[Review] A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

05:00 Cilla P 6 Comments

"Grace Mae is already familiar with madness when family secrets and the bulge in her belly send her to an insane asylum—but it is in the darkness that she finds a new lease on life. 

When a visiting doctor interested in criminal psychology recognizes Grace’s brilliant mind beneath her rage, he recruits her as his assistant. Continuing to operate under the cloak of madness at crime scenes allows her to gather clues from bystanders who believe her less than human. Now comfortable in an ethical asylum, Grace finds friends—and hope. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who will bring her shaky sanity and the demons in her past dangerously close to the surface. 

Title: A Madness So Discreet
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Library
Release Date: 06 September 2016


Without a doubt, A Madness So Discreet is my most anticipated book of 2016. It took me ages to actually get my hands on it and, thankfully, it didn't disappoint. It's set in Victorian-era mental asylums, which were all well-researched. It talks about how society defines and treats madness. It has a murder mystery that comes with a dark twist. Its characters are complicated and prickly at times, but thoroughly human in their flaws and decisions. In short, it has everything I'm fascinated by, and Mindy Mcginnis delivers them all wonderfully. 

 I think we're all quite mad. Some of us are just more discreet about it.

One of the my favourite things about Madness is the depiction of asylums. Having only taken one class in history of Western psychiatry, I'm far from the expert on the matter, but everything about the environments Grace occupy fit what I learned. At the beginning, Grace spends time in a nightmarish one - one that fits the terrible image of mental health institutions from that period. It would be easy for a writer to stay within that scope for dramatic value, but as the story progresses, Grace moves to an ethical asylum, one where people with mental issues are treated humanely. Both kinds of asylum existed, and it was good to see them both represented.

I also love how the story looks into how society defines madness. Some of the characters that populate the asylums have what we would today declare as symptoms of mental illness. However, there are some who simply deviate from the expectations of society and others, like Grace, have been traumatised. Perhaps it's because I'm training to be a psychologist that I find this so thought-provoking, but I think it's a fascinating topic in general!  

Speaking of characters, I realised halfway through that McGinnis never described their appearances unless it's relevant to the plot or in a throwaway line, yet I can picture them all so perfectly! I'd actually like to go back and actually pick out how she does it. Anyway, on top of that, all of the characters are so human - they make bad, morally questionable decisions, yet (with the exception of the truly horrible people) I could understand what would drive them to those decisions. 

My only complaint, is that the murder mystery itself feels a little flat and slow at times. This may be because it's more of a vehicle for Grace to discover her strengths rather than the main plot.

Overall, A Madness So Discreet is a fascinating story about the forms and treatment of madness, and it doesn't shy away from the darkness. It's definitely not a book you read for light-hearted fun, but it's one I highly recommend.

Reading this book contributes to the following challenges:

  • Goodreads Challenge


  1. I am so glad to hear that this didn't disappoint you, especially considering how excited you were for it. :) Definitely going to have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    1. Do give it a try! It's not an easy book, but it's worth the read. Thanks for stopping by, Zoe! <3

  2. I'm so glad you liked this! A Madness So Discreet is one of my favorite books - it was delightfully creepy, and it stuck with me for a long time after I read it. I agree that the murder mystery got a bit slow, but honestly, I hardly noticed because I was so wrapped up in everything else.

    1. Yess, I think I would've complained more if the murder mystery had been the main plot. As it was, I didn't mind the slowness too much!

  3. I liked this one, too! The descriptions of the asylum are so creepy, and I love the characters.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Same! The characters are so fascinating!


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