Johnson, Maureen. The Madness Underneath. Putnam, 2013. 290p. Grades 6-12. Mystery/Thriller. (Book 2 of the Shades of London series)
In this second book of Johnson’s “Shades of London” series, Rory Deveraux escapes the watchful eye of her parents in Bristol and returns to London to work for the Shades—the city’s ghost-hunting police—with her newfound capacity as a human terminus, able to eliminate ghosts upon contact. The Shades begin to investigate yet another string of deaths with a possible paranormal connection when Rory stumbles upon evidence that a far larger, far more dangerous game is in play than anyone expected.
Thoughts- I feel like I didn’t really choose to read this book; rather, I had to read it after finishing The Name of the Star. I literally read the last page of that book, closed it, found my keys, and drove to Barnes and Noble to buy the sequel…which I proceeded to read in one afternoon/evening. Obviously, Johnson’s books are compulsively readable—the plot is fast-paced, the characters are believable, the dialogue is witty and so true to life, and the books are just FUN. I did find The Madness Underneath to be more of a “series” book than The Name of the Star—it has a sheer drop cliffhanger of an ending and the mystery plot doesn’t stand alone quite as much as the first book’s did. Also, while the characters (especially the members of the Shades) develop quite a lot over the course of Madness, the reader is dropped into the story in media res and there is virtually no “re-introduction” to them. Additionally, sometimes the storyline seemed like a set-up for books 3 and 4, something I tend to see more in the first entries in series.
My only complaint about The Madness Underneath is that the pacing is almost too fast. I felt like I blasted through the story so quickly (even with flipping to the end so I’d be able to slow down!) that I missed things. A slower pace might have forced me to pay closer attention to details or it might just have been boring—I’m not really sure. Overall, I think Johnson’s book will be immensely popular with readers of The Name of the Star, and that it is a fitting sequel to that tale. While it seems firmly planted on the fluffier side of YA literature (a side I often like to be situated on), the two books in the “Shades of London” series were some of the most fun stories I read all semester.