By God, Mindy McGinnis has managed to do it again. As if her ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ duology wasn’t great enough, ‘A Madness So Discreet’ delivered everything I wanted from a slightly creepy and dark novel.
Mindy has an amazing ability to write a great novel without ever really resorting to any kind of romance as a plot device. As someone who enjoys mainly young adult novels where such conventional things occur on the regular it’s refreshing to read something without an ounce of romance in it. There was definitely an opportunity to write a romance into the plot and I’m not going to lie, a part of me kind of wanted it to happen. However, I’m so glad it didn’t. The whole character relationship dynamic would have been destroyed by blurring the lines between patient and physician and I most definitely would have frowned upon the abuse of power.
A Madness So Discreet follows Grace, a girl placed in an insane asylum with questionable standards, by her father while she is with child. Such an occurrence during this time (the setting is historical; I believe the late 1800’s) would be a ‘blackmark’ on the family name. So, she is dealt with until she can return home sans child. The poor standards and severe treatment of the patients causes a defiant outburst from Grace and she is sent to spend her remaining time in an isolated area of the asylum. But a chance encounter with a visiting Doctor, who performs lobotomies on untreatable patients, allows her to be freed from her physical prison and taken into his care where she is moved to a much more humane facility. Her talents in noticing small detail with her brilliant mind assist the Doctor in his new fascination of solving criminology cases.
The grey areas surrounding the morality of the characters intrigued me. I love it when characters aren’t just black and white. Grace’s past experiences and the way she deals with the fallout from these, are precursors to some of her later actions. Even while she is our hero of the book and we are rooting for her, at the same time she does some questionable things.
The picture painted of mental illness and how it was ‘dealt’ with at the time is vividly accurate. I find it astonishing the things people were put away for, promiscuity, alcoholism and in Grace’s case being pregnant. The fact that a single word to a judge from a (male) family member could get you sent away is harrowing.
There are some dark moments in this book, but the satisfaction felt at the ending was…. well satisfying. The mystery behind the murders the doctor and Grace are solving have a Sherlock type vibe to them, which satisfies the detective in me. If you’re after something a little dark and different, also dealing with a minority group this would be a good one to pick up.