Book 2 of the Shades of London
By Maureen Johnson
Available now from Putnam (Penguin)
Warning: There are major spoilers for book one in this review. I advise you to read it first.
In THE NAME OF THE STAR, book one of the Shades of London series, American exchange student Rory discovered that she could see ghosts. Her ability got her mixed up with the Shades - Boo, Callum, and Stephen - and their hunt for a man copying the Jack the Ripper murders. Rory's trying to recover mentally from her stabbing, but she's having trouble. It doesn't help that she's been turned into a human terminus and any time she touches a ghost they blast off into the unknown.
I loved the character development in THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH. All of the relationships from THE NAME OF THE STAR have changed, mostly because Rory has changed. This is not a series where the heroine easily bounces back. Rory needs therapy and support, and she mostly gets it, but she's blocked off from a great deal of help by the fact that she can't tell people she was attacked by a murderous ghost.
Plus Rory's voice is irresistible. Maureen Johnson manages to inject a great deal of humor into a creepy, morbid series. Rory may not instantly be better, but neither is she depressed and nonfunctioning. She's fighting and part of that is holding on tight to her sense of humor. I've mentioned that Rory changed, but the charming narrator of the first book is most definitely not gone.
The plot of THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH meanders a bit more than THE NAME OF THE STAR. There is a murder in a bar, there is a murder of a psychic, there is a case but it's not as cohesive as it was last time. Things don't really start to pull together until the end, and just when it looks like resolution is coming Johnson flings out a major gamechanger. I sure hope there isn't a gap between THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH and book three as there was between THE NAME OF THE STAR and book two. Everyone is going to be talking about this ending.
If you loved THE NAME OF THE STAR, then I believe THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH will meet your expectations. If you haven't read THE NAME OF THE STAR, I recommend starting there. Much of THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is about consequences and I don't think it will have the full impact if you're unfamiliar with the many characters. This series is a great choice for people who love ghost stories, London, and young people who fight crime.