Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

A Madness So Discreet

Rate this book
Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

376 pages, Hardcover

First published October 6, 2015

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Mindy McGinnis

25 books3,819 followers

Mindy McGinnis is an Edgar Award-winning novelist who writes across multiple genres, including post-apocalyptic, historical, thriller, contemporary, mystery, and fantasy.

While her settings may change, you can always count on Mindy’s books to deliver grit, truth, and an unflinching look at humanity and the world around us.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,459 (25%)
4 stars
3,712 (38%)
3 stars
2,593 (27%)
2 stars
639 (6%)
1 star
193 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,944 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
May 17, 2016
When I picked this book up, I confess I was hoping for something. Something that the blurb had promised and that the creepy, beautiful cover reinforced. I wanted this: the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

And I got it - for the first 10% of the book.

A Madness So Discreet opens wonderfully and horrifically. Grace Mae is in a Boston mental asylum where she has been hidden away to hide the family shame - she carries a baby that her own father put there. Yes. As you can imagine, it immediately had my wide-eyed, horrified attention. But wait, there's more.

You may or may not know that mental "hospitals" a hundred years back were not often caring places of recovery and understanding. Many patients were subjected to cruel treatment because there was little to no policing of the system. Bad behaviour, intentional or not, was punished with beatings, electric shocks, and something called "sheet wrapping" - the patient was tightly wrapped in sheets that were either really cold, or burning hot from the steamer (leaving a small gap for breathing) and then left for hours.

This latter happens to Grace. Except she goes into labour while wrapped in the sheets. I don't think I need to spell out how bad that is. It was awful, shocking, infuriating and kind of gory. And then the book went from being a disturbing story about insanity and mental asylums, to being a standard detective murder mystery.

It was like Sherlock, except less entertaining. Or Jackaby, but without the paranormal aspects or witty humour. Basically, a doctor helps Grace leave the asylum because he decides her quick thinking could be useful in solving crimes. Then the rest of the book is about solving said crimes. The crimes are not unique enough and the characters are not interesting enough to make the book compelling once the initial shocks have passed.

Also, there is supposed to be an ongoing exploration of the nature of madness, but I really didn't like where the author took it. I don't like that one of the conclusions is that Grace's father is mad, instead of just a selfish, horrible rapist, which I believe him to be. We understand today that mental illness means that a person needs help, not punishment, and I hate that her father has been labelled as such. As if it isn't his fault that he raped her.

I liked McGinnis' Not a Drop to Drink, but this one was a disappointment.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Pinterest
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,461 reviews9,617 followers
August 29, 2019
Bloody hell 😳. The first half of the book was messed up! Then a bit later it turns into a bit of a detective book. Then I find out what one of the good characters was in the dungeon basement for; ewww!

And what’s her heads dad was a dick! He should have gotten something bad happen to him? But, he did end up in a certain place so I can leave that to my imagination about revenge.

Either way, I enjoyed it!

Happy Reading!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Lotte.
546 reviews1,106 followers
April 1, 2016
I LOVED THIS. (I'm currently trying to write a coherent review for this, because I don't understand why this doesn't have the raving reviews it so clearly deserves and I want more people to read it.)
Profile Image for Maryam Rz..
220 reviews2,650 followers
April 15, 2019

“It’s a madness so discreet that it can walk the streets and be applauded in some circles, but it is madness nonetheless.”

I think I should start this with what Mindy McGinnis herself used to start her book in the dedication: For all who struggle in darkness.
She had me from that first sentence...
This is a book for the sane and insane, and for the ridiculousness of that division.

“Dear child, do you even know all the rage that is inside you?”

In this amazing and eye-opening book, the author talks about so many great themes and ideas, places and people's behaviours!
From how easily with the signature of one judge and the word of a male family member they used to condemn people (specially women) to a life of torture in asylums in the 1800s, to criminals and murderers and serial killers and their thoughts, actions, and sanity.

“It’s established; you’re insane.”
“And therefore I am not human,”

If I were to divide this book into four parts, the first quarter would get 5 unsettling and maddening stars, the second one 3, the third quarter 4 and the last part 5 jaw-dropping and one-of-a-kind stars!!
So the graph would look like this:

And my overall rating: (5+3+4+5) ÷ 4 = 4.25

(You can call it weird that I'm using maths for this, but mathematics is like the language that gives rules and order to life! That's just its nature. Physics is the basis of life, mathematics the language 😁)

Their chalkboard had always consisted of black and white, but the reality was gray, and she struggled with the pain of learning it.

My playlist for A Madness So Discreet made this even more of an spectacular read—You can check it out at the end of the review!

TW: sexual assault, rape, incest, mental illness, murder and serial killers, mental asylums and ruthless behaviour towards their patients.


Many of Boston’s unwanted end up here; the difficult, the slow, the savage, and the truly insane all sharing space...
Welcome to my asylum.

“Yours is a story whose events happen more often than are told. Tales like these belong to the black, do they not? Where they can’t be seen or heard.”

In United States of the 1890s—a few years after the Ripper killings in London, UK—Grace Mae lives, suffocated and tortured, in an asylum filled with the maddest men and a madder staff.

“You used to move about in light and lavender, with the laughter pouring from you, and now it’s all blood and darkness, with your throat closed so tight your own breath is choking you.”

She used to be the daughter of a senator, but she is cursed with a child and a swollen belly, confided in a ruthless madhouse ... All because of a self-righteous man who takes whatever he wishes.

“What’s been done to you, then?” he asked, as if expecting an answer. “Or what have you seen that you’ve gone to the abyss so young?”

In her desperation and devastation, Grace would do anything to stay away from her past, even if it means taking away her own life—in any sense.
And a doctor that specialises in treating mental patients from their senses and memories to a numb life by damaging their brains seems like her ticket out.

“There’s fresh blood spilling, Grace. And we must see which way it flows!”

And thus she is swept into a life of pursuing criminals with a criminology-obsessed detective. With her sharp memory and observant eyes, taking in every detail, she is better at her new job than she'd have thought ... But even she won't see the serial killer coming.

I would say that the work is distasteful, but only because that is what you want to hear. In truth I find myself looking forward to the next opportunity to sharpen my skills and must remind myself that in order for that to happen, someone must die.
If it was darkness you feared I would turn to while in his employ, fear not. The darkness has long lived inside me, sown if not by my nature then by nurture.

Themes & Golden Points

1) Isane asylum representation: I'd start that with what McGinnis herself wrote in the Author's Note;

The history of insane asylum medicine is not pretty. Even the well-intentioned sometimes caused great harm through ignorance, and in the worst cases, harm was caused for the sake of harm.

That being said, if a person was unfortunate enough to be declared insane in the 1800s, there were plenty of institutions that treated their patients with respect. The Athens Lunatic Asylum in southeast Ohio was one such place and is the basis for the asylum where Grace and Thornhollow live.

As the author pointed out, the treatment of people with mental illnesses used to be brutal. They weren't treatment like humans because they weren't considered as such.
And the asylum we start start the story is one of types with sadistic staff throwing the patients around. It's unsettling and disturbing to read those first chapters, and I loved how accurately and completely the author wrote it.

“Seems a bit calmer, almost,” Reed observed, leaning toward her.
“Yes, they do that sometimes when you treat them like people,”

But what was more impressive was seeing people that did care for and sympathise with the abandoned. Gave them choices and respected them as a fellow human that only thought and saw things differently from them. However great that difference might be. I appreciated this :)

2) Criminology: aside from the above, A Madness So Discreet also focuses on studying and understanding the behaviour, biography, and thinking style of criminals, and using that to track them down.

The meticulous nature of the planner can be misleading. If you have a killer who, say, drains the blood from all their victims, or removes the left hand consistently, the untrained want to say they are insane. But the definition of insanity—an inability to use rational thought—immediately precludes that they must, in fact, be sane.

Mindy McGinnis did a wonderful job taking down the theories and assessing them; and as someone who's obsessed with criminology, I loved reading an author who got it right. There were only one or two ideas that I didn't agree with, but I was impressed all in all!

3) Nature of right/wrong & judgment: there are horrible people gathered around in this book—doctors who eat cancer cells, murders who kill for their gain, politicians that rape and do what they wish, girls who commit suicide and girls who murder for revenge.

But how can I find fault with your deeds when without them our paths would never have crossed?

It's a madhouse, but I dare you to draw a line between the shades of black and white, to divide them, to define them ... You can't because that's life when you see more than what's in front of you!

4) Contentment: there goes another topic pushed aside constantly! Everyone is so focused on happiness ... not noticing what a, to quote author Christopher Paolini, “futile” thing it is. So Ms. McGinnis gets an applause from me for her well written use of the beauty of contentment!

“Ah, contentment,” Thornhollow said. “A wholly underrated feeling.”

5) Learning processes: my mother's PhD was about Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, an area of science that's growing day by day, and I've personally really involved in the process since I was 14.
(I know, weird, but I just loved getting into places they said wasn't my place and proving that it, in fact, was 😂)

So having that background knowledge, I found the doctor's way of teaching Grace her new profession interesting, and in some cases very satisfying!

“If you perform an action while learning something, re-creating the action may help you recall it later.”


The burning rage that Falsteed had diagnosed plummeted into the cold river of her voice and produced a harsh smoke, one that filled her lungs and pushed to overflow from her mouth.
It enveloped her brain, burning off the fog that she’d allowed to settle as easily as the sun ripped the mist away from the morning.

I was shocked by the the beauty of Mindy McGinnis's prose! Descriptive, metaphorical, and melodious, it was unique and remarkable.
She also captured the people's way of speaking in the 1890s perfectly—not to mention the Irish character's accent!

So, while this was the first book of this author I read, I'm sure it won't be the last :) Ms. McGinnis shares something I usually feel and rarely find in other people—a tendency for the dark and the shunned, an understanding of the wicked and the lost...

The stranger’s voice was low and melodious, wandering through sentences as if assured it would find the end victoriously, though the path was unsure.

And, more than that beauty and exquisite taste, there was a hidden and special sense of humour that I savoured! No, not a flimsy joke or now-days banter, and not jokes that everyone would laugh out loud at (though I did—I was basically howling in the midst of all the unsettling horrid scenes)
Something like this (if you get it, then there's hope for you yet 😁):

His name is Ned, and he manages the asylum’s stables. He was kicked in the skull some years ago, bringing about the damage that made his new residence a necessity, though he harbors no ill will toward the species that brought the fate upon him.
He chooses to live in the stables and spends his days carving small figurines of horses, as if in worship of the animal that delivered him from the necessity of having to interact with people such as yourselves.


Grace: intelligence, observant, and strong-willed, she will do whatever is necessary to accomplish sth. She is unafraid and won't bat an eyelash at the ugliness of the world.
I absolutely loved her and her character development! And I loved the darkness in her :)

There is more to you than beauty. There is more to you than strength. There is more to you than intelligence. You are a whole person, and I would have you treat yourself as such.

Dr. Thornhollow: an immediate favourite, smart, and observant, he works to make living easier for the mad and abandoned.
He has an interest in criminology and studying the thought processes and motives of criminals. And also brains in general ... And he doesn't really understand the workings of feelings and human relationships :))

Nell: oh this girl ... An Irish patient at the American asylum, with a terrible disease, I couldn't help but fall in love with her snarkiness, her strength, her uniqueness!
One of the best written characters and of the strongest points about the book! Specially because of

“’E’s a poor drunkard up the hill,” Nell said. “’Is family put ’im away for loving the bottle.”
“He also did say he was drinking them because Jesus was trapped in the bottoms,” Janey put in.
“If I were Jaysus, that’s where I’d go,” Nell said, tipping her glass again.

Lizzy: probably my fave after Nell, though at first I wasn't so entranced by her. But after , I was in awe of her backstory and her resolve.
She is such a beautiful creature and I'll always remember that :)

“I have no shame in String. I’d rather live where String can be String and I can be me without having to pretend I’m something else.”

Adelaide: she is one of those characters I really appreciated. Grace said it best: It’s good to know that something is being done for women, and I thank you for doing it.

Senator Mae: another addition that left me in adoration of the author's work! He is believes himself the law and whatever he wants rightfully his.


What I found really special about A Madness So Discreet was the Platonic relationships and lack of romance! Romance has become a constant of books now, and every YA writer feels the need to add it there. While I wouldn't necessarily dub this book as “YA” as it has enough prestige to be “adult fiction”, it's still an important thing to note.

“Yes, a bit like sisters, I suppose,” Elizabeth said. “Affection tinged with suffering.”

The relationship developments were beautifully managed and they all felt tangible and special. So nice job, Ms. McGinnis!


Book playlist:
[ Spotify LINK to book playlist ]
• “Goëtia” by Peter Gundry (for mysterious/unsettling/high-risk moments, main song)
• “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots (for the first asylum)
• “Colors (Stripped)” by Halsey (for the second asylum and Grace's friendship and the like moments)
• “Bones” by MS MR (for crime-solving parts)
• “The Dream Snatcher” by Peter Gundry (for other mysterious/unsettling/high-risk moments)
500 reviews2,413 followers
September 8, 2016
*Warning: I cuss. As usual.

Am I a fan of bone-chilling thrillers? Yes.
Am I a fan of spine-tingling horrors? YES.
Am I a fan of hair-raising brilliancy? ASDFGHJKL YES.

Was A Madness So Discreet any of those things? Erm... no.

Then what the heck was it?!

Honestly, I'm not too sure myself. If anything, A Mandess So Discreet was weird as fuck. I had no idea what the heck was going on. And if I'm being really honest (which I am), I would have to say that the whole book just felt so pretentious.

First of all, the writing was really stiff (in an attempt to be quirky) and made me incredibly detached from the story and the characters. In fact, there were some points in the book where I'll admit that I did fall asleep trying to finish a chapter.

The story itself, like I said, was weird. Normally I love weird books, but this book wasn't entertaining-weird, but more of eh ?-weird. It was boring, really. I couldn't keep myself interested in the mystery at all. The shift between storylines (I mean from Grace's being stuck in the asylum to suddenly turning into a female Sherlock Holmes) is a bit rough for me as well, and it took a while for my brain to catch up.

I liked the idea of the characters (but like I said earlier, I couldn't connect to them). Grace was headstrong, focused on her goal, but also had a very vulnerable side. She made some bad decisions, sure, but she did what she believed was right.

Grace's relationships with other characters were pretty wonderful, too. She became really close with the other women at the asylum, and their support for each other was amazing. She and the Doctor had a hot-and-cold relationship, but I'll have to admit that I did ship them at one point. (This book has zero romance, though.)

Ultimately, this book could have been an amazing read for me, but the writing just made it so hard to get into.
Profile Image for Read with Sandee ・❥・.
645 reviews1,298 followers
July 21, 2015

"They work their discreet types of madness on us, power and pain, and we hold to our truths in the darkness.


Let's play a game.

Let's play "Guess What This Book is About".

If you look at the cover and the title of this book, what do you think it's about?




I came into this book thinking that it was going to be some dark, twisted book about insanity and maddness. I got that from the book cover and the synopsis. But as the plot progresses, it don't think it was really what I got. I got something else. Something more complex that what I thought it would be. And that disconnected me a bit with the book.


They all had their terrors.


Grace stopped talking when she realised, no one was listening to her.

Grace has given up on speech a long time ago. Once the words no and stop had done nothing, the others refused to come out, their inadequacy making the effort necessary to voice them an equation too easily resolved.

She was sent to an asylum not because she was crazy, but because she was pregnany. She got pregnant by a son of a bitch someone who shouldn't have gotten her pregnant.

Grace had learned long ago that the true horror's of this world were other people.

After a violent outbreak that Grace had, she got locked up in the darkest part of the asylum where she met a man named Falsteed, who could smell what type of person you are. At least that's how I seen it. He could smell the air that surrounds a person.

There's the blood of another on you, though. I smell a splatter or two, underneath your own. You didn't come here without a fight, did you?

Also, he met a man named Dr. Thornhollow who gets called to the asylum to neutralizes patients who are uncontrollable. Dr. Thornhollow then discovers the sharpness of Grace's memory and mind. He then helps Grace stage her death so she could escape the asylum.

Outside the asylum, she would help Dr. Thornhollow with his other endeavour. Grace would now go about in a new location with the doctor as they try to solve a hideous crime in Ohio.

She thought she was free from her past finally, but some things just come back and haunt you.



I liked Grace. She was a very strong and quick-witted character. The things she's gone through w/ her family was just super terrible. I am pissed at those people she call family. With the exception of her sister, her mother and father were the worse parents in my history of book reading. You won't really get to really know where Grace's hate is coming from up until towards the later part of the book. I felt for her and I likes that she doesn't let anyone step on her. She does have her violent tendencies, but I get it. I get why she was the way she was. There are some characters that do stuff that doesn't make sense, but with Grace, you understand. Even if some of the things she did I don't agree with, I still understand her actions and that is a pretty important aspect in a character development.

Dr. Thornhollow

He is a weird guy. To be honest, I don't really like him all too much. I couldn't connect to his character as much as I could with Grace. I actually thought he was going to be a love interest. Weird thing was, I don't think I knew anything about him aside from his profession and well his interest in criminal psychology. All I know is that he is a nice guy who is often wrapped around his own head.


The writing. I just fell immediately in love with the author's writing. It's very beautiful and intricate. It's descriptive and appropriate to the era on when the story took place.

The setting. Oh man. I've always been a sucker for anything Victorian. Anything that involves frilly big dresses and fancy carriages and all that. The only thing I didn't like about the era was how badly women were treated during the time. Women were treated like objects. I hated that. But, this book showed us part of that. I think this book showed us a pretty accurate representation of the era.

The cover. Let's all take a moment to admire that beautiful cover! It's one of the pretties covers I have ever seen to be honest.

The character development. I loved how silent Grace became this girl who doesn't take bullshit from anyone.

No insta-love. No unnecessary romance!!! Wooohooo! I love you Mindy McGinnis for that!

I loved how relatable Grace was to me. We all have been there. We've been down in the dumps and sometimes all we can do is just keep our mouth shut and just accept the blows. But no. We shouldn't settle for something because it is easy to just let things happen to us. We should always try and do something to make things better for ourselves and for the people we love. I loved that part of Grace.


I didn't like the tone shift of the story. This book wasn't I was expecting it to be. It started out with me believing it was something dark and gritty, but ended up being a different thing all together. I'm not saying that the rest of the story was light and fun... it wasn't. There were a lot of gruesome things that happened, but... It just didn't feel that it was set up correctly from the beginning to how the author wanted to end it.

The pacing for the 1st half of the book was super slow. Even when I loved the writing, there was not much happening on the first half of the book which bummed me.

I did not agree with some of the things that the female characters in this book did. I don't want to say any spoilers but I just... don't think it's right to cheer on someone's wrong doing even if he/she has the reason to do so. Just because someone killed your parents, doesn't make it right for you to kill him.. This isn't part of the book, but just an example. Revenge is a terrible thing. I understand that people get hurt and would want to get even, but sometimes it's better to just let it go than trying to hurt that other person back. It is not a good message to send to its readers. It's fiction, I know. But I'm just the type of reader who likes to read into the message hidden between the lines. And I just don't like what that part of the book suggested.

I think I only really cared about Grace's character. And that is not a good thing.

The ending. It's a bit rushed and hurried. Probably because of the overdrawn start of the book.


I wished the ending was not how it ended. I felt the ending was too sudden and hurried. There could have been more. I wanted more.

I liked this book as far as the writing and the intrigue of the story goes. I liked the mystery. It would keep you turning its pages, wanting to know more about what is happening. This is my first Mindy McGinnis book and would definitely not be my last.

Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,723 reviews1,277 followers
October 4, 2015
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“They all had their terrors.”

This was an okay story, but it struggled to hold my attention.

I felt quite sorry for Grace at the start of this book, she’d been through a lot, was pregnant, and incarcerated in an insane asylum, and things were really not going well for her at all. As the book progressed I didn’t like her all that much though. She made some hasty and risky decisions, and didn’t always think things through properly.

The storyline in this went from Grace being in an insane asylum to playing some sort of detective role, and I really struggled to keep reading this book. This was one of those books where I would read a chapter, and be thankful that I had 1 less chapter to go!

The ending to this was okay, but I was just glad to be finished really.

6 out of 10
Profile Image for grace.
130 reviews1,605 followers
August 29, 2016
Wow. I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did. Can't wait to talk about it more in my wrap up!
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
January 24, 2018
“I think we're all quite mad. Some of us are just more discreet about it.”

Mindy McGinnis instantly became one of my favourite authors when I received an ARC of This Darkness Mine and found it to be one of the most extraordinary books I had ever read. A few months later I picked up her newest novel The Female of the Species, which was equally captivating. Which is why I then bought A Madness So Discreet. First I fell in love with the title, then with this amazing cover.

A Madness So Discreet was a fascinating novel with some flaws (that I'm happy to overlook because I loved it anyway). I loved the pictures that Mindy drew with her words. They were often dark and macabre, but with its own kind of beauty. The characters were interesting enough, but I wish that especially our main character, Grace, had had more depth. She wasn't at all one-dimensional, but I wished to see more of her thoughts and feelings. It often happened that the plot or dialogues overshadowed what was going on inside of Grace's head and heart. I think this would have made this novel more complex and distinctive.
Apart from this there were two times when a time jump disrupted the pacing of the story. Once it was to create suspense and surprise, but I believe it would have been more effective if it hadn't been left out. The second time also came as quite a surprise, because, suddenly, weeks had passed and it did not fit into the narrative. It felt like the author had written this part of the story, but scrapped it afterwards because it might have taken up too much time and too many pages. So it had been edited out and simplified later.

Overall these characters have so much potential. This book is a perfect opener for a young adult 19th century crime series with a hint of insanity. It wouldn't surprise me if Mindy had a sequel or two in mind when she wrote this. The relationships between the main characters could have been developed in the sequels, since there is still a lot left open for interpretation. Will Grace ever see her sister again? Will Adelaide become a close friend? Will there ever be more than friendship between Grace and the doctor? Will Falsteed ever see the light of day again? And what about the other inhabitants of the asylum?
I doubt that a sequel is going to happen, but I'd be the first one to support it.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for Mel (Daily Prophecy).
1,080 reviews465 followers
November 13, 2015
I loved everything about it. Hello new auto-buy author. This book will definitely be in my top 10 favorite books of 2015.

4.5 stars.

This title is perfect for this book. There is indeed a discreet madness that seeps through the pages. This is a very subtle yet powerful story that will keep you up all night.

Grace is locked away in an asylum to protect her secret. She keeps her sharp mind hidden behind silence, because Grace has one mission: never return to her family, even if that means she has to act like a mental patient. There is one person who sees her potential and he helps her escape to another asylum where Grace makes friends and has hope of a new life.

I love Grace. This girl had to deal with a horrifying situation, but she is still capable of staying strong. This book is all about her mental strength and I adored her voice. She never let the horrifying things that happened to her break her. Instead, she finds a way to build up a new life where she can use her impressive mind. Her clever observations are of use to her friend Thornhollow. He is a doctor with unique methods and he likes to help the police with murder cases. Those cases were unexpected and I liked the mystery. The relationship between Thornhollow and Grace was interesting.

The setting is fantastic. The first asylum is brutal and has the practices we often hear about. The girls are mentally and sometimes physically abused. The second ethical asylum is much better and Grace starts to develop a friendship with two girls. They both stole my heart. Lizzie has a best invisible friend called String who keeps her up to date about gossips and Nell has other issues that keep her off the streets. They are blunt and they have a what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude that I admired.

There is no romance in this book and that is a good decision. The main character is not ready for it and there is enough story to keep you hooked from the beginning. Combine this with a killer writing-style and you find yourself lost until you read the last page!
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,757 followers
February 15, 2016
Edit - Upping my rating to 5 stars (from original 4.5) since it's the end of the month and I'm still gushing about this book! Definitely my favorite read of the month.

Video - 4 Reasons You Should Read This Book! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSkp4...

Why this book is AWESOME:

-Strong female protagonist overcoming legit trauma in her past. She worked through it in such a real and raw way. She has a dark side and makes some bad choices but she was such an empowering character.

-Healthy portrayal of friendships. There were some really strong female friendships in this book, but Grace also had wonderful friendships with men as well. HECK YES. It's so nice to see friendships between both sexes. The characters did not start drama with each other, the friendships were not plot devices, they put their friends in their place when needed but always accepted each other.

-There is no romance in this book! Don't get me wrong, I love a good romance, but it is SO refreshing to see a book, especially in YA, that stands on its own without needing a romantic angle. There is one very minor character that has a crush on Grace, and some characters make assumptions about a romantic relationship between Grace and another character. There is definitely enough delicious tension there that you can ship the heck out of one relationship (I sure did), but it was never developed and was so lowkey and just ugh, BLESS. Honestly, a breath of fresh air.

-It showed respect for mental illness while still exploring the wrongdoings in history. We see 2 different insane asylums in this book. One is a very bad place where the patients are mistreated, and the other is a safe place for them. Many female characters have been placed in the asylum by their family members because they were more sexually promiscuous or outspoken than women "should be" at the time. It's an accurate portrayal of the time period, but every character, whether truly insane or not, was treated as an actual person. Mental illness was not villainized or used as a plot device.

I think you'll enjoy this book if you like any of these:
-Sherlock Holmes - There was this awesome Sherlock, crime scene murder mystery, clue deducing vibe to this book that I think Sherlock fans will enjoy.
-The Cormoran Strike series - It has that private investigator and amateur-but-whip-smart assistant dynamic, PLUS the amazing non romantic working relationship with enough chemistry that you still want them to get together.
-XFiles - Same as above. The mystery solving duo with a platonic working relationship that you hope turns romantic

Content that some readers may want to know of before reading:
-Incest/child abuse.
-Possibly a spoiler, but I know some women are very sensitive to this:

3 things I didn't enjoy, but why they didn't lower my rating:

1. At times I felt the dialogue between Grace and Thornhollow (who have the most interactions in this book) was kind of unnatural. There was a lot of them addressing each other formally as "Doctor" or "my dear." It was bothering me for about 3 scenes that they constantly addressed each other by any title when speaking. But then I got over it because honestly that's an accurate portrayal of how these characters would speak to each other given the time period and their positions.

2. I struggled with the way things wrapped up. It's a very gray area in terms of the motives and morality of these characters. HOWEVER, as I was having these thoughts about the rightness of it, the characters were too. They explained their reasoning so well that even though it wasn't the approach I wanted, I could see in the end how we still got to the same conclusion. I appreciated that it wasn't brushed over, that one of the characters acted as a moral compass, and that it did challenge my thoughts about what was happening.

3. The third thing that bugged me was just a personal hang up that I don't even want to mention because it's so dumb. I realize that it didn't affect the story being told and that other readers wouldn't even notice it. It's just specific to me and personal pet peeves.
Profile Image for Jeann (Happy Indulgence) .
1,006 reviews3,586 followers
January 15, 2016
Actual Rating: 4.5

The haunting atmosphere, the subtle divide between madness and sanity, the twisting murder mystery and the mentorship of an investigative phrenologist - I savoured all of these in A Madness So Discreet. I absolutely LOVED the subtlety of the psychological problems and how even the most insane were found to have more humanity than the people outside of the asylum.

Grace as a character was fascinating, as a pregnant girl cast aside and sent to the asylum. She finds a way to escape her dark secret and the disturbing abuse of a man who is powerful and respected in the community. I loved her character arc of retribution and how she played her cards, under the mentorship of Dr Thornfellow. Subtle, discreet rage and a madness that can only be defined by her dark secret, I really connected to Grace. Seeing her play a mute in the wake of these murders was interesting.

Dr Thornfellow was also an interesting mentor, dedicated to the strange science of phrenology. He can detect murders and profile a suspect just from the way a murder is conducted, time and time again. At times I thought his theories to be a stretch, but I was often proven wrong.

The historical asylum setting, heavily contrasted with the evil of humanity outside of its walls. An unlikely friendship was found between Grace's fellow mental patients, Nell who had the pox and Elizabeth who had an imaginary friend called String. But however they made sense of the world, they were quick to accept Grace as one of their own with a strong kinship and eventually, fierce protection. I'm glad they each found solace in the friendship they shared.

The murder mystery was too easily solved, with everything neatly falling into place. However, it maintained an interesting pace where Thornfellow would seek Grace's intellect on the deaths.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed A Madness So Discreet with it's haunting atmosphere, Gothic thriller and historical asylum setting. It's written beautifully and captures a time where human rights weren't as liberal as they are now.

Check out Happy Indulgence Books for more reviews!
Profile Image for Julie Zantopoulos.
Author 4 books2,239 followers
January 25, 2019
This book was surprisingly really really good. I had heard some mixed reviews and though I have the physical book I listened to the audiobook. I'm really glad that I did because we have a character with a heavy Irish accent and when I checked the book for a page marker I saw that her dialogue was written with an accent, all choppy words, and that would have driven me INSANE! As it is the narration of her character was over the top but seeing that she was actually written that way I can't blame the narrator.

This was an amazing look at rape culture, women's rights, women and sexuality (particularly women who enjoy sex prior to a time where that was socially acceptable), the mental health system of the past, particularly women's place in insane asylums and also forensic science. It was a really interesting look at all of those topics and I felt like they were all handled very well. It wasn't perfect storytelling but it was a great look at the psychology of victims, the strength of survivors and how society treats them.

Trigger Warnings for rape, suicide, murder, mental illness, physical ailments, sexual assault, incest, miscarriage, torture, medical experimentation, abuse, and psychological abuse.
Profile Image for Kyla Harris.
345 reviews252 followers
February 5, 2016
2/4/16 - 3.5 stars
This book as a whole is beautiful. Mindy McGinnis' writing is amazing I could read it a long while. The only thing that really displeased me was that there was no romance in this book whatsoever though I think this is a very non necessary, or fair at that, thing for a book to be rated by, that's exactly what I'm doing. For me a book can't only be based on crimes and murder and getting revenge. There most be subplots and usally for me that is romance... Without it I was hooked to the book at all. I wasn't ever tortured to put it down, never stand up late into the night loosing track of time. No. There was none of that, and that itself is one of my favorite things about reading! If you take a look at my favorite books they take that feeling and make it extreme! They make reading for me literally like a drug. Mingy is an amazing authour and I enjoyed reading her beautiful book, her quotes, similes, metaphors her writing style is amazing. I'm glad I read it, even though it was a struggle to push myslef to read it.

First Added:
I feel like the cover and title of this book is incredible interesting I really want to read it and see if I'll love it as much as it looks! Hopefully my expectations aren't to high!
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,709 reviews703 followers
September 14, 2015
I loved the idea of this story and I had only heard good things about Mindy's other story, so I was quite eager to start.

Love love loved Grace and Thornhollow. They're excellent together and I loved how the banter progressed as the time passed. I really enjoyed the entire cast of characters and found myself wanting more from all of them.

There are definitely some twists in this story that I didn't see coming and the ending was absolutely satisfying.

**Huge thanks to Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews987 followers
September 12, 2016

Actual rating: 3.4

"It’s a madness so discreet that it can walk the streets and be applauded in some circles, but it is madness nonetheless.”

Sanity and insanity. Are these two easily distinguished or things are more complicated than it seems? What is the line between sanity and madness? And what defines it? These existential questions people are trying to answer for centuries and still there's no direct solution or a formula which will calculate the right universal answer for all the problems. A madness so discreet touches a rather subtle topic on which we can easily slip and loose our directions. There's no right or wrong answer - there's only opinions and the truth... is it out there or is it something so fragile and nondescript, that we will never see through it properly?

Welcome to asylum of 1800s (we don't have the specific date the story takes place). It looks something like this one the outside

And like this on the inside

Wayburne Lunatic Asylum of Boston is a place our heroine Grace Mae ended up in after she was shipped off by her relatives.

“The signature of one judge and the word of a male family member and that’s that.” She snapped her fingers. “You’re insane.”

Grace is pregnant with a child her father put in her belly and as a young well-bred girl from a high society she is sheltered from the outside world or any male attention. If people noticed her growing stomach, they would've understood immediately who put that baby inside her, so she is temporarily shipped off to the asylum to fix the "problem" and after to come home as if she came back from a long trip abroad. But things turn out not as expected and Grace looses her child, and after that she joins a young doctor who studies criminal psychology, and as his assistance Grace is submerged in a dark world of crime. But Grace's own darkness threatens to engulf her, and the line between sanity and insanity is even murkier than ever.
“Dear child, do you even know all the rage that is inside you?”

This book is full of agony, filth and heart-wrenching pain. Grace went through hell and it is hard in this situation to stay sane. The way women were treated back then is a very serious issue and we can't look at what was happening without inner flinching. The things that were made to Grace in the asylum are terrible, people are treated like animals and there's no saying if the doctors are insane or the patients are.
“But that’s neither here nor 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 darkness.”

Asylum originally means shelter and not all of the asylums were horrible like this one. Grace will later see the different kind of facility, where people are treated with compassion and care. But unfortunately many of the asylums back then were places for people rejected by society, and they were treated like animals, because of humans' prejudices and lack of understanding of psychology.
“You’d do better to practice your medicine on them that can be healed, Doctor. The works of such as goes on up at the asylum is an offense to nature. Ain’t no survival of the fittest at work anymore when we’re housing the idiots and stocking their kitchens with the food from our own larders.

Also we have an issue with the role of women in society. This is the world made by men and if men can do almost anything and write their own rules, women should follow the rules and if not, there are consequences.
The true reason for her being admitted here is that she is a young woman who takes an active interest in men and feels no shame in it. The world can’t understand this behavior; therefore the girl must be insane.”

What Grace's father did to her is abominable. He is a monster but he has a power in this world and used to having anything he wants. One of the questions: is he sane and it's the power and realization that he can do anything, makes him so cruel (you know he is a powerful senator and power corrupts and such) or is he insane and can't control his cruelty and lust?
“He is mad, Grace. A lifetime of unmitigated power has left his mind skewed and warped. He truly believes that he can do no wrong, building on false logic to legitimize any action, no matter how heinous, as long as he wants it to be so. He’s a spoiled child, Grace, with the appetites of a man, who answers any questioning of his actions with ‘Because I want to.’

Honestly, I don't know if this is true about that man. The author offers us two opinions and we have to decide for ourselves in the end, but I am really at lost what to think of it.

When Grace met Dr. Thornhollow, he was presenting lobotomy on the most exuberant patients. It made them more happier, or more accurate, it made them forget all their memories and feelings and just exist.

Grace watched with a keen eye as the insane went into the dark room at the end of the passage like feral animals and walked out led by Reed, simple and trusting as children. If the slackness of their faces was off-putting, the dead calm of their eyes offset it, promising that the tumult that had once raged within was now at rest.

Though lobotomy officially appeared only in the 20th century, in this book we have something resembling the procedure and it's never called lobotomy directly. Still, it invoked rather conflicted emotions from me. Does it ethically right to take some shreds of clarity from patients, with knowing for sure that they will never regain it and will stay empty dolls for the rest of their lives. From the one side, it is a mercy, given the life in the asylum, but from the other side... This book is full of conflicted emotions and I had not once doubted the reasons and actions of MCs. But again, we are given a perspective and we can agree or disagree with it.

I must add that characters are rather hard to connect with. For example . I'd say Grace is a rather selfish person and sometimes I wanted to slap her soundly. Again, this line between good and bad is very murky with Grace. She can see things for others are harder to notice. Granted, she was in the asylum and saw terrible things and I can understand this pull of the darkness.

“Doctor, it is my weakness. I see everything; I notice all and I remember—the beautiful and the horrific alike I can recall as easily as a daguerreotype that can’t be unseen. It will be the death of me, this remembering.”

Grace remained as she was, empty gaze riveted on the dead body, sketching the details of the scene onto the blankness that she had created inside herself.

But some of her actions were really dubious and the lack of real consequences made it harder for me to accept it.
Thornhollow, on the other hand, is quite the sanest man in this book and a very practical one with a sharp mind and a dedication to science.
“Who is this Dr. Thornhollow you spoke of?” she asked.
“Him? He’s the sanest of us all.”
“Why is that?”
“Because he knows he’s insane.”

You know how they say insane person will never admit to be insane.
“Be wary of Thornhollow, Grace. He’s a good man, by all measures. You have nothing to fear from him that you would from other men. But that is precisely why you must guard yourself. He does not understand human nature, our emotions and attachments. He’s made a place for himself among the insane because it’s easier for him than moving among society. People are a mystery to him.”

At first he uses Grace for her "gift" (though I rather did not see any special talent in her)
Most people will assume you lack reason. They’re bound to say anything in front of you. Words that might pass when I’m out of earshot will be trapped by your meticulous mind. Within the bounds of the asylum you’re free to be more expressive, establish some relationships however you can without using your voice. But among the public you’re my fly on the wall, a carrier of all the information I can’t possibly collect alone.”

But then there's a connection between them, an understanding of things. There wasn't any romance between Grace and Thornhollow. Grace is too damaged to see past her pain and resentment. But I can predict that things can change in the future. Grace and Thornhollow are well suited for each other and with time they will notice more than common interest in criminology between them. I'd say I liked Thornhollow more than Grace. He is rather charming and I liked his intelligence and wit and he, at least, provided the crumbs of humor that made this dark dark book not so dark.
“Meanwhile I’ll be taking a meal with a man I detest, surrounded by people who want to make small talk and wear evening clothes. I may end the night as a patient and not an employee.”
“If so, I assure you that you’ll be under the most excellent care.”

All in all:

- A madness so discreet has a double bottom. When you look at one side and it seems quite obvious what direction things take, but unexpectedly things change and a real deal is in the opposite direction. It's like this book was at first a psychological thriller, then turned into a detective story and then came back to its origins. I am not sure if that was a good change but at least I wasn't bored and some things still managed to properly shock me.

- It is not an easy read and if you are looking for something entertaining and lighter with more clear lines between good and bad, read These Shallow Graves. These two have something in common, but if you want to read about conflicted characters with often questionable ethics and morals, with tortured souls, and where the line between sanity and insanity is so blurred it's hard to tell what is right or wrong - A madness so discreet is definitely your next read.
I think we’re all quite mad. Some of us are just more discreet about it.

Profile Image for Paige  Bookdragon.
938 reviews610 followers
December 3, 2015
3.7 stars


"It's a madness so discreet that it can walk the streets and be applauded in some circles, but it is madness nonetheless."

I'm a fan of books that tackles the dark side of human nature. The irony though is that despite my love for the the evil nature of human, I still want my main character to be relatable.

A Madness So Discreet is a good book. Not great or bad but a good book. Let me start with why I gave it a 3.7 star instead of a solid 4 star.

What I don't like:

A Madness So Discreet came as something half ass to me. It has the potential to be really good and gripping and yet the author wasn't able to make it into the greatness that it can have.

There are moments that some scenes could really scare you and then when you are so ready to be scared shitless, the high is gone. The drive is there but the peak was disappointing.

The characters are also the same with the plot. Let me put it this way. Watching movies in 2D is okay.It's fun and sometimes good. But 3D is better.It feels like you're part of the story. What the casts are doing,you feel like you're with them, you feel like you belong.


What I like:

The concept.My goodness gollywowow. An insane asylum? A patient who stopped speaking? A murder mystery? Count me in!

The character's struggle.

"A darkness has long lived inside me,sown if not by my nature then by nurture."

Let me get philosophical. Remember when someone said that human have two wolves inside us?One is good and one is evil.The one who won is the one which you feed.

Grace is not perfect.Same with the other characters in this book.But I was really touched when I read that they struggle to not become the monster that the society thought they are.

The writing.

Remember that the story was set in the early 19th century so it's all old-timey. The author did a good job for this one. I'm usually not a fan of archaic writing because my nose bleeds when I read them but McGinnis' book is a the right combination of archaic and contemporary writing. It's all oldy and yet it's straight to the point.


No fucking romance

Ever get the feeling that sometimes romance ruins everything?!Where the heroine who was really really level headed and mature 5 chapters ago became an idiot because she saw some abs and sparkling brown eyes?

his book has no lovey dovey and I'm jumping with joy because of that. The author didn't waste any pagesfor some crappy romance and huzzah for that.

The accuracy

During the 19th century,women are treated like shit. You can be put in the asylum just because your vindictive husband wants to. You have few rights and your voice is so small thatthey don't consider a woman's voice credible.

McGinnis captured the horrible life of women back then. I hurt for the characters in the asylum and at the same time I'm in awe that something so heartbreaking was put into words.

Kudos to that.

Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,561 reviews259 followers
November 20, 2015
Grace has an absolutely brilliant mind and an eye for detail. She knows terrible family secrets and has been shipped off to a brutal Boston insane asylum until the bulge in her belly is gone in nine months time. The only way she can deal with her situation is to shut down her mind and lock away her voice, but when it returns in a fit of violence she is relegated to the cellar where all of the worst patients are held. While down there she is discovered by a visiting doctor who also dabbles in the new techniques of criminal psychology, and he realizes she could potentially make a good assistant in the field. This doctor and a fellow patient help her escape with him to his ethical Ohio asylum, a place where she feels hope for the first time in a while and the hint of a life she could have had. While still considered "mad", she uses her position to be the doctor's eyes and ears while assisting him at crime scenes. They soon find themselves on the trail of a serial killer who preys on young women, and Grace soon realizes she'll have to face personal demons if she wants to stay sane.

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis is a fantastic historical thriller. I love the fact that it's mostly set in my home state of Ohio. The progressive Ohio asylum that Grace goes to is pretty heavily based on the real Athens Lunatic Asylum in Athens, Ohio which is now part of Ohio University. Aside from setting, I greatly enjoyed getting to know our characters, Grace Mae especially. She is an interesting lead. She has very little personal agency, at first, to change the hand she's been dealt. She needs to rely heavily on others to ensure her safety and sanity. However, as she faces her demons and thinks of those who mean the world to her, as well on take on an entirely new role that suits her mind, she grows into herself and finds she's able to do what she never would have considered possible.

Overall, A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis comes with recommendations from me. This compellingly written, dark historical thriller is a must read of the season. If you like Sherlock and American Horror Story: Asylum, you will not want to miss this new novel.
Profile Image for Jess.
504 reviews118 followers
November 6, 2016
So this was an unexpected page turner of a book for me. I saw it while at the library and picked it up on an impulse. What a novel idea of a plot that was not only heart wrenching but also so clinically detached and logical. I loved it. I actually am super curious to see if this will be the beginning of a series, which I sincerely hope will be the case. McGinnis has created far too interesting characters to let them remain as is, in my humble opinion as a reader.

What Is It About (keeping it brief because you all can read the GR synopsis as well): Grace Mae has been dealt a most awful turn of life. As an inmate in an insane asylum in Boston, her situation is a far cry from that of being a prominent Senator's daughter. However, abysmal and tortuous (I mean that in a literal sense) her situation is; she is safe from the attentions of the man who put her there. The man who sexually abused her and institutionalized her to deliver his baby and then return to her life. She retreats and eagerly hopes for death's embrace or oblivion. When a doctor who moonlights at the asylum encounters her keen mind and talent in detached observation of the macabre; he devises a way to free her from her purgatory before returning to hell. The catch is that she must assist him in his criminal psychology endeavors in solving murders. She accepts and is launched into a world she has never know and meets people she never expected to meet. A stellar read and it captured me instantly.

My Reactions: I was intrigued and horrified with the conditions of the asylums. The idea that mental illness is caused by heat to the brain and ice cold baths is a cure is mystifying. As well as the idea that by feeling the skull (phrenology) can tell you about a personality. I loved the logic and the attention to detail that Grace exhibits. Her savior is intriguing; I think there is more to his story. Her initial champion rotting in the cellar for his crimes stands out. He has a dark past, is committed to his cause, yet still has redemptive characteristics- I love a complex character. The descriptions of syphilitic behavior, mercury treatments, and the inevitable conclusion was also interesting. I would recommend this one.
Profile Image for Ayesha {Heir of Bookdom}.
235 reviews309 followers
December 24, 2018
“I think we're all quite mad. Some of us are just more discreet about it.”

Whoa this book was really something. It's honestly one of the most under-appreciated and under-rated books I've ever read.

The story follows Grace, a selective mute who's locked up in a mental asylum, but doesn't deserve to be here. Harboring dark family secrets and a child inside her, she sees an opportunity to escape and risks everything to finally be free from the past that haunts her, but to do so she must delve into a world of criminals and madmen.

Honestly from the moment I read the premise, I knew this book was meant for me. It's like a reading a mix of Shutter Island and an episode of Criminal Minds, all set in the late 19th century.

The characterizations were beautifully done. Although the author doesn't delve too deep into physical appearances, leaving a lot to the readers imagination, their personality is vividly stated in each of their actions.
Grace was, in a sense, a traditional tragic heroine, but unlike most female characters from that time, she was unabashed in her beliefs and didn't take crap from anyone. What I liked most about her was that she always chose to save herself and those she loved rather than relying on others.
Thornhollow was an immediate favorite of mine, his awkwardice and selfishness showed a very realistic character, and nothing like a Gary Stu.
The side characters were perhaps the most cherishable of all. Both Nancy and Falsteed resonated deeply with me and I would have loved to read more about them.

Perhaps the best thing about this book was the writing style. I think it's very hard for most authors to balance an interesting plot with purple prose and good vocabulary, but this book managed it wonderfully.

I'm really looking forward to reading more books by McGinnis and seriously hope for a movie adaptation soon!
Profile Image for Naudia .
98 reviews15 followers
November 17, 2015
"I think we're all quite mad. Some of us are just more discreet about it."

Yes. Yes. Yes.

But first! Logistics.

Grace Mae knows madness. This is the truest statement if I've ever seen one. Grace is one of many people in the asylum being kept there under false pretenses, and a tragic event further secures her family's mantra of her being "insane" or "mad".

Grace Mae and Doctor Thornhollow solve crimes together, and I often found myself trying to piece together clues and solve the things myself. This acts as somewhat of a sub-plot, because everything ties together into the main plot itself.

Next! Opinions!

A Madness So Discreet was written soooo well. Honestly, the material was handled so beautifully. A 'madwoman' and a Doctor solve crimes together. Sherlock and Watson vibes? My guess is yes, and I very much enjoyed that!

But this asylum, you guys. This asylum and the people in charge are just plain nasty. They were evil. The things that took place, along with the somewhat poetic aura of the people completely subject to this savagery, made me ache. There was just something about the very somber, melancholy undertone; I loved it. But the writing; I cannot stress this enough , was damn near flawless.


"The signature of one judge and the word of a male family member and that's that." She snapped her fingers. "You're insane." This just grinds my gears, folks. But this story takes place in the 1800's, and that's just the way things were.

But the fact that the author took the time to give the minor characters, (who are asylum inmates as well), their own personalities and individual struggles made me admire this book even more. She could have easily swept them under the rug and focused solely on the MC, which is done so much in books now, I didn't know how much better minor characters made a story until I finished reading this.


One thing to keep in mind while reading this, though, is that it is a little on the slow side. It resembles Not A Drop To Drink in that aspect. There's no break-neck action, and plot-twists smacking you in the face at every turn. I love books like that, but I was not bothered by the pace of this story. But this still takes a little sticking with. Just focus on the message behind it, and what the characters and their predicament are trying to tell you.

But if you're not one for slow stories, then I wouldn't recommend this one.

"Simply using the words sane and insane is a way for the population to draw a safe line through humanity, and then place themselves squarely on the side of the healthy."

If a quote could better describe the book it's in, and the way society is today, please tell me where to find it.

Profile Image for Annamaria .
353 reviews53 followers
October 30, 2017
"The original meaning of the word asylum is, in fact, protection. I hope you have found it to be so in your bright surroundings, as I have found my own niche here in the dark."

I didn't know much going into this book, I usually get so blinded by beautiful covers that, here on Goodreads, I just need to look at the book's shelves and decide whether to pick it up or not. Here the cover is stunning and words such as horror and gothic convinced me. Does that make me shallow? Maybe, but who cares? The cover though is deceitful. Beautiful, but deceitful. I'm a simple woman though and I didn't have great expectations diving into this story so that didn't bother me so much.

First of all, plot-wise, trigger warning for rape. It is not graphic at all and is also explicitly mentioned few times. The story is the story of Grace, she's been put into an asylum after she got pregnant at the filthy hands of her father. She's supposed to be spending her pregnancy there while society thinks she's just enjoying an holiday in Europe. Her condintion is an awful one. If you watched American Horror Story: Asylum that's pretty much it. Although AHS was sick as hell! She later on manages to escape this nightmare (I'm trying to follow the synopsis here so I don't think I'm spoiling anything important) thanks to Doctor Thornhollow who, after having secured here into another (decent this time) asylum, introduces her to the forensic sciences and deductive skills as to make her his partner on crime scenes since she's got a strong memory and stomach for this kind of things.

"Their chalkboard had always consisted of black and white, but the reality was grey, and she struggled with the pain of learning it."

The plot follows many story lines: we've got a murder case, Grace's life inside the asylum (the female friendship here was glorious!), her attempts at securing her sister's life (who still lives with that monster of their father) and her peculiar work relation with the doctor. I really liked how the romance didn't escalate the way I thought it would have. I really loved how those deemed insane had stories to tell and different personalities from one another. I feared they were just going to be the silly ones surrounding the true one and only "normal" protagonist. This wasn't the case. Grace's character was a pretty good one too: she's sweet and strong willed, a bit stubborn and kinda reckless sometimes.

I said that the cover is deceitful because you'd think that madness drove the entire narrative of the story. Grace must suffer from a severe case of depression because who wouldn't when your life has been marked by rape and death, but she's not an unreliable narrator (thing that I assumed looking at the cover), she's so very lucid instead and the story is pretty straightforward.

Overall I did really enjoy reading this book. I get why people might not like it, it is not action packed and is kinda slow, but, again, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

"Emotions had welled close to the surface, and she thought her heart had never felt as full as it did standing next to the defiled grave of a whore while lunatics sang a patriotic song."

I don't know why but this quote stuck with me for the entire duration book!
Profile Image for Iara Picolo.
103 reviews137 followers
September 24, 2016
Vamos lá, cartas na mesa ok? Comecei esse livro achando que seria uma linda história sobre uma menininha que acha ser louca (quando ela é completamente só um ser humano) e aí um príncipe encantado vem e salva ela da própria loucura (que nem existe). Sério. Eu achei que seria isso mesmo. Então, o livro veio e falou BUUUUUUUUUUURRRNN BIIIIIIIIITCH, bem na minha cara.
O livro conta a história da Grace, uma menina que está em um hospício, grávida. E ali dentro ela começa a descobrir o que é insanidade e o que é normalidade e como a barreira entre essas duas coisas é fina. Através da história vamos conhecendo o passado dela, sua família e nas entrelinhas estão os motivos de ela ter parado ali, a construção daquela sociedade e bem, quem é o pai da criança.
Me surpreendi mesmo. Adorei a personagem e adorei como as outras personagens são tão incríveis como a Grace. Amo/sou livros que me dão tapas na cara. Manda mais produção, que tá faltando!
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews838 followers
September 1, 2015
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

What I Liked:

Of McGinnis's three books, this one would be my favorite. Yes, all three books have received three stars from me. I thought Not a Drop to Drink was okay, and I liked In a Handful of Dust slightly less, but this one was different. Strange, twisted, dark, but very refreshing in YA. I know there were certain things that I personally didn't like, but I can't fault McGinnis's talent as a writer.

Grace has been sent to an asylum by her family, who has told polite society that she is on a European vacation. Truth be told, someone raped her, and she's pregnant. She isn't the first female this man has taken advantage of. This Boston senator has a magnetic personality, as well as a good deal of power. The insane asylum is filled with truly insane people, but Grace is not one of them. When an opportunity hits, and Grace is smuggled out of the asylum, she is given a chance to work with a doctor working in criminal psychology. She and the doctor work in the dead of night, investigating murders and crime scenes. But a particularly frightening series of killings has strikes Grace in a personal way. When past and present collide, will madness win?

First thing I'd like to note is the setting. McGinnis masterfully created this historical world of the Americas. I believe it is nineteenth-century America, in Boston. I studied U.S. history enough to know the horrors of insane asylums back then (even now though...). As well as medical practices! Our doctor, Dr. Thornhollow, has some, ah, interesting methods of doctoring. But as to be expected. I LOVE how Phineas Gage is such a big influence in this book - I've studied him in Psychology classes, and have always been fascinated by him!

This book is written in third person, limited to Grace's point-of-view. After being in the asylum for so long, Grace truly believes that she is nothing, and only survives for what grows inside her. But as the story goes on, Grace finds her voice - literally and figuratively. She'd been silent too long in the asylum. It was chance that brought her out of the asylum, and she does not throw away her opportunities. She has a sharp memory and an eye for detail, making her a perfect assistant to Dr. Thornhollow, and she accompanies him to crime scenes. I like Grace, though I didn't feel a strong connection to her. Perhaps a third-person issue.

Dr. Thornhollow is an odd fellow. He is a young doctor, studying phrenology - pseudoscience. He is obsessed with the brain, and wants to analyze the brains of criminals. He is very kind to Grace, despite the fact that he pretty much ignores emotions and emotional connections to humans, and is very invested in his work. He isn't insane, yet he is driven and dedicated to his strange work.

To be honest, I didn't read the summary of this book before picking it up from Edelweiss months ago. That's some faith in the author, especially after her first two books being three-star reads. While this one was also a three-star read, I rather enjoyed it. It was hard to read at times, but once Thornhollow enters the picture, things get MUCH more readable. Other characters turn up too, and I really like those characters. Lizzie, Nell, Adelaide - especially Adelaide, she is a favorite.

So I think I was pleased with this book overall, though I could never see himself rereading it. I don't regret picking it up at all, though I struggled a bit while reading it (see below). I will probably continue reading McGinnis's books in the future!

What I Did Not Like:

The first, hmm, fifth of this book was very hard for me to read. For one, I didn't read the synopsis of this book, so I didn't know that Grace would not be in the insane asylum for the entire book. She gets out of there after about a fifth of the book of so. But I didn't know this (I didn't read the synopsis, just picked up the book based on the author's name alone). I almost stopped reading.

The beginning was hard for me. Grace is treated terribly, cruelly, almost like torture. Physical torture, emotional torture, mental torture. Grace is withered to nothing, physically and emotionally. She never speaks, never cries out, never fights. "No" stopped meaning anything, after, well, what got her into the asylum. I couldn't stand how Grace was treated, though I know it was all very authentic and plausible, and the author did an amazing (and chilling) job with this. But... that doesn't mean I had to enjoy it or think it was great.

So I almost DNF'd. Then Thornhollow entered the picture, and I breathed a little. The book is much easier to read, and much faster to read, once Grace gets out of the asylum. Not to say that terrible and chilling things stop happening - they keep coming. But they more manageable, easier to stomach. If that makes sense.

I personally think the big answer/solution to the crime mystery they were solving was too hastily rushed, towards the end, and the climax was too abrupt. Of course, this could very well be an Alyssa opinion, but the climax was done in the snap of fingers. You could almost miss it, if you're not careful. And then something else happens - it's not really falling action, or a denouement. I didn't really like how the ending kind of just happened, especially how conveniently it did. Emotionally, I don't really think the author tied things up, in terms of Grace's mental/emotional mindset. As well as with the culprit, and the other criminal at the very end. Something just felt like it was missing.

Also, this isn't a dislike necessarily, but there is no romance in this book. None whatsoever. Don't expect any or go looking for any.

Would I Recommend It:

I don't know if I would recommend this book to just ANYONE. This isn't a natural crowd-pleaser, one of those books that everyone likes. McGinnis's books attract a certain, narrow audience, so you kind of have to know if you're one of those people or not. I personally liked the book, but didn't love it, and probably wouldn't have glanced at it twice if I hadn't heard of the author. Don't read this if you're sensitive to rape, pregnancy from rape, suicide, torture, death, murder, etc.


3 stars. I know I've rated all three of McGinnis's novels with 3 stars, but I still think I'll be looking for more by McGinnis! She's a very talented writer, and I like reading her books, though I think they may not be for me. I always love seeing what she comes up with!
Profile Image for Neil (or bleed).
965 reviews741 followers
June 16, 2015
With a beautiful and intriguing cover, I thought A Madness So Discreet had failed to mesmerize or even fully haunt me. But I will not deny the fact that I still liked it and enjoyed and consumed some aspects this book had offered.

The beginning was pretty creepy and disturbing; the main character being in an asylum filled with horrors, terrors and madness is creepy and disturbing, right? And it is kinda haunting and felt like the horrors were starting to seep on my veins. Then, I've geared up myself for what is coming since I'm getting afraid at that moment I've been reading the book and then, and then... Sigh. It turned to a murder-mystery kind of novel. Which I found generic and captivating at the same time. I mean the plot is generic but I found the way they solve crimes interesting and intelligent.

So, I'm kind of disappointed but again I liked some things on this book, hence, 3 stars. First off, the concept (which is about madness, obviously) of the book has been laid out well. It's up to the readers how will interpret what he/she reads. For me, I agree with the title that madness is discreet.

Second, I like the characters. I found their voices compelling to read. And I have drawn and loved their conversations and dialogues, especially between Grace and Dr. Thornhollow when they're solving mysteries. Since I thought it captured well the historical theme of the book and their dialogues weren't non-sense. I actually learned from them.
Profile Image for Stephanie (Bookfever).
983 reviews113 followers
October 8, 2015
A Madness So Discreet was a unique book. I haven't read a story quite like it, but it was really good!

I'm not sure what to say about the book because it was so different from anything else I've read. I really liked the main character, Grace. She was so strong, especially towards the end. She wasn't totally sane and herself at times, but who can blame her?

The start of the book was rather confusing to me, starting with Grace being pregnant and stuck in an insane asylum so it took me a few chapters to really get into the story.

This book had some tough and mature subjects, making this book a bit heavy and dark. I happen to love books that are like that so obviously I loved this aspect of it.

Doctor Thornhollow was probably my favorite character in the book. I just loved the relationship between him and Grace so much and how they connected.

Overall, A Madness So Disctreet was a really well-written story that I couldn't help but be fascinated by. I loved the characters and even their darkness within. I'd love to read more by this author!
Profile Image for Alyssa.
632 reviews595 followers
October 14, 2015
“These are your friends now, Grace Mae. A madman who eats cancer in the dark and another who searches for a different kind of killer, the kind that smiles at you in the light of day. This is your new life. I hope you can stand it.”
McGinnis first impressed me with her dystopian/survival stories in NOT A DROP TO DRINK and IN A HANDFUL OF DUST. When I found out she was tackling something totally new I was a little hesitant, but excited. Although I had a few issues with A MADNESS SO DISCREET, I have a lot of love for the book, and I might even say I enjoyed it more than NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

A MADNESS SO DISCREET starts off a bit mysterious. Our protagonist, Grace, a seemingly normal higher class girl, finds herself pregnant in an insane asylum and the urge to find out why and what exactly is going on is strong and kept me flipping pages for a long time. I read this entire book in one sitting, and enjoyed every second of it.

I do have to say that it seemed like this book lost its way a little around the last 20% though. The story took sort of an odd turn and it felt like new goals were being introduced at the last minute, leading to them being wrapped up a little haphazardly. Still, this section was entertaining and the conclusion felt like a true resolution, even if I disagreed with how some things were handled. That doesn’t stop me from wanting more from this world though, I would absolutely love to see a companion novel HINT HINT.

The writing was absolutely fantastic. It was descriptive and imaginative, but it never slowed down the pacing or attempt to fill the pages by describing unnecessary things. Usually I have trouble finding quotes to share but here I had a problem of limiting myself on which ones to pick.
“Grace had learned long ago that
the true horrors of this world were other people.”
I found Grace and the other characters in this book to be truly refreshing, even the very minor characters. They all had depth and distinctive personalities and quirks, they feel like real people and I loved how unique they were, completely unlike any other characters I could think of.

There is no romance in this book, and it is a welcome change. I don’t think it would have worked well here since Grace is in a vulnerable place. Instead, the book focuses on Grace’s journey and internal struggles and developing friendships. It was so fun to see the different dynamic she had with each character.

There’s humor too! It was somewhat subtle and witty, but there were genuinely funny moments that fit my sense of humor perfectly, and added something extra to the story.

A MADNESS SO DISCREET is another marvelous story by Mindy McGinnis, and one of my favorite reads of 2015. Plus, it’s an especially good read for October.
“They work their discreet types of madness on us, power and pain,and we hold to our truths in the darkness.”
Quotes from an eARC and should be checked against a finished copy.

This review was originally posted on Readers in Wonderland.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,944 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.