Book Title: Island of the Mad
Series: (Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes #15)
Author: Laurie R. King
Goodreads Link: Click here
Release Date: 6/12/18
Star Rating: – An enjoyable return to a favorite series
Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve been a fan of Ms. King’s Mary Russell series from the beginning. Hmm, actually it goes back further than that … I’ve been a fan of Sherlock Holmes since I was a teen. He was one of my first book boyfriends. Not the nicest of boyfriends to be sure. He can be cold and aloof, but I loved him all the same. When I first heard of a book called The Beekeeper’s Apprentice which promised a story about Holmes in his later years I was intrigued. It follows the story of a young woman who becomes an apprentice of sorts to the older, retired Sherlock Holmes. The book was, of course, a mystery. With a strong young woman in the lead role, and a hint of romance between the two?? Oh I was hooked.
The series is 15 books strong now and I have to admit that I dropped off somewhere around #11. Not because the quality of the books suffered, I simply changed the genre I was focused on. Ms. King’s books are always interesting, meticulously researched and a lot of fun. You can be sure of a history lesson to go along with your whodunnit making the settings engaging and well developed.
In this book, the couple are contacted by an ex-school buddy of Mary’s. A mad Aunt (oh so gothic) has gone missing from Bedlam Asylum. The search for her will lead them into pre-war Italy. Does the Aunt have connections to Mussolini and his Blackshirts? Why did she run from the Asylum? Why has she not contacted her family? Ms. King touches on political controversies of that time (and ours?) by delving into the surprising support of fascism by some of the British upper class. She also spends time with the lavish parties of the Lido and American songwriter Cole Porter, a staple of society in Venice at the time. The issues surrounding the homophobic attitudes of their day (and ours) become apparent and Ms. King is ready to address them.
Don’t let me make you think this is all dry and boring history. Life for Mary in Venice is by turns glamorous, harrowing, gothic and madcap. In the midst of all this she still has to solve a mystery. I enjoyed the book but it doesn’t hold the same interest for me as earlier books in the series. I’m not sure when I will pick up another Mary Russell book, I’m really more into fantasy at the moment, but I’m happy to find that the game is afoot and continues apace.
Song for this book: Anything Goes by Cole Porter