February 25, 2013

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 304
Series: Shades of London
Review Source: ARC for review from Razorbill Canada

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
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.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

My Thoughts:
‘The Madness Underneath’ is a pretty evocative title, but it became even more perfectly creepy as I delved into the book and found out exactly what it was referring to. I was a huge fan of Maureen Johnson’s ‘The Name of the Star’, so I was eagerly awaiting this sequel. Rory has survived the Ripper that was plaguing modern-day London, but after being through this trauma she can’t tell anyone the truth about it. She’s been sequestered away from the only people who she can talk to about ghosts and her abilities. Of course this is only the beginning and Rory is once again involved in some ghostly occurrences.

In ‘The Madness Underneath’ there are more murders and events that Rory sees a pattern in. What I liked about this book is that the murders were only one part of the plot, and they weren’t a huge spectacle in the same way that the Ripper murders were in the previous book. If you can call ghosts and abilities realistic, then I would say that it all felt realistic, rather than repeating the same type of huge media event like in the first book. Another amazing part of these books is that Maureen Johnson is perfect at writing about London and making you feel like you’re really there. She clearly knows the area and all the little details, and it makes the book feel all the more truthful.

I really enjoy our main character, Rory. She’s quirky and sweet, and I just find her relatable in general. She’s smart but she’s not a keener when it comes to school, she has friends and a cute guy she enjoys making out with but doesn’t know if she actually likes him in a boyfriend type of way... all of these characteristics make her interesting and yet also someone who feels real. She’s not the “special snowflake” heroine that a lot of books present, even though she does have a crazy cool ability. Toward the end of the book I felt like Rory made some decisions that were just ridiculous -- things that I thought she was too smart to do. Upon reflection, though, I think I can excuse her behaviour and possibly even understand it. Rory has been through a lot, and the whole book is really about her trying to reach out and find someone who understands her; when she does make her (pretty stupid) decision, it’s based upon finding this acceptance, which I think makes a lot of sense, even though we as readers are shaking our heads.

I would be remiss not to mention the other Shades (those with the ability to see ghosts), because I love, love, love them. I would have liked to see more of Boo, but I still adored all of the scenes with the trio. I particularly enjoyed all of the Rory/Stephen scenes. I love their banter and how Stephen is so introverted, and yet is willing to share personal things with Rory. All I can really say is that I shipped them in the first book, and I enjoyed their interactions a lot in this volume.

As much as I love this book and this series I almost want to tell you to hold off until Book 3 is published, because this book has an ending that is absolutely insane. I sort of saw it coming right before it happened and I was freaking out, and then I read it and... oh man. I literally had to calm my breathing and tell myself to calm down and remind myself it was a book and not part of my real life. Yes that is how crazy of a reaction I had to it. Just thinking about it now is making me all flail-y. So despite the ending that will make you want to completely badger Maureen Johnson for information on the 3rd book and might put you into therapy, this is definitely a must-read. I loveeee these books, so if you do end up reading ‘The Madness Underneath’ right away, please come join me in freaking out and wanting the 3rd book pronto.

The Cover:
Not my fave, but I like it in that it's unique and atmospheric.


Find The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.


  1. This series really IS unique ... I think all of Maureen Johnson's books have that going for them. I remember loving the first book in this series but probably need a reread to remember what happened! I can't wait to get my hands on this one ... :)

    Great review, Ashley!

    1. I definitely re-read it before reading TMU and I'm glad I did! I tend to do that for a lot of series.

  2. Yeah, I kind of wish I'd waited for the third book to come out so I could read them right in a row. I love the London setting!

  3. I didn't love the book as much as you did Ashley, but I seemed to like the sensational murders of the first book a bit more. However, I totally agree about the title being perfect & that Maureen makes you feel like you are in London!

    & that ending!!!! What is Maureen Johnson trying to do, cause her readers to all have heart attacks?! To take us from such a high to such a low in a span of pages?! I was definitely shocked. But I'm interested to see where book 3 will take the story :)

    1. The endingggg... gahhhh. I really don't have many more words than those. ;)

  4. I really loved the characters and writing style for this but thought the plot was a bit slow although it did make me crave book 3 so that's always good!

    1. I've heard a couple people say they found is slow, which I guess I can understand, though I'm glad I didn't find it that way at all.

  5. The setting is kind of like an extra character in these books. I love that about them. And I had the same feelings about Rory, but I think she was probably--at least in part--suffering from PTSD and she realized the mistake she'd made pretty quickly. Plus there was the added factor of the, er, susceptibility aide she was "given."

    AND THE END! I think I checked and rechecked to make sure the last page was REALLY the last page a dozen times. At least. The wait is going to be awful.

    1. Yes, the setting is definitely a great character!

      And very much agreed with your take on Rory.

  6. I'm glad you liked it so much! I've actually been hearing some mixed stuff about it, not that it matters since I'm sitting this one out :)
    Hope book 3 comes soon ;)


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment; I appreciate each one!


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