Publishing Info: October 6, 2015 by HarperCollins
Genres: Historical Fiction, Psych/Mental Health, Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 29, 2015
Related Posts: The Female of the Species, This Darkness Mine
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.
** Word of warning that I WILL be talking about some minor spoilers for the book. It’s nothing that will give plot or twists away but I will be discussing character relationships, the nature of some which are not revealed until later on in the book. **
How amazing is the cover for this book!? As soon as I saw it, I immediately knew I had to read it… BUT this book had a serious case of “misleading cover”! From the look of it and the title, I went into the book thinking it was going to be creepy, paranormal, and take place mostly with the mental patients within a very scary institution (we all know how much I avoid the synopsis right before I start)… and while some of that was indeed true, A MADNESS SO DISCREET turned out to be much more historical fiction meets murder mystery than creepy psych hospital!
A MADNESS SO DISCREET took me a little bit to get into, but once I found out that it was more murder mystery, I was all on board! The beginning started out a bit slow and confusing for me as I was trying to get a grasp on what the deal with the mental hospital was. Readers are thrown right into Grace’s story with little introduction of who she is and why she’s there so I was getting to know Grace as I was getting to know the setting which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but for some reason with this particular book, it was a bit confusing trying to get a read on both.
There were a few hints at some extra-sensory abilities from fellow inmates so I was anticipating that playing a bigger role than it did (especially with the creepy hand reaching out on the cover!) but after finishing the story, I wonder if that was just more of an “illness” thing than actual ability. The confusing part was that the inmate’s ability was accurate so the lack of presence of this character and seemingly realistic powers throughout the book sort of felt like a waste of a mention.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about all of the other things I really enjoyed, which was a lot! I really enjoyed the historical setting. I’m not usually a historical fiction person but I usually do love a gothic horror feel and that always draws my attention. I really got the feeling like I was thrown back in time to where this book was taking place and felt totally immersed in the time period, the setting, and the characters. The setting especially was so vivid and so well done. I really felt like I could picture so many of the locations and the overall tone was consistent and gave a really nice gothic horror feel!
I also really enjoyed the character relationships. Grace Mae actually wasn’t my favorite character of the book and neither was Dr. Thornhollow (it was Nell!) but I just loved the way that they worked together and how much they trusted each other. It was interesting to see how similar they thought and formed ideas and I thought they made a great team. I thought it was great that they had a sort of chemistry going on and they seemed to have somewhat of an attraction but it wasn’t forced into being a relationship. As of right now, MADNESS is definitely a stand alone, but if the series continued, I think I’d enjoy seeing that relationship develop! Because of the circumstances, it didn’t quite make sense or feel right to have those two characters romantically involved but I like the idea that it sets up for a future for them should they wish to pursue it.
Grace also a had a great friendship with her fellow institution gals that I just loved. I immediately warmed to Nell and she became my favorite and I loved how she and Elizabeth really took Grace under their wings. The friendship was just delightful to witness and I grew really attached to those girls.
I also really enjoyed the mystery aspect! I always feel like there’s a lack of young adult mysteries and I just love how this pieced together in a historical setting. There were some nice clues, great teamwork, and some interesting suspense! The only complaint is not the lack of twist but lack of anticipation of the murderer’s capture. I don’t really need a twist in all of my mysteries (though they are fun) but I thought it ended rather quickly and easily. While that may have been a realistic conclusion, I think I would have appreciated a bit more storytelling as far as wrapping that mystery up.
There is one more thing I have to touch upon before I close out the review that I think I just can’t pass up and it was something I battled with the whole book… The whole incest thing really was hard for me to read. If I had known it was a part of the book, I’m honestly not sure I would have read it and I really think it hindered my reading experience. It’s just something that I find truly appalling and my brain tends to immediately turn off not just from the offending character but from the whole book. There’s a sort of cloud that sits over the whole book and it was just really hard to get over. I’m not saying it’s something that shouldn’t be talked about, but for me personally, it just really creates an “ick factor” for the whole book. It does make the offending character that much more of a monster and that much more “hateable” but I couldn’t shake that overall gross feeling because it’s actually a consistent part of the book.
A MADNESS SO DISCREET was a really enjoyable read for me and I was left wanting so much more of this world! I think in part because I took a while to feel out the characters and I also think I’d enjoy another book in this world without the constant reappearance of incest hanging over it. I’d love to see Grace and Thornhollow solving more mysteries or even something else taking place in the asylum. I just loved the atmosphere and would love to spend more time in it but even if this is the last we see of MADNESS, it won’t be the last I see of Mindy McGinnis! Now I have to worked my way backwards and read her previous works!
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Grace // Character Obsessions: Survival, revenge, resolutions, justice.
I actually didn’t connect with Grace a lot. I guess it’s hard since she’s kind of closed off, given what she’s been through, and she was actively shutting herself down in the very beginning. Even after she started opening up more, I didn’t quite make a connection to her, though I appreciated her goals (I was on her side, of course) and thought she was interesting to get to know!
Dr. Thornhollow // Character Obsessions: Science, medicine, mysteries.
I would love to learn so much more about Thornhollow. He was so interesting and intelligent and I wished I could have gotten to know him better! I wonder what things would be like from his POV…
Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction. It’s always great when I can find a historical fiction novel that I enjoy. It’s not my genre of choice so I’m so glad I found another one that I just fell into!
Left Me Wanting More: Personality. I think I was drawn to the characters who were more outwardly emotional. Nell was very outgoing and she was my favorite, but I dare anyone not to like her! She was fantastic. I think Grace is just more reserved, as is Thornhollow, so it was a bit harder to get to know their true personalities.
I had a lot of fun with this one! The atmosphere was great, the plot was interesting, and it felt like a pretty quick and fun read while at the same time staying a little dark.
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(Click the cover to see my review!)