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I Belong

Review: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

A Madness So DiscreetTitle: A Madness so Discreet

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Mystery

Series: N/A

Publication Date: October 6, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062320866 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062320865 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Zed


Mindy McGinnis, the acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, combines murder, madness, and mystery in a beautifully twisted gothic historical thriller perfect for fans of novels such as Asylum and The Diviners as well as television’s True Detective and American Horror Story.

Grace Mae is already familiar with madness when family secrets and the bulge in her belly send her to an insane asylum—but it is in the darkness that she finds a new lease on life. When a visiting doctor interested in criminal psychology recognizes Grace’s brilliant mind beneath her rage, he recruits her as his assistant. Continuing to operate under the cloak of madness at crime scenes allows her to gather clues from bystanders who believe her less than human. Now comfortable in an ethical asylum, Grace finds friends—and hope. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who will bring her shaky sanity and the demons in her past dangerously close to the surface.

Quick & Dirty: A compelling read that begs you to question your own sanity.

Opening Sentence: They all had their terrors.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

What a fantastic read! A Madness So Discreet is the sort of story that will make you question sanity itself. What defines sane and insane? Where is the line drawn? Who decides?

The MC, Grace, is a young lady admitted to an asylum after being impregnated out of wedlock. In Grace’s time and society it is appalling to have such a thing happen so her family sends the young lady to an insane asylum to have her baby in secret, ship the baby off and for Grace to return home from her ‘European tour’ as if nothing has changed. The problem is, everything for Grace has changed because her father raped her and it’s his child she carries!

They all had their terrors, but at least the spiders that lived in the new girl’s veins were imaginary. Grace had learned long ago that the true horrors of this world were other people.

At the asylum Grace loses her baby but fakes her death and is smuggled out as an apprentice to Dr. Thornhollow, a doctor that studies criminal minds.

“This one’s as cold as the water she’s sitting in, down past her bones and into her soul. Nothing wrong with her brain. It’s her heart that’s got no life in it.”

I can’t begin to describe why I loved this book so much but I’ll give it a try. Firstly, Grace is the perfect MC; she’s gone through a terrible ordeal and comes out stronger than ever, is extremely intelligent and uses her wit to her advantage in a time when women were underestimated. In some respects, Grace seems crazy. She has the ability to literally switch of her emotions at will, even when she’s faced by a cut-up corpse! But this book has taught me that the terms sanity and insanity are often our perceptions and the society we live in. We are so quick to judge but usually it’s far from the truth.

“What a shock you’ve had. Taken from that world into this. You used to move about in light and lavender, with the laughter pouring from you, and now it’s all blood and darkness, with your throat closed so tight your own breath is choking you.”

Thornhollow is a brilliant character. I’ve never come across the likes of him before. He is kind of a genius in his field of work but has very little understanding of human relations and emotions. Thornhollow’s inability to act normal was hilarious, and added lightness to this otherwise intense read. His interaction /relationship with Grace was particularly entertaining because even though there was no romance, their chemistry as doctor and protégé/patient was brilliant.

“Who is this Dr. Thornhollow you spoke of?” she asked.
“Him? He’s the sanest of us all.”
“Why is that?”
“Because he knows he’s insane.”

There were many other odd characters scattered in this story and usually I fail to remember them. However, the author managed to develop them all in such a way that I couldn’t forget even the house crazy stable boy, or the doctor’s feminist sister. Each character was unique and memorable, making the story a pleasure to read without any confusion.

“I know that this is highly irregular,” Thornhollow went on, his voice pitched low.
“Ighly irregular is me daily life, Doctor. Bein’ asked if I want to go for a stroll down to the ‘orehouse with a mute lassie alongside me by a man ‘oo’s supposed to be the next Jaysus Christ is flat cockamamie.”

This is my second 5-star read this year and I cannot wait to read more by Mindy McGinnis.

Notable Scene:

“So are we really that different? The healthy and the ill?” Grace asked.

“I would argue that there is no difference at all,” Thornhollow said. “To me the insane are simply people who have chosen not to participate in the world in the same manner as the majority, and there are days I don’t wonder if they’ve got the right of it.”

“You make it sound as if hardly anyone is insane with a definition as narrow as that.”

“Quite the opposite, my definition is too broad. I think we’re all quite made. Some of us are just more discreet about it.”


FTC Advisory: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of A Madness So Discreet. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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