The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Posted 25 June, 2013 by Heather in Featured, Heather, Heather Book Review / 18 Comments

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

The Madness Underneath

by Maureen Johnson (Website, Twitter)
Series: Shades of London #2
Published by Putnam Juvenile on February 26, 2013
Genres: Horror, Mystery and Suspense, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
4 Stars
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 to get back to her friends. 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 picks up right where The Name of the Star left off, with Rory recuperating at her parents’ home, trying to heal both physically and mentally from the attack by the ghost who was mimicking Jack the Ripper. She is cut off from her friends at Wexford, the boarding school she had been attending, as well as the friends she had made on London’s ghost hunter special police task force. Her only outlet is the visits to the therapist she’s forced to see, and Rory finds that even she can’t talk freely to this woman (and Rory’s a world-class storyteller). But her scars aren’t just physical as in the gash that’s healing across her stomach and emotional in the post traumatic stress that she’s dealing with. Rory finds that she’s been left a terminus after the attack–she can now send ghosts to their final demise with just a single touch.

Out of the blue, her therapist recommends that Rory return to Wexford and start attending classes again–to return to normal as quickly as possible. But with a large pile of schoolwork that she didn’t touch while she was healing, and an even larger mountain of emotional baggage to wade through at returning to the site of the attacks and back to her school friends, can Rory have a fighting chance at a normal life? Will she chose a life of school work and boredom or one of excitement and eradicating ghosts?

This book is really about Rory’s personal growth and what she wants out of her life. She makes some hard decisions and a lot of foolish ones along the way. Her trademark snark and over the top stories are still present, which made the book enjoyable. But a good portion of the book was about Rory trying to get her footing back at school with no real forward progression, and that really bogged this book down.

I loved that you got a deeper look at head ghost cop Stephen, and he’s very deep, complex, and much different than I thought he was from the first book. The rest of the characters were there from the first book, but just not as present and front and center in this installment. Even the ghosts were toned down a bit, which was a little disappointing.

I give The Madness Underneath a four out of five. Maureen Johnson’s humor, weirdness, and snark were ever present in main character Rory, which definitely helped make this one more enjoyable. But this couldn’t help make up for the slow first third of the book and lack of meaty plot. The ending was a pretty juicy twist, and I’ll certainly be reading the third book in this series, but overall this book was entertaining and moved the story forward only a little.


I’m a PhD chemist who loves sarcasm, music, and books-paranormal, mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, and romance. Most of my free time is spent at the martial arts studio these days–whether practicing Combat Hapkido or reading books while watching my son’s Taekwondo classes, or even working up a sweat with Kickboxing for fun.

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18 Responses to “The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson”

  1. I read “A Madness Underneath” and found it to be 10x better than “The Name of the Star”. I actually reviewed both on my blog and gave “The Name of the Star” a poor rating. I just didn’t like, what I called, the scooby doo vibe coming off it. The 2nd book in the series was head-and-tails above the first book in my opinion. I wasn’t even going to read the 2nd book in the series after the first, but I forced myself to. Glad I did. I wonder what will happen in the next book with Stephen!
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  2. Kristin

    Can’t wait to read this one, I really enjoyed the first one (thanks to you for letting me know about a great e-book deal!).

    I’m not too concerned about parts being slow, I’m one of those weird people who don’t mind slow, as long as it’s good. Uh, that sounded pervy, but you know what I mean.

  3. I think the fact that Rory trying to get her footing back went on and on was intentional, though possibly not as effective as it should have been. Rory’s state of mind makes sense in a psychological way–no one would blame her for needing time to overcome her trauma–but is less interesting from the perspective of entertainment. I really loved this book, but I can see where you’re coming from.
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