I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Madness So Discreet on October 6th 2015
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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.
‘They all had their terrors, but at least the spiders that lived in the new girl’s veins were imaginary. Grace has learned long ago that the true horrors of this world were other people.’
A Madness So Discreet introduces Grace Mae, a young woman who has been placed in an asylum in an attempt to hide her out of wedlock pregnancy in addition to the horrible secret to how she came to be pregnant in the first place. She is certainly of sound mind, however, the long nights spent listening to the screams of patients echoing the corridors is enough to effect even the toughest of individuals. When an opportunity to leave the asylum is presented to her she jumps at the opportunity for a fresh start, but Grace soon finds that sometimes your past finds a way to sneak up on you.
The beginning is one of the most shocking and audacious introductions I have come across in YA. We’re introduced to Grace and the patients in the Wayburne Lunatic Asylum of Boston and a terrifying picture is quickly painted. This is set in the 19th century and patients are not treated as people, they are not given sufficient food or clothing, and they are thrown into the basement cells which leak rainwater from outside as a form of punishment. There are other far worse punishments described as well. It was grisly and utterly distressing but considering grisly and distressing are totally my thing, I was immediately foreseeing a first-rate reading experience. Alas, the book took an odd turn after that.
‘They work their discreet types of madness on us, power and pain, and we hold on to our truths in the darkness.’
Going from a decidedly Gothic feel and leaving the confines of the asylum, it quickly transforms into a something of a crime thriller, just minus the thrill. Grace is placed in the care of Dr. Thornhollow after he takes a keen interest in her sharp mind and believes she can be of assistance to him. Why he goes to such dramatic lengths to get her out of the asylum is beyond me though. See, Dr. Thornhollow believes himself to be Sherlock in his spare time, investigating crimes and catching killers. Towards the end we once again take an odd turn and it quickly becomes an episode of Law & Order.
Referencing a book as having a Gothic feel, set in an asylum with crime and legal aspects should have been a home-run for me and I can’t decide whether all aspects combined were simply too much or it was simply too far-fetched for it to feel any way authentic. I would have much preferred Grace’s story to play out within the asylum walls, wrestling her inner-demons.