Review: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Title: A Madness So Discreet
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 384
Published: expected October 6 2015
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

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.

Mindy McGinnis can write in a unique and visceral style and she definitely has one hell of an imagination. I was very interested to see what she would do after her almost-western post-apocalyptic duology (Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust) and that project being a YA historical fiction slash thriller novel set in an asylum is both unexpected and completely perfect. The premise is perfection.....and the novel is a good effort and wholly original if not quiiiiite the novel we want it to be. 

There have been a lot of glowing reviews for this and ostensibly, I can see why. But A Madness So Discreet never managed to connect with me on any kind of personal or emotional level. I am not saying a book has to do that to be a good book, but for me, with this novel, it fell flat and emotionless. And while I can objectively say that what Grace and her compatriot characters endure is both harrowing and worthy of empathy, I had little invested in the story's outcome. 

The message at the end of the book is either clouded or weak, depending on your interpretation or mileage. For a novel that wants to explore mental health and "madness", it falls too easily on tropes and stereotypical bad guys to make any kind of meaningful statement about either.

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