A Madness So Discreet explores the emerging science of profiling. Dr. Thornhollow and Grace study crime scenes in order to create a picture of the murderer and narrow down the pool of suspects until they are able to locate their prey. This meant Grace received regular "lessons" in which Dr. Thornhollow taught about profiling. If this is new information for the reader, it would be interesting. However, I feel like profiling has become such a big plot point for so many movies and TV shows now that all of this information seems like something everyone knows already; that murderers like to revisit the crime scene, that they are often impotent, that they have overbearing mothers etc. Since I was pretty familiar with all of this, these scenes were a little tedious and slowed down the plot.
The plot can really be broken into three parts: the Boston Asylum, Grace's Instruction, and Grace's Revenge. The first section is a great read, but is full of triggers. The treatment of patients in the asylum is deplorable and, as a mother, I found certain scenes very difficult to get through. However, this sets the tone for a very creepy novel about madness and the treatment of the insane, but the story then takes a change. Once she escapes, the tone changes completely and the plot slows as Dr. Thornhollow teaches Grace the basics of profiling and she acclimates to her new hospital. Things become interesting again in the final part as we start to see a whole new side of Grace. By this point, she has received enough instruction to be able to operate capably on her own and has finally begun to take control of her own life. This makes her a much more interesting character. At this point, the plot moves much more quickly and we get to see just how devious, and forward thinking, Grace can be.
The novel was hit and miss when it came to the characters. Some, like Grace, were interesting and well developed while others, like Dr. Thornhollow and his sister fell a little flat. Thankfully, there were no romantic elements as would often be expected in this type of novel and I was quite glad that the only part of Grace's body that the doctor seemed interested in was her mind. There are also characters that, while enjoyable, did deplorable things that were applauded. Overall, there was a theme of women gaining revenge against the men who wronged them, however they often did it in ways that I simply couldn't stomach.
While this novel wasn't quite a 5 star for me, it was quite enjoyable and could fit quite well with McGinnis' newer novel - The Female of the Species - as a series about females seeking revenge. A book that I recommend even more highly.