The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
The follow-up to Maureen Johnson’s 2011 bestseller The Name of the Star.
Goodreads.com summary *SPOILER for TNOTS*:
After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city’s secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.
Before I get going into this review, I want to point out the Ms. Johnson was kind and generous enough to sign all of the copies preordered from select independent bookstores…..Which is, you know, pretty cool. My preordered copy also came with a bunch of super cool stickers (and by super cool, I mean incredibly nerdy, but in the best way.)
So big shout out to Maureen for doing something cool like this for her fans! Anyway, on to the book.
To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure how I felt about this book. It definitely had all of the really great things that I expected it to based on how much I liked the first Shades of London book, like great suspense and humor.
I was particularly impressed with the first installment of the series because of how Johnson was able to write a book that was equally nail-biting and funny. Despite the fact that much of this series has to do with facing off against murderous ghosts, little things like Rory’s southern wit contrasted with her British peers’ poshness is always a source of amusement. I particularly liked the part where Rory points out that British people cannot tell the difference between the real South and “cartoon South” (Sadly, I also cannot tell the difference either and I am from the Northeastern U.S.)
The aspect of this book that made me enjoy it the most (and which I think sets it apart from other action-based YA series) is the way Johnson dealt with the aftermath from the preceding novel. At the end of TNOTS, Rory is nearly fatally attacked by Newman. This novel begins with Rory undergoing therapy to deal with the reprucussions of undergoing such an act of violence. A character recieving therapy after experiencing a tramatic event is hardly groundbreaking. However, it is something that could have been left out and I would not have even given it a second thought. So often in a series, a huge, climactic event will happen at the end of one book and then the next will start out with everything being fine again. Not only is this unrealistic, but its also a bit safe and boring. The fact the Johnson took Rory’s attack as an opportunity to explore therapy, post-traumatic stress, and other related topics was a pretty cool twist to add to this series.
Now onto the reason why my feelings are a bit mixed regarding this novel. There is a whole lot of rising action in this book and quite the shocking finale. However, there is absolutely no resolution. Not one of the major conflicts in the novel are solved. I was expecting this to some degree since Madness is the middle book of this series, but I still thought the ending was quite abrupt to say the least.
Then again, the cliffhanger at the end of the book made me so frustrated that I was dying to get my hands on the third book in this series. So maybe this was actually a good tactic to keep readers hooked on the series.
Overall, my point is that the book was good, but the ending left a lot to be desired. If you’re not a fan of cliffhangers, I would suggest waiting to read this book until closer to the release date of the next Shades of London novel.
Rating: ★★★1/2 (out of 5)
Read If You Like: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson