A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Published on October 6, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery
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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.
This book was truly unsettling in the best way possible. Which, in my opinion, means it did it’s job well. What we have here is a strange mash up of a historical thriller and mystery that also looks pretty deeply at psychological issues and what exactly insanity may or may not be.
“This one’s as cold as the water she’s sitting in, down past her bones and into her soul. Nothing wrong with her brain. It’s her heart that’s got no life in it.”
We start off with Grace locked away in an insane asylum in the 1880’s. As you can image (or may have seen in movies) the treatment of “insane” people back then was not pretty. Unfortunately for Grace, she wasn’t even there because she was insane, she was locked away by her family for a much, much worse fate than being insane. Grace’s problem is a part of the story that is sad and horrifying. What she experiences in the first quarter of this book is absolutely awful and heart breaking. So when she is offered the possibility of escaping and living in better conditions and having a purpose, she jumps on it.
“Dear child, do you even know all the rage that is inside you?”
Grace becomes under the care of a doctor and new friend/partner, Thornhollow. He is an odd fellow, but there is something about him I absolutely loved. He is strangely detached and devoid of much actual emotion, and functions with science and reason in mind. He obviously develops a soft spot for Grace, but not in a romantic sense. That is another interesting thing about this book – it is basically devoid of any romance at all! I kept expecting it to start to happen, and there are moments when you get hints at it by other characters, but nope! I have to admit it is pretty pleasing to read a book without having to worry about that element. So if you are looking for romance, you will not find it here! The relationships in this book focus much more on friendships and the family you choose, not the one you are born into.
“To me the insane are simply people who have chosen not to participate in the world in the same manner as the majority, and there are days I don’t wonder if they’ve got the right of it.”
“You make it sound as if hardly anyone is insane with a definition like that.”
“Quite the opposite, my definition is too broad. I think we’re all quite mad. Some of us are just more discreet about it.”
I should also mention two of my favorite characters, Nell and Lizzie. Especially Nell, she is hilarious! I was laughing out loud at plenty of her terrible perverted jokes! But, on the other side of the Nell coin, I will admit that she is the only reason I found tears in my eyes during this book. She absolutely broke my heart. Lizzie is special too, but in such a different way. You’ll find in this book that there is a strange and fine line between what one would consider sane or insane. It provides a different perspective at times.
I do not want to go into the crime/mystery part in too much detail, because I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say I got Jack the Ripper vibes, though less gory. The time frame is the same and the atmosphere fits it well. I was surprised by how much I did enjoy the mystery. I have seen people refer to the book Jackaby when reviewing this, but I have not read that, so I have no room for comparison. I will say the reason for the 4 stars and not 5 is that I was not happy with the way a certain situation ended. I feel that most people will not be happy with it. I mean, it is handled, just not in the way I feel was fitting of the situation. Other than that, I enjoyed this book, I love the time period in which it is set, and the author brought that out nicely. No romance was a nice change! We don’t see too many YA thriller/mysteries like this, so definitely give it a chance!