📑 Review: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis


"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." - From Goodreads

Rating: 🐲🐲🐲/5


I received A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis in my first ever Owlcrate box x year ago and I am ashamed to say it has taken me that long to read it.

Right at the begining, the writing, the plot, the atmosphere grips you and takes you on a joy ride with no thought as to your emotions.

The story starts with Grace Mae, senators daughter, being at a very low place already (impregnated and in an insane asylum, because that's whatt you apparently do to women of noble birth who get pregnant out of wedlock despite their being something more sinister behind the circumstances of said situation....circumstances which are hinted at throughout the beginning) and everything kind of just goes downhill within the first 50 pages.

You immediately feel for her, rage for her, for what's been done to her, and at the same time something about the way the (author) writes makes you, as a reader, feel utterly helpless. Until, of course, there's a chance for Grace to escape her dreary (to put it mildly) predicament in the form of a Doctor named Thornhollow who practices lobotomies as a favour to asylums and mercy to the patients and is delving into the new realm of criminal psychology. A doctor who sees the advantages of having a supposedly "insane" assistant with a brilliant and sharp mind hiding behind her shield of silence at his side.

Basically: Adventure awaits!

Think Sherlock Holmes mixed with Jack the Ripper but set in the United States and featuring a female lead.

Despite the chemistry (not romantic, which is a relief) and dynamic between Thrownhollow and Grace and the murders, the plot does seem to slow down after the intense start as the duo examine murders and search for a potential serial killer. There seems to be a bit of a focus on developing Grace's relationship with other patients, but I wish there was more of an examination of her skills, of the so called madness brought on by her circumstances.

And then, amongst the borderline lacklustre pacing, there's a slight twist I didn't see coming and was pleasantly surprised by. I cannot say any more about it without spoiling the story, but there was a definite moment of triumph when the twist happened.

It's the aftermath I was a little underwhelmed of the twist that I was by. Don't get me wrong, I, for the most part, enjoyed the Novel, I loved seeing Grave interact with Nell and Mae (patients) and Thornhollow, especially the post-crime examining scenes. It's just that with such a fantastic start to Grace's story, I expected more. There were two things in particular I wished for after finishing the book.

1. Like I said before, I wish That there was more of Grace and Thornhollow solving murders, more complex ones they had to try and discern (even with the serial killer, it all seemed too easy).

And 2. I wish there was some sort of repercussion, some consequence felt or shown post-twist. It wasn't as if anything happened that was out of character, on the contrary, considering the events, it was almost logical. I just thought there would be more of an uproar, so to speak, after. I felt like the implications of the event was almost glossed over, pushed aside in order for another kind of justice to be served.

Overall, A Madness so Discreet was a fun, interesting read that all-too-briefly examines the darkness we are capable of holding within through psychology, criminal and otherwise.

(Some) Memorable Quotes:
  • "You chose to stop acknowledging a world that has treated you foully. What's saner than that?”

  • “...the insane are simply people who have chosen not to participate in the world in the same manner as the majority...”

  • "I'd rather forget both than remember either."

If anyone has read A Madness So Discreet let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!

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