But that's neither here or there in the darkness. This particular darkness, anyway, the one you and I find ourselves denizens of. We are here because we're the sanest people in this establishment, so they put us down here as the bedrock on which to gain a foothold for the wanderings of their own minds. They call us insane, then feed their own insanities on our flesh, for we are now less than human. Heedson and Croomes are but examples of the greater world, love. They work their discreet types of madness on us, power and pain, and we hold to our truths in the dark..."
I really loved Mindy McGinnis' post-apocalyptic book Not a Drop to Drink, as you can see in my review here. A Madness So Discreet is a lot different, but it's got a lot of elements that I enjoy.
Grace Mae was the pretty daughter of a senator. Now, Grace is no longer a Mae. Her father had her committed for getting pregnant out of wedlock. I know this will come as no surprise, but the asylum is terrible, worse than terrible. The patients have to fight to get the small amount of food they are given. There is an awful nurse, Croomes, who takes pleasure in tormenting her, and the treatments are barbaric. Grace only survives by retreating inside herself, something she already learned at home.
Her fellow patient, Mrs. Clay, tries to help even though Grace never speaks a word to her. She was committed by her husband, a real gem who later divorced her, took her land and her kids, then married the lawyer's sister. Nobody can save Grace when she attacks the asylum's doctor, Heedson, (In her defense, he deserved it) and receives a punishment that causes her to lose the baby. After attacking Heedson a second time, he moves her into the hospital's basement to rot away in the dark.
Thankfully, the basement contains a peculiar patient who knows everything that goes on upstairs. Falsteed is a great comfort to Grace, and he introduces her to Dr. Thornhollow. The doctor is there to perform lobotomies on particularly difficult patients. Grace begs him to take away her memories, to make it so she won't have to feel ever again. Thornhollow notices that she has a bright mind, and instead offers her a proposal. He will help her escape, and she will assist him with his special project: finding murderers.
Thornhollow is studying a new technique for creating a profile of the killer based on clues from the scene of the crime, and using the profile to find the killer. The pair move to Ohio and into a new asylum, but a really nice one. It's much more humane than the other hospital in Boston, and the patients have a lot more freedom. Grace pretends to be the doctor's assistant, and that she cannot speak. She makes friends with fellow patients Nell, who has syphilis, and Elizabeth, who believes that an invisible string sits by her shoulder and tells her secrets.
Grace is called upon to assist the doctor when a dead body is found. Her job is to observe the scene, looking for clues that the doctor might miss. Because she appears to be a mute patient, people speak freely in front of her. After two dead girls are found, both with hands folded as if they are still alive, they realize that they are looking for a serial killer.
I really liked A Madness So Discreet. The beginning was very upsetting. I absolutely hated that nurse and doctor. It would have been nice to see them receive some sort of punishment, a little karma. Asylums at that time were really scary. It is absolutely terrifying to think that at one point a woman could have been locked away just because a male relative signed a statement. I was much happier when Grace moved on to the better asylum, which was based on a real asylum that is featured on Mindy McGinnis' Pinterest (I'm sorry, you can't see it if you don't have a Pinterest as well; You can see the building here, and look at more images in those archives). Grace was very strong and smart, but also a bit scary. You do not want to get on her bad side. I'm not sure if there is going to be a sequel, but I would be interested in reading more adventures of Grace and Thornhollow.
I received my copy of A Madness So Discreet from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books. It's available for purchase now.