Review Blog

Aug 29 2013

The madness underneath by Maureen Johnson

cover image

Shades of London, bk 2. HarperCollins, 2013. ISBN 9780007432271.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Gothic mystery. Thriller. Rory has spent some time trying to recover from being stabbed by a Jack the Ripper killer (in The name of the star) but when she is asked if she wants to go back to her boarding school she jumps at the chance to see her friends and ghost hunting colleagues. There are strange and dangerous apparitions around the streets of her school and she has to put her new-found ghost hunting skills to the test before ghosts appear from the old grounds of Bedlam.
This is an exciting thriller that I found very difficult to put down. Rory's ability to act as a terminus when ghost hunting is a fascinating plot line that threads through the whole story and made me gasp with fear as ghosts and other evil characters stalk her. There are many sinister plot twists that keep the action going as Rory tries out her dangerous powers and also works out who she can trust and who she wants to be with.
Johnson's characters from her first book are fleshed out. Rory, although she has dark thoughts and talks too much, is a survivor who is determined to do something with her powers. Stephen, Boo and Callum are worthy colleagues and as a reader I was fascinated to learn more about Stephen's background.
Johnson's atmospheric description of London streets and alleys and places like Spitalfields Market, will make readers long to go to London and follow Rory's trail through historic London sites. Her historic detail is fabulous and readers will shudder to learn of all the bodies, including those from Bedlam, the infamous home for the mentally ill, that are a buried under London streets. Rory's meetings with scary therapists also add to the suspense of the story.
Johnson has written a witty, dark and compelling mystery with a unique storyline that will appeal to teens. The cliff-hanger of an ending is sure to compel readers to grab the next book in the series when it appears.
Pat Pledger

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