See my review of this book, and many more, at Tales from the Great East Road.
(Spoilers for book one.)
Surviving a murder attempt is never easy, but for Rory Deveaux it's even harder. Her therapist keeps wanting her to talk about what happened, but how can she? How can you tell anyone that you were attacked by a ghost? Not to mention that she can now, somehow, destroy ghosts just by touching them. Stuck in Bristol with her parents, away from the few other people who truly know what happened, she feels trapped and isolated.
Rory senses freedom when, suddenly, her therapist convinces her parents to send her back to London to resume her studies at Wexford. Reunited with the Shades, a group of secret ghost hunting policemen, Rory is determined to explore the limits of her new abilities, and find some way to deal with everything.
The Madness Underneath is a much more serious book than The Name of the Star. It's main focus is on Rory's recovery - a topic that is portrayed in a painfully realistic manner. I love that Rory has to deal with her issues, that she isn't somehow magically cured overnight. Surviving a murder attempt isn't something that can just be shrugged off in a few weeks, and even when she changes her outlook (that she is a surviver, not a victim) Rory is still struggling to cope. Her school work is falling far behind, she can't talk properly to her friends, and she struggles to make a relationship work. This was easily my favourite thing about this book.
On the other hand, The Madness Underneath had several problems. For one, the pacing was terribly uneven. A plot line about ghosts being unleashed and becoming violent was introduced and developed, but then suddenly dropped without warning, then another about Rory's new therapist became the focus. This plot felt a little tacked on and ruined the flow of the book, and worst of all, wasn't even resolved. Also, it's not explained why or how Rory can destroy ghosts. It suffers from "middle book syndrome" - the book falls flat because the story lines need to be setup but they are left hanging, waiting for the last book to complete everything.
I was also very, very surprised at the fate of one of the main secondary characters. It was sudden and unexpected, and I can honestly say I have no idea where Maureen Johnson will go with it. Though I haven't quite decided how I feel about this, because of this turn, and the brilliant way in which Rory's recovery was handled, I will be reading the third book when it's released. I am interested in seeing where it goes next.