11 December 2012

Book (P)Review: The Madness Underneath: Shades of London volume II by Maureen Johnson

Last year I wrote a review for The Name of the Star, book one in the Shades of London trilogy and one which fairly scared the pants off me. The Madness Underneath is Maureen Johnson's sequel, and while I enjoyed it very much, it didn't get my spook on the way the previous one did.  Which for me is unequivocally a good thing.

When we left Rory at the end of book one, she had just survived a brutal attack and made the unpleasant discovery that she was a human terminus--that is, a vessel for destroying ghosts by touch. This book picks up in a typical London pub one morning, except that the barkeep and his assistant experience something quite atypical down in the cellar and only one of them comes out alive. Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Bristol with her parents, Rory meets with her therapist to deal with the PTSD from her near-death experience, except that she cannot actually say anything truthful about it because we all know that talking about ghosts and spirits and the whole paranormal thing isn't the best way to remove oneself from psychiatric supervision.

The therapist eventually suggests that Rory is ready to return to Wexford, for which she is simultaneously grateful and alarmed. The former for obvs reasons, the latter because she has done zero homework in her weeks away from the classroom and therefore the word "impossible" is the greatest understatement of the year regarding her ability to catch up in time for end of semester exams. Jerome & Jazza and the other Wexfordians are all there, but ho, ho, ho, Ms Johnson wants us to think (or at least wants Rory to think) that the ghost squad has abandoned her.  Oh, no, no, we do not fall for that at all, and soon our faith is rewarded by a midnight assignation in the Underground.

I won't say more about the plot for now, other than a whole lotta Bedlam shakes loose, but it's a fun & breezy read (I read it on a flight from Hartford to Atlanta) filled with Johnson's signature humor and just a touch of romance. Here are some of my dog-eared passages:

"I had to restrain myself. It doesn't look good if your therapist asks you how you learned about death and you practically jump off the couch in excitement because that's pretty much your favorite story ever. But as it happens, I have a really good 'learning about death' story."

"(Also, for the record, if someone is called a Romantic, it should mean some sexy times, I think. Instead, what it really means is people in puffy shirts who probably had a lot of real-life sexytimes, but produced almost exclusively pictures of hillsides or people in dramatic poses, like pretending to be Ophelia dead in a swamp. I definitely call shenanigans on this.)"

NB: I read an advance reading copy of this book provided by our children's Penguin rep. It will be published in February 2013 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. 


  1. Ooh, I can't wait to read this one! Though I must admit the creepy factor of the first one was my favorite part :)

    1. The creep factor was definitely what made the first one a page-turner, stay-up-all-night book for me, but this one is quite good, too. :)

  2. Yessssssss. I'm so excited about this! Also, I laughed out loud at the coffeeshop I'm sitting in when I read those two lines you quoted. Bless Rory. And MJ.

    1. I've been calling shenanigans on many thing in my life since reading this book. I think I'd probably encountered the phrase before, but this time around it stuck.


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