Published by Katherine Tegen Books on October 6, 2015
Genres: Gothic, Mystery & Detective, Thriller, YA
Source: ARC borrowed thru Around the World ARC Tours
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 is a very dark book, especially for YA. That might be the reason that I loved it so much, but the time setting- late 1800’s or early 1900’s (it mentions the Ripper killings as having been recent) in insane asylums of the United States, is dismal, stark and brutal. Not that it’s all dark and dreary, but if you read YA for sweetness and light, this is not your book- here there be madmen and lunatics.
~ From the start, Grace was fascinating. Her back story- growing up privileged and rich but with deep dark family secrets that lead to her being shut away in a lunatic asylum, instantly had me rooting for her. And all that she endures leaves it’s mark on her. Grace Mae is not a Pollyanna, able to smile her way through adversity, she’s got some demons and she embraces her darker side at times. Which is, of course, why I like her so.
~ The first part of the book focuses on Grace’s hometown of Boston, then moves the action to a much nicer town in Ohio, where the asylum is run much more humanely.
~ One of my favorite part of the books were the other inmates, and why they were there. Some were truly insane in a time where there was no real treatment, and some were there because there was a time in our history where inconvenient women were locked away by their families. I felt the author did a great job with all the secondary characters, because I was as invested in their stories as I was Grace and Dr. Thornhollow’s.
~ Using subterfuge, Grace is given the chance to run away from her old life and begin again anew. It requires some serious sacrifice on her part, but doesn’t hesitate to do what it takes get away from her father.
~ Dr. Thornhollow meets Grace when he comes to her Boston asylum to give lobotomies, although it’s not given that name, since the actual practice wasn’t officially recognized until the 1930’s. I think this is meant to suggest that he’s a bit ahead of his times.
*An interesting historical tidbit that most people don’t know: Rosemary Kennedy, sister to JFK, was given an lobotomy at the age of 23, at the request of her father Joe Kennedy. This was back in 11941. I don’t know if she was mentally unstable or just didn’t live up to the high standards of her family (there are theories that she just might have had a wild streak that her daddy wanted snuffed out), but the lobotomy went horribly wrong, and she lived the rest of her life in an institution. Although, on a more positive note, she was the inspiration behind the creation of the Special Olympics (after her lobotomy she lost the use an one arm and took years to learn to walk again, and she lost the ability to speak). *
~ Thornhollow also uses criminal profiling to solve murder cases, and this is where Grace earns her keep- she has a photographic memory. So, between the two of them, they’re like all the cast of Criminal Minds, with a little extra dose of quirk thrown in.
~ The rest of the book focuses on a serial killer that Thornhollow and Grace are working to catch, and on Grace’s struggle to save her younger sister from a fate similar to the one she suffered.
Grace Mae- the daughter of a politician, thrown into an asylum to keep up appearances. Has a perfect memory and total recall. Also, girl has a dark side.
Dr. Thornhollow- Imagine Dr. House and Spencer Reid mixing dna, and there you have Thornhollow.
Dr. Heedon- in charge of the Boston asylum, and an evil toady.
Falstead- Grace’s neighbor once she’s sent to the Cellar, he is brilliant, but insane. I was genuinely shocked to learn his back story.
Reed- a jailor in the Cellar, he’s friends with Falstead and helps keep an eye on Grace’s sister.
Alice- Grace’s little sister, who thinks she’s sending letters to a garden fairy.
Nathaniel Mae- Grace’s senator father; a vile, wicked man.
Janey- the ward nurse in the Ohio asylum.
Elizabeth- asylum friend who Grace befriends, has an invisible String that tells her things.
Nell- another asylum friend, bubbly, Irish and sadly, syphilitic.
George and Davey- local cops.
Adelaide Thornhollow- sister of the doctor, and quite an independent woman.
There were several, from realizing who impregnated to Grace, to what happens to her, to learning Thornhollow’s first name (it’s a doozy, folks). But my favorite moment was when Grace stumbles upon who the killer is… or any of the times Thornhollow has to cover up Grace’s actions.
Stop the Clock:
A Madness So Discreet is moody, dark and deadly. I really loved it, and felt it evoked the time period well. It deals with medical and criminal investigation practices a bit ahead of it’s time, but not in an unrealistic way. I was fascinated from page one, and while it was difficult to read some of the things Grace went through (and did), it exceeded my expectations!
A Madness So Discreet gets a Midnight Book rating of: