Monday, 2 November 2015

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Description from Goodreads

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. 

Wow, what was that! I mean the blurb definitely had me intrigued even though I'm not exactly the hugest fan of historical fiction, but A Madness So Discreet surprised me with its haunting setting, beautiful language, and very fascinating themes and topics like criminal psychology and what really defines madness. I knew just by reading the first chapter that this novel would entertain me right until the very end, and it definitely did it by being poignant, but also smart and exciting. The end was somewhat disappointing as it was wrapped up way too quickly for my taste, but let me first rave about all the amazing things.

Okay first of all, as a psychology student I have to say that McGinnis's exploration of mental health, the treatments in the past, and her take on criminal psychology was very interesting. She wrote very descriptive text about all of these aspects, and while it wasn't exactly the happiest thing to read about, I found it fascinating and thoroughly captivating. All of the mental health "problems" and their medical care felt very authentic, and that's the exact reason why the book was so haunting. You know that even though the book is a piece of fiction, majority of the events could have taken place in the past, one way or another. The author also engaged in a bit of profiling of murders too, which was so so so fun to read about, but also at times rather unscientific.. But that's not the point though - A Madness So Discreet is a fictional book about a girl trying to escape her past, not a non-fictional guide to criminal psychology. But yeah, I really enjoyed the psychological approach to the novel and all its sub-branches.

And how about the characters! I don't think there was one character whom I didn't find appealing or intriguing in some way. Even the bad guys had my attention from the very first moment, and I just couldn't wait to learn more about all of the characters. To my great pleasure, all the characters, even the minor ones, had their own distinct personalities and histories, and their actions were believable but never predictable. I could list here the most fascinating characters like our smart main character Grace, the enigmatic Dr. Thornhollow, or fiery Nell, but then I think this review would end up being an essay of exploration of the characters of ı. So briefly but effectively: the characters were absolutely great in this novel. 

McGinnis also knows how to write very elegant language, even when she is writing the creepiest scenes. There was this scene in the beginning in which a fellow patient of Grace's smells her and absurdly knows her past by the smells that she has on her. And it was so freaking creepy, scary, haunting yet so captivating and strangely beautiful too. The author just blew me away with the lyrical language which was more dominant in the first part of the book and unfortunately less frequent towards the end. However, the author's writing and the eye for characters and smart plot made me want to read her other books, and I have already landed my eyes on Not a Drop to Drink which was published in 2013 and is a part of duology(?). Can't wait to get my hands on it. 

I already briefly mentioned that the ending was a bit too hasty to my liking, and as good as the novel in itself was, the wrap-up ate some of the greatness of the book. The events which took place were okay by me, but the abruptness left me with so many unwanted questions (not the good kind) and in general left me cold. I suppose the ending wasn't exactly bad, and I can't really put my finger on it what made me dislike it, but I was left with a feeling that it was missing something. Not disclosure or peace per se, but something bigger. 

In the end though, A Madness So Discreet was a very different kind of novel and very entertaining at that. I could've done with even more criminal psychology and the ending didn't sit with me very well as it left me a bit uneasy for some reason, but otherwise - a superb novel. I loved the fact that there wasn't romance element to the novel, but more of a companionship resembling to Sherlock and Dr. Watson which suited me very well. There was caring about one another there, but nothing too explicit. After all, the novel was about facing your demons (whether imaginary or not) and finding your place in the world. 

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