Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Release Date - October 6, 2015
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 384 pages
My Rating - 4.5/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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. 
The cooler weather of fall always makes me think of warm cups of tea, and chilling books to read. A Madness So Discreet may just be a perfect autumn time read with it's atmospheric setting, and unsettling look at the potential for darkness in everyone.

Mindy McGinnis nails the setting of this novel with prefect precision. She transports you to the gritty, claustrophobic halls of the asylum. The first half, in particular, has a very unsettling, chilling tone that resonates in your bones. That darkness doesn't leave when Grace switches one asylum for another. The startling thing is that this feeling exists not just in the setting, but within the characters. Grace, herself, carries this around with her, ensuring that the reader is always captivated and on edge. She dances on the edge of giving into the darkness, and that means the reader does too. It's fascinating, and terrifying at the same time, as we see how close she comes.

The notion that a woman was able to be committed into an asylum on little more than the word of her father, husband or caregiver is terrifying, and Mindy McGinnis hammers that point home sharply through many of her characters. The stomach turning events that land Grace into the asylum is only one such story to be told. There are the girls who are thrown in for enjoying sex too much, or those who are committed by their husbands for nothing more than being unable to conceive a child. This combined with the inhumane treatment they receive in the first asylum as 'patient' are both unflinching, and unapologetic. This is a book that wants you to be outraged at the injustice. It wants you to experience every brutal detail and it's made all the more unsettling because you know it actually happened.

This is a book with zero romance. Grace and Doctor Thornhallow have a friendship built on mutual understanding, and they are each fascinated by the other's mind. It could have easily turned into a typical romance, but Mindy McGinnis had them be friends and partners in criminology instead. I loved that their is a relationship whose focus is entirely different than what you might expect, as it lends a different tone to the story.

The bonds of female friendship, and the strength that they can give pack a powerful punch as part of this story. The vital importance of supporting each other, and lifting each other up is something that reverberates the most within these friendships. There is more than a touch of feminism to be found in this novel as well, which was a welcome surprise. Mindy McGinnis spins the story in ways I didn't expect and both of these aspects were large parts of that.

The ending to this story is complete and satisfying, but like most murder mystery novels, another case always awaits. I could see this easily becoming a series, with Grace and Dr Thornhallow expanding their scope, and learning more about the science that will eventually become what we consider criminology. It's a fascinating, complex premise with much potential and I do hope she decided to write a follow up at some point, even if this one did provide me with all the closure I needed.

This novel sets itself up as both a creepy asylum set story, and a standard murder mystery. These are both true. However, it is really more of a character study. It's the study of a girl who has the unthinkable happen to her, and her dissent into possible madness. It examines the darkness within us all, and how easily it would be to slip into it if given the right circumstances and that crawling out is the hardest thing to do. This book is not only a murder mystery and is made all the better for it. If you're a fan of Criminal Minds, Sherlock Holmes, and creepy settings you'll undoubtedly love A Madness So Discreet. Mindy McGinnis shines a bright light on the darkest parts of human nature in a fascinating character study. I've been made eager to read anything else she writes.

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