This historical mystery is at home with many books by some of my favorite adult authors like Deanna Raybourne, Victoria Thompson and P. B. Ryan. It is well written and heartbreaking, and a little chilling in the end. If you enjoy a great mystery with a protagonist who survives despite the odds, this book definitely needs to go home with you today.
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.
I thought this book was amazing, not only because it was just horrifying enough to keep me glued to the pages, but because it had a cast of characters who showed what it means to survive and perhaps thrive even when life gives you the rawest deal. I wasn’t sure where this book was headed for a quite some time. The bleak situation Grace finds herself in at the beginning of the novel seems inescapable. However, when Grace is at her lowest, an opportunity presents itself that changes everything. The story shifts from being an exploration of Victorian madhouse horror to a very smart hunt for a serial killer. It maintains the thread started in the beginning of the book, but it does take on a increasing complexity that readers will find fascinating and satisfying. However, it isn’t only the plot that makes this such an engaging read. Grace is a narrative voice that I found compelling from the first page. Her reactions ring so true for her situation, and she felt like a very real person to me. I absolutely adored the woman she became by the end, and I think you little dark hearts will as well. She isn’t the only carefully crafted character – this book is populated by people who feel so real and so alive. If I had to pick a favorite, I would be hard pressed because there were so many of them that I loved. Seriously – even the villains are completely realized and nuanced. And this book is devious, too. Unexpected twists and surprising turns pop up to remind you that madness is, indeed, discreet. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading this book, and I think many, many other readers will as well. While the book is appropriate for high school readers, it is a little horrifying and a lot sophisticated, so the interest level will be for more mature high school readers. I do think that this book has a much broader appeal than to the YA crowd. This was better than a lot of historical adult mysteries, and I would recommend it to fans of Deanna Raybourne’s Lady Julia Gray series or readers of P.B. Ryan’s Nell Sweeney’s mysteries (and if you enjoyed this book, those two series will leave you thrilled). I am going to put this author on my “buy without hesitation” list, and I would be surprised if most readers don’t walk away feeling the same way.
I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.