was expecting. Characters did things that, while not out of character, came off as a little extreme and it required more suspension of disbelief than I was willing to give at the time I read it and is my primary reasoning behind my rating.

Overall, A Madness So Discreet is an atmospheric historical fiction with distinctive and memorable characters, but an ending that was a little bit much for this reader.

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