* This review contains spoilers for the previous book, The Name of the Star.
By Maureen Johnson
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
To Sum It Up: After almost being killed by a Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory is trying to move on with her life. Therapy isn’t really helping, she’s seriously fallen behind in school, and she’s in Bristol while her friends are back in London. But then Rory’s therapist suddenly recommends that she resume her studies at Wexford, and, as Rory soon learns, her return to London has been carefully orchestrated. Her recently acquired ability to dispose of ghosts with her touch makes her a very valuable asset to the Shades, the secret ghost police, especially since a new supernatural threat seems to be developing around London.
Review: I loved The Name of the Star, the first book in the Shades of London series, so it’s beyond me why I waited so long to pick up the sequel, The Madness Underneath. Especially since it’s been sitting on my shelf since its release, and the third book in the series was published a few months ago. Let’s just say that after reading this, I won’t be waiting too long to start The Shadow Cabinet.
It only took a few pages of The Madness Underneath to remind me why I enjoyed the previous book so much. Rory is a fantastic, lively narrator. She tells the best, and often hilarious, anecdotes. I love her narrative voice, and it’s the heart of the humor in a series that can also be dark at times. While writing my review for The Name of the Star, I felt more than a little weird for admitting that I laughed as I read a book about a ghostly Jack the Ripper copycat. I did laugh, though, because this series is an eclectic mix of comedic and chilling moments. And this particular book almost had me in tears at one point—and they were not tears of laughter.
As much as Rory is still a masterful spinner of yarns and quick with a quip in The Madness Underneath, she’s very much struggling with the aftermath of the events in The Name of the Star. The details of her scrape with death at the hands of a homicidal ghost have of course been skillfully covered up, because you can’t just go around telling everyone that a ghost stabbed you. Not unless you want your sanity questioned. So not only is Rory dealing with the trauma of the attack, but she can’t even reveal the truth about what happened to her to most people. When she returns to school at Wexford, the scene of the incident, she’s unable to focus on her studies and is in danger of flunking out. Rory’s plate is just so full, and it’s tough seeing her go through this.
For all that Rory has to keep to herself, there are three people with whom she can speak freely about ghosts: her friends in the Shades, i.e. the ghost police. I practically cheered aloud when Rory reunited with Boo, Callum, and Stephen. Especially Stephen. See, I’m rather taken with his character. While I wouldn’t call him angst-ridden, he is on the serious side—and most deserving of a spot of happiness.
There were two little things that didn’t work for me: I still couldn’t find Rory and her school mate Jerome convincing as a couple, maybe because I’d love to see Rory with a certain someone else. *ahem* There was also something that I was surprised Rory, who’s usually very perceptive, didn’t pick up on sooner. But, The Madness Underneath was still a thrilling read, and I will be acquiring a copy of The Shadow Cabinet very shortly!
All in All: I repeat: why did I wait so long to read this? The Madness Underneath boasts another fantastic story from Maureen Johnson with ghosts, a secret ghost police force, and an ample amount of humor.