Review: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Review: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Haunting and beautiful, richly layered and thoughtful.
I loved the writing, the story, and every thing in between. 
5stars

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.

My Review

This book is brilliant—layered and lush, dark and consuming, introspective and evocative. It’s exactly the kind of book I love. McGinnis writing shines, as do her nuanced, well-developed characters. Through Grace’s story, she deftly explores the frail line between sanity and insanity, making the point that all of us carry a little madness within.

I loved the concept, perfect to burrow into in the late 1800s, a time where many were heaved into asylums, discarded as irreversibly mad. The historical elements added richness to the plot, as this thriller intensified and unraveled with compelling character interactions.

“Grace had learned long ago that the true horrors of this world were other people.”

We meet Grace Mae, who has been sent to an asylum by the very man who has seeded the madness inside her—her father. Grace’s mind is sharp with a photographic memory that captures every detail of every horrific thing she has experienced and seen. She’s locked away those memories in order to survive, if only for the life that grows within.

Her Boston asylum was run by sadistic monsters, and the novel brutally unwinds in the dark, between cruelty and depravity. We see Grace’s strength emerge, even as her voice is silenced. She had experienced worse.

“She doubted that hell was hot and sulfuric. Instead she imagined it was comfortable and smelled like her own bedroom.”

When Grace is banished to the asylum’s dark cellars, she meets a visiting doctor who is fascinated with the criminal mind. He quickly realizes he could leverage Grace’s keen intelligence to dissect crime scenes. But first, he must help her break free from the asylum.

Grace and Dr. Thornhollow develop a fascinating relationship, each complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. She also forges relationships with two women in another asylum, and their friendship helps heal some of her broken pieces.

Thornhollow and Grace work to track down a man who kills young women. The more they work together, the more Grace explores the boundaries of her own sanity, as well as those she meets along the way. But as the case progresses and her past returns to haunt her, she finds she must embrace her madness fully to carry on.

“They call us insane, then feed their own insanities on our flesh, for we are now less than human… They work their discreet types of madness on us, power and pain, and we hold to our truths in the darkness.”

Haunting, suspenseful and vividly imagined, I couldn’t put the book down for a second. ‘Madness’ is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes (only darker), and frankly, I could continue reading more of Thornhollow and Grace’s adventures. The characters were fascinating, the plot was gripping, and McGinnis’ distinct writing brought it all to life beautifully.

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