The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, #2)
When madness stalks the streets of London, no one is safe…There’s a creepy new terror haunting modern-day London.
Fresh from defeating a Jack the Ripper killer, Rory must put her new-found hunting skills to the test before all hell breaks loose…But enemies are not always who you expect them to be and crazy times call for crazy solutions.

Standalone or Series? Series. Shades of London #2
Format: Ebook
Published: March 28th 2013
Publisher: HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks
Author’s Site:
Author on Tweeter: @maureenjohnson
Buy: Paperback currently £5.24 at The Book Depository

First Thoughts

I heard such great things about the first book in the series, but was still surprised at just how much I enjoyed  The Name of the Star. I was really glad to see this sequel on Netgalley and even happier that Harper Collins approved my request for the eARC.

This cover is as beautiful and atmospheric as the first, and works well too as does the tagline. “Bedlam breaks free…” So we I already know to expect some madness underneath, I just wonder where this underneath is.


The story picks up three weeks after the events in the first book, and Rory’s stuck in Bristol with her parents, who refuse to let her return to Wexford College in London after her near fatal stabbing. Her therapy sessions aren’t working to well as she knows that talking honestly about what happened would only make her seem as though she’s lost a grip on reality.

She does however return to Wexford, but it’s clear her relationship with Jazza and Jeremy have changed. She can’t even be too friendly with her ghost library buddy because something within her has changed – something that would make her very valuable if a lot of people found out about it. She could be a lot of help to the Boo, Callum and Stephen, but Stephen seems determined to keep her from getting into their world, but he can’t totally exclude her when she figures out that a murder committed by someone deemed insane, may have had a paranormal culprit.

The ending shocked me!  Rating 4 out of 5


Although the plot worked well for me I found the pace a little slower than the first book and a few scenes dragged – although never enough to make me lose interest. Once Stephen concedes that Rory may be able to help the team, the reader gets to sit back and enjoy their constant verbal sparring. It’s cute and slowly we see that these two opposites – Ms Chatterbox vs Mr Contemplative, Ms Impulsive Vs Mr Planning – do attract. It’s less about an overwhelming attraction and more about a slow build up of friendship and affection.

The bits with the murder and ghosts certainly chilled me, and there’s still a lot of humour that kept me smiling. . Rating 3.5 out of 5


Rory is as funny as ever, although her focus has totally shifted in this book. Where she was always a good student, even when she thought herself to be falling behind, this time around she’s most definitely falling behind at school – and although that stresses her, she can’t seem to bring herself to truly care. Rory is affected by a general malaise – she can’t be who she truly is if she has to lie to her best friend and her boyfriend, and everyone but Boo, Stephen and Callum.  These three friends have the job of fighting malevolent ghosts in London.

Boo and Callum are wonderfully unchanged, although they’re both irritated that there work is currently being hindered. Stephen’s consistently dour, but this time around Rory’s paying a little more attention to him and sees that his stand-offishness is underpinned by a self-sacrificng nature. With a little more probing on Rory’s side, the reader gets to understand him better.

Jazza and Jeremy feel the need to tip-toe around Rory, but it’s really Charlotte who’s changed the most out of Rory’s schoolmates.  Rating 4 out of 5

World Building

I love the descriptions of London and the underground, and there’s quite  few hints at mental health in this book. Rory’s feeling the strain of having to lie, Stephen divulges some distressing facts about his family life, and then there’s the ‘mad-guy’ accused of killing someone…not to mention a link to Bedlam and all the therapy sessions. The interesting thing of course is that some of the ‘mad’ people are saner than the supposed ‘sane’ people and that works perfectly.  Rating 4 out of 5


The Madness Underneath is wonderfully titled for a contemplative tale about the stress of not being able to speak your mind, and feeling powerless – and it’s a clever pun about the plot! This novel’s as beautifully narrated as the first book, with witty observations, and foreshadowing that the change Rory’s facing now, is as nothing to the change awaiting her.   Rating:  out of 3.9  out of 5  (from 15.5 out of 20)

Related posts:  The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (Shades of London #1)


  1. I haven’t read this series yet (but I have the first book). This review just makes me more eager to read it. It sounds so good! And surprising endings are always great to come across.

  2. I loved the first book, and I’ve wanted to read this since its release. I’m happy to hear that Rory’s humor, which was one of my favorite things about her character, is still there, and that we learn more about Stephen. He really intrigued me in The Name of the Star, and I thought that he and Rory would make a good couple. Great review, Katja!

  3. The themes are certainly valid for the age group–struggling with feelings of powerlessness, and not being able to fully speak one’s mind, for whatever reason.

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