Note: This review will contain spoilers for The Name Of The Star. If you don’t want to be spoiled, I would suggest clicking here and reading my review for The Name Of The Star instead.
You know how sometimes you really hype up a sequel in your head because OMG BOOK ONE WAS SO AMAZING? Yes? Well, you guys I totally hyped up The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson in my head because I totally LOVED The Name Of The Star. I loved how creepy and scary it was. I loved the characterization of Rory, the southern belle in England (not that she’s a southern belle, but you know she’s from Louisiana). Unfortunately, I didn’t quite gel as much with The Madness Underneath as I did with The Name Of The Star.
The Madness Underneath starts with a mysterious prologue — there’s a pub and the owner goes to the basement to check out a new crack in the floor. The owner does not come back up. AND BOOM we move back into Rory’s perspective. After surviving being slashed by a ghost, Rory is dealing with a bit of PTSD. She is no longer at Wexford Academy and is in therapy. Unfortunately, Rory is unable to talk about what happened to her because hello, no one would believe that she was attacked by a ghost. Eventually, Rory returns to Wexford, but everything has changed. Also? There’s a new string of mysterious murders and WHOA there are no more termini, except, hmmm, Rory has this new, mysterious power. What follows is a race against the clock to find out who or what the murderer is and, yay, a reemergence of the Shades (the ghost-police)!
I will say, I actually still like Rory as a character – her mopey-ness isn’t the reason for my not loving The Madness Underneath. I thought her PTSD was well-done. Like, I didn’t expect her to be her chipper and cheerful self in this book because obviously she went through something totally awful at the end of the first book. I also found her need to talk about what happened to her, but being unable to do so (as she wasn’t to contact the ghost police and signed the secret clause) to be kind of realistic – I mean, it was believable to me. I think that her suffering was well-drawn. However, I won’t lie and pretend that I didn’t miss her spark – I totally did. Yet, that was not my quibble with this sequel.
Rather, my quibbles lie with characterization of the secondary characters and with the ending. I wish that we had gotten more of Boo and Jazza with this book, but unfortunately they are so much on the periphery. A lot of the book is Rory doing internal thinking – which is fine, but I just really missed the other characters. I wasn’t satisfied with how things played out with Jerome, nor with the other male characters – namely Stephen and Callum (note I read the audiobook, so my spelling of character names might be off). I just thought those characters came across as really under utilized and under developed. I also really hated the ending. I know, I know. I will not spoil it for you, except to say that it kind of comes out of left field and was awful.
Despite my misgivings, I did really like the audiobook production of The Madness Underneath. Nicola Barber reprises her role narrating Maureen Johnson’s latest and she does an excellent job. Barber continues with the various accents and character voices. The production quality is super – there’s no weird mouth noises or outside sounds. Plus – the audiobook is super short – it’s only 7 hours and 53 minutes long. Also? The audiobook is produced by Brilliance Audio, which in my mind is synonymous with quality. If you do want to continue the Shades Of London series, I totally recommend going the audiobook route.
Disclosure: I received a Netgalley copy for review but ended up purchasing and listening to the audiobook instead.
Other reviews of The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson:
Coffee And Wizards – “Maureen Johnson’s novels are a force of their own that must be experienced to be believed.”
The Book Smugglers – “it suffers from a disconnected plot and Middle Book Syndrome.”
Bunbury In The Stacks – “I’m afraid the Shades of London and I are at an impasse.”