Dance in a Madhouse
Jess Wright’s newest novel was inspired by George Bellows’s lithograph of the same name—a haunting early-20th-century work now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The story takes place in 1905, when Owen Townsend, a young doctor who has just started his internship, is infected with typhoid fever and commits a delirium-fueled act of violence. Soon he is locked away in a mental asylum, Fairmount Lodge, where a psychiatric diagnosis is often a life sentence and spectators come to watch the patients dance.
When a fire is set on his first night in the asylum, Owen is a prime suspect. But the fog of his psychosis is clearing—he knows that someone wants to ensure he never leaves Fairmount Lodge. There are more fires, attacks on him, and threats of greater violence. Owen’s claims are dismissed as paranoia, but as a patient and a doctor he is in a unique position to navigate the labyrinth of the insane asylum. Can he solve the puzzles that are stumping Brumbaugh, a shrewd police inspector? Celeste, an enigmatic opera singer, who transfixes him after he saves her from suicide, may have the clues he needs. But Owen has to unlock secrets from her tortured past to find a way out of Fairmount Lodge.