Saturday, June 8, 2013

Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Author: Maureen Johnson

Series: Shades of London #2

ISBN: 9780399256615

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
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.

I reviewed “The Name of the Star” some time ago and I was not very impressed with it. As an avid Ripper follower I thought I would have gotten into the story rather quickly, but alas all I saw were problems, uninteresting characters, and an evil that made me think of Dr. Evil from Austin Powers (you know, wants to be evil but is really just comical?). When I picked up “The Madness Underneath” it was just because I was determined to continue the series whether I liked it or not. I am a stickler for finishing what I start and this was no exception.

First thing is first, I absolutely love the redesign and matching covers of the two books. It makes the cover whore in me smile. I found this cover to be intriguing and I loved the purple coloring. Next, I noticed that it was not as thick as “The Name of the Star” which I appreciated. Johnson took some of the useless details that she had used in the first novel out and was better at delivering the plot of the story. Finally, the characters seemed more personable in this book than the last. I have no clue what happened that changed Rory from irritating ditz to relatable girl but whatever magic Johnson weaved, it worked. I found Rory to be delightful in this. Possibly because she was not the constant victim in this book. She fought back a lot more which made for a nod of pride from me as a reader.

Most of this book was Rory confronting the aftermath of her brush with The Ripper in the first book. It delved into her psychology, which as a psychology major made me extremely happy. I was glad that the budding romance between Stephen and Rory was explored a little more and found myself actually swooning for two characters to finally make a go of things that originally I had detested to the highest regard.

In this book, Rory finds out that not just her psychological stability is shaken from her explosive climax with The Ripper. Apparently the occurrence may have been so traumatic that it also stirred up the long buried ghosts that reside under the foundation of London. It was interesting to watch Rory actually do detective work for herself instead of just following the lead of the Shades. The terminus state of her body made her feel stronger and more confident which led her to be almost stubborn in her determination to be involved with the ghost hunting police squad. Who doesn’t like a girl who won’t take no for an answer? I love empowered female leads and seeing Rory turn into that from the sniveling weakling she seemed in the first book was a welcome change.

In conclusion, this book blew my expectations out of the water. I highly expected to cast this book aside just like the first with a snort and a roll of the eyes. Instead I found myself intrigued, perplexed, and generally happy with the way the book turned out. It is always nice when a series doesn’t continue the way you thought it was going to and turns into a book you enjoyed.

The book was not perfect, but what book is really. Only a select few in my opinion. This one straddled the line between being okay and being impressive. If there were a way to skip over the first book and read this book alone, I would suggest it, but, alas, you must slog through the first to get to the this book otherwise you’d have no clue what is occurring between the characters.

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