Book Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

15721638The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2)
by Maureen Johnson
February 26, 2013
Putnam Juvenile
290 pages
Source: ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review. Thanks, Putnam Juvenile!


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.(Goodreads Summary.)

My Take On It

Oh, boy. This book did a serious number on me, you guys. Let me start off by saying I absolutely adored The Name of the Star, book #1 in The Shades of London series. You can take a look at my review HERE to see what I mean. I campaigned HARD to get an ARC of the sequel, and though I didn’t get it prior to the book’s release, I was SO FLIPPING EXCITED when an one showed up at my house from Putnam Juvenile! Thanks so much PJ, getting the book in the mail that day was an awesome surprise:)

Now that I have read The Madness Underneath I can say that while it didn’t turn out as I expected, I am still fully invested in this series and very curious to see how author Maureen Johnson will conclude it. VERY interested.

First a bit of a recap. When last we saw Rory in The Name of the Star, she had just taken down “The Ripper”, a ghost who had once been part of the secret paranormal police in London known as the Shades.  This ghost had been committing Jack the Ripper copycat killings and had the city of London completely on edge. Not only does Rory send the Ripper back to the Great Unknown, she discovers that she is a terminus, a weapon , able to eradicate a ghost with a single touch. And as far as she knows, she is the only one of her kind.

When The Madness Underneath begins, Rory is with her parents in the country recovering from her ordeal. The world may not know that the Ripper and his crimes were of the supernatural bent, but they do know that Rory was attacked and nearly killed before narrowly escaping. The Rory we meet in The Madness Underneath is a very different Rory from The Name of the Star. She is suffering from PTSD and in therapy. She’s been removed from Wexford and her friends, and she hasn’t been in touch with Stephen and the other Shades either.

The Madness Underneath is a darker book. Maureen Johnson’s quirky humor and voice is still present, but the overall tone of the book is much more serious. This didn’t bother me so much. I missed the happy-go-lucky, chirpy Rory, but I understood why she was a different person.

A lot of reviewers have complained about how much they missed Jazza, Jerome, and the rest of Rory’s classmates at Wexford, although they aren’t TOTALLY absent from this book. But I didn’t take much issue with this,  I guess I saw it as a natural progression. Rory’s future lies beyond Wexford. By the end of The Name of the Star, she clearly belongs with the Shades. although I did miss Alistair, the punk rock ghost from the library. He had only had the barest of mentions in the book.

I was a bit annoyed that Rory, who always complained about wanting to move forward and not be remembered as the girl who survived the Ripper’s final attack, still used that as a crutch whenever the going got rough for her. She’s behind in all her classes, which is to be expected, but she does seem to throw the “I’m in therapy” card a bit too freely, in my opinion. Especially since she wants everyone to forget about what happened so she can move on. It’s a minor annoyance but nothing too terrible.

However. There does come a point in The Madness Underneath where things veer off in a very strange AND unexpected way. Of course I can’t divulge exactly what I am talking about but let me just say that this turn of events in the plot TOTALLY surprised me, and unfortunately, not in a very good way. You see, I kind of liked the direction The Name of the Star was heading in. I liked that Rory was getting tight with the Shades (especially one Shade in particular.) I liked the storyline and I LOVED the shocking revelation at the end ofThe Name of the Star that Rory was a human terminus. LOVED. IT.

So, when this secondary plot line develops in The Madness Underneath, a plot line that comes completely from left field, I was sort of dumbfounded. I kept wondering why Johnson was taking the book in this direction. It was odd and curious and pretty unsettling. It was almost like reading a totally different book.  I know for those of you who haven’t read the book this statement might be confusing to you. But trust me. When you get to this point, you will most definitely recognize it. And or me, it’s not so much that I didn’t like this new development, it’s more that I don’t understand why it happens in the first place.  I am guessing that Johnson will tie all these  scattered threads together in the end, but I still wonder the motivation behind them in the first place.

This occurrence in itself spelled trouble.  But Johnson was not done just yet. Just when I catch my breath with this strange turn of events in the story, BAM!  An extremely shocking and, frankly, INFURIATING thing happens near the end of the book. Guys, I was so freaked out about what happened that I immediately jumped online and tweeted two of my blogging buddies who had already read the book (and given me a non-spoilery heads up) that I was, well, stunned. Flabbergasted. BLOWN AWAY by this awful THING that happens at the end of the book. Their response was something like “See?? Told you!!!”

So, I’ll be honest. It took me a few days to decompress after reading. To allow me to get my bearings so I could write a review. And I feel better about things (a little.) I’m still completely shocked and scratching my head about WHY this book took the path that it did, but you know what?  Even though it didn’t go down like I expected I am forever a fan of Maureen Johnson and am still a fan of this series. So even with this bump in the road, I can say without hesitation that I am totally in for the long haul as far as The Shades of London series goes. If Maureen Johnson can pull such a doozy with The Madness Underneath, I HAVE to see how this series ends. You couldn’t talk me out of it for anything in the world.

So, my advice to those of you who haven’t read this book yet, PREPARE for the unexpected. And enjoy the ride.  I can almost guarantee that you won’t guess what will happen in this book before you read.  No worries about guessing the ending before you get there. And if you, like me, have a little meltdown after finishing it, relax. Take a step back and decompress. I think you’ll  find that you will probably want to continue on and see just how Johnson wraps this baby up.  Book # 3, The Shadow Cabinet (loving these titles, by the way),  will release sometime next year:)