Book Review: A Madness So Discreet
By: Mindy McGinnis
Published By: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Page Count: 384
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction, Mystery
Grace Mae has suffered more than a young girl should at the hands of someone who was supposed to cherish and protect her. As such, to hide his crimes, she has been thrown into a mental asylum in Boston. Grace lives in the late 1800's/early 1900's (The exact year was not stated in the novel, but there is a mention of the Jack the Ripper murders happening several years prior), a time period in which women had few rights. The asylum becomes Grace's home even though she has done nothing wrong and is in full control of her mind. While in the Boston asylum, Grace quickly learns of the treatment of the insane and the gender divide that permeates her society.
The horrific treatment of Grace and other patients in Boston broke my heart. From what I know of mental health care in this time period, cruel and barbaric methods were the norm and inmates were often treated as if they were not even human. I also was disgusted to learn that women were placed in institutions for speaking their mind or becoming with child. It was easier for society to hide women away in asylums than deal with the fact that they had opinions or had been wronged by the men in their lives. Grace's time in Boston was one of the most difficult parts of the novel to read.
Grace's escape from Boston becomes possible once her keen intellect is made known to a visiting doctor. He realizes that Grace will be the perfect assistant as he attempts to aid the police in solving murders. She has an uncanny ability to remember details - even minute ones. She leaves Boston after an elaborate plan is constructed to ensure her safety and flees with the doctor to Ohio. Once safely away from the torments of her previous life, Grace is able to see that not all asylums are the same. In Ohio, she is treated humanely and fairly. It is also there that she makes two friends who will become her light in the darkness.
The story reads as if it has three distinct parts. The beginning focuses on Grace's time in Boston and the reason she has landed in the asylum. As the truth about her condition and its source is slowly revealed, my stomach churned. I was appalled and sickened. The second distinct phase of the novel focuses on the transition to Ohio and the investigation of a serial killer. Lastly, the third phase focuses on a murder trial that is of the utmost significance to Grace. I found myself most drawn to the second phase of the novel, but the ending resonated with a sense of rightness.
Overall, A Madness so Discreet focuses on the horrors that lurk in the human soul and the depravity of the human mind. This was a much darker tale from McGinnis than I was expecting, but I found that the gothic feel made everything more intense. This novel felt a bit like Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got together to collaborate on a gruesome and addicting tale. If you're looking for a bit of murder tinged with insanity this fall, this is a must read.
One Last Gripe: I felt like the beginning and ending were slightly off. The middle is where this novel truly shines.
Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved how so many of the characters were neither fully good or evil. Even "the good guys" had some pretty big flaws.
First Sentence: They all has their terrors.
Favorite Character: Grace
Least Favorite Character: Senator Mae
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.