The Madness Underneath | Maureen Johnson | Audiobook Review

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 by Maureen Johnson | Good Books And Good Wine

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.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Great review, right in line with what I’ve heard from others. I am still on the fence about giving this one a shot.

  2. I’ve been dying (HA! Pun totally intended) to get my hands on this series, especially knowing that the first book was vaguely Jack the Ripper-esque. I’m, like, somewhat obsessed. Unfortunately though, it sounds like The Madness Underneath is suffering from sequel suck syndrome. It’s always hard to keep such a suspenseful plot going when you start out with such a bang but then all of book #2 is virtually spent in the protagonist’s head. Hopefully book #3 will amp up the heat and blow everyone away. I’m a super big fan of audiobooks, especially when done well, so I think I’ll opt for the audio version of this series.

    • Ahahaha I love puns. The first book is SO cool. So like you should at least read The Name Of The Star. It’s awesome that you are OBSESSED with Jack the Ripper, it is quite fascinating.

      Dude I hope book 3 is way more awesome than this one.

      YES YES YES do the audio book!

  3. I’ve been hesitant about picking up this book because I’ve not had much luck when it comes to Maureen Johnson. The only book I’ve truly loved from her was The Name of the Star, and it worries me that this is a sequel to it. I’m glad you were able to be honest in your review; I feel much more prepared going into this one now!

    • I did not know that you weren’t a super Maureen Johnson fan! I like her other books but I am not big on her sequels — like I didn’t love The Last Little Blue Envelope.

      Glad to be of service!

  4. Yuuupp. Looks like we came out pretty much of one mind on this one. I don’t mind the introspection, but…nothing happened. I really missed our other characters, and HATED the ending. I do appreciate when authors do unexpected things, but to me, the whole set up for future plot lines in this series just makes me groan, and I’m totally turned off. Thanks for the review love, April! <3

    • Yeah — I am cool with introspection but I prefer that there be some action to balance that out or that the introspection makes me think/ruminate deeply.

      I missed Jazza and Boo SOOOOO much.

      The ending was dumb.

      I will totally almost always link you if you’ve reviewed the book I’m reviewing before me, ha ha. <333

  5. I loved the first book so much but the plot for this one was just so slow and lacking. I thought the ending was killer though and I’m dying for the third book.

  6. UGH! Is all I can say about this one. Your comment about it not living up to the hype of book 1 is exactly right. Though it wasn’t nearly as good as The Name of the Star and I do not like the direction of this story at all. I actually am pleased with how the Jerome storyline worked out. I was so bored with him. And I can see with Rory’s PTSD and her trying to figure out her life, that she was introspective. But I did miss the other characters. STEPHEN is my favorite favorite!! I LOATHED the Jane the therapist plotline. It made NO SENSE. And the end *sobs*. TAKE IT BACK MJ!

    • THANK GOD I AM NOT ALONE IN THIS. Like, I freakin loved The Name Of The Star and just where the story went is super annoying. I’m not entirely in love with the Jerome storyline, but I do see what you mean by him being boring.

      Stephen is the best.

      OMG, yes the Jane plot line sucked and I hated how that turned out and being overly analytical I think to myself, hmm is this book anti-therapy, because it totally also did not work out with her other therapist either. IDK, that’s how I read it and that annoys me.

      I totally echo those sentiments TAKE IT BACK!!

  7. I adored the audiobook of the first one, and have no doubt the second book will be just as rad on audiobook!

    I’m sorry to hear that this one didn’t live up to the greatness of the first one, mainly because people were so far in the background. And the ending sounds lamesauce.

    Regardless, I think Rory is pretty awesome and I’ll still give it a whirl!

    • As far as audiobook production goes — this one is flawless.

      Yeah, the ending sucks. And yes, it’s nowhere as awesome as the first.

      I hope you do end up loving it! <3

  8. I just reread the first one in this series and loved it almost as much as I did the first time! I can’t wait to finally read the second one. 🙂 I have the physical book, but it’s great to hear that the audio is so good!

  9. Sadly I didn’t like this one nearly as much either. I adored the first book so much and this one didn’t even come close. 🙁