17 March 2013

Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Shades of London 2)

'There's no point in anything happening if you can't talk about it.'

"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."

First Line: "Charlie Strong liked his customers - you don't run a pub for twenty-one years if you don't like your customers - but there was something about the quiet in the morning that pleased him to no end."

This is the second book in a series and I haven't read the first, and this turned out to be a bit of a problem. I enjoyed reading this in a vague way and found Rory a largely appealing heroine but it felt like a middle book - there were lots of references to the first book and lots of set up for the next and not enough of it's own plot arc. There were too many frustrations that pulled me out of the story. Having said that, Johnson's writing zips along, the series has a great concept and it did make me want to read the first one, The Name of the Star.

Why I read this: I have lots of fans of Maureen Johnson at school although I haven't read anything by her myself so when this popped up on NetGalley I requested it.

Who I would recommend it to: To be people who have read the first book and are already invested in it or fans of easy to read thrillers.

*There are spoilers of the first book in the review.*

The previous book, which sounds like it was pretty exciting and also had good reviews, covered American girl Rory coming to school in London as a Jack the Ripper copycat killer, who turns out to be a ghost, wreaks havoc. Rory, handily, turns out to be able to see ghosts.The Madness Underneath starts with a intriguing and horrible murder which unfortunately is only really a minor plot point and then moves on to a lot of angst from Rory dealing with the aftermath of the Ripper murders. I empathised with some of this but some of it just felt rather filler-y. Also she talks about problems with her boyfriend and her friends but if we haven't grown to know them in the first book (I assume this is where Johnson built the relationships up) then we don't care as much when Rory is sad about them.

The book is also, sadly, rather lacking in plot. It is a testament to Johnson's writing that I didn't really notice this until at least half way through though and realised nothing had really happened so far. A story is set up which kind of doesn't go anyway despite being intriguing and then a new plot kicks in near the end before a frankly bizarre twist at the very end that just kind of mildly irritated me. As I said though, Johnson's writing is very charming and manages to make this not as awful as it sounds - in particular, it is genuinely funny in several places. I also really liked the visit to the British Library as it is one my absolute favourite places and I also sympathised with not realising how many hoops you have to jump through to see something the first time you go!

The major annoyance for me with this book was the ridiculous way in which Rory sometimes acts. There is a character in it who is so clearly up to no good and Rory, who is supposed to be an intelligent girl, manages to not notice this despite epic warning signs. Rory even says this at one point;
       "There was a flutter in my chest. My heart was skittering. Julia called this "victim's instinct." Once a really bad thing happens to you, your senses heighten. You become very attuned to things that aren't quite right, things that are potentially dangerous." 
I rolled my eyes so hard at this because this is the opposite of what Rory does - she only says this once it is clear beyond doubt that something dodgy is going on and has in fact managed to not notice huge warning signs in previous encounters.

I feel I would have enjoyed this a lot more if I had read the first one and there are element of the problems that I had with it that are therefore probably my fault. But there are too many instances of things happened just to move the plot along rather than things that feel like natural progressions of the story and the plot is too messy to get any satisfaction out of it unfortunately. 

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