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Island of the Mad
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #11
BY Laurie R. King

Random House – Ballantine/Bantam
June 12, 2018/ ISBN 978-0804177962
Mystery / Historical / Thrillers

Reviewed by Linda Morelli 

Mary Russell is asked by her university classmate and close friend, Lady Veronica Anne Beaconsfield, aka Ronnie, to locate her missing Aunt Vivian. Vivian has exhibited signs of madness and was placed in Bedlam. Despite its reputation, the asylum was more like a rest home, the one place where Vivian felt safe. Eventually she was released to visit her half-brother Lord Selwick for his birthday, accompanied by her nurse, however the two women disappeared on their return to the asylum.

Ronnie is a widow with a small child and no means of earning an income, and naturally Mary agrees to investigate. She visits Ronnie’s family home and discovers male clothing in Vivian’s closet, along with some fabulous drawings. A visit to Bedlam reveals that Vivian was well cared for and her nurse was highly competent. Upon returning home, Mary learns that the aunt and the nurse left London disguised as brother and sister.

When Mycroft asks for Sherlock’s help in judging the political climate in Italy, especially regarding the growing Fascist movement, Sherlock at first protests. But Mary compares the map before her and to a drawing she remembers seeing in Vivian’s room, and becomes certain the woman escaped to Venice. When Ronnie confirms that her aunt felt safe there, Mary and Sherlock depart with dual purposes: Sherlock to appease Mycroft, and Mary to find Vivian.

Laurie R. King has written a fascinating and intriguing mystery, replete with a picturesque setting of Venice that made me feel I was there. The inclusion of historical characters such as Benito Mussolini and Cole Porter added to the atmosphere of mid-1920s Venice and enhanced the threatening atmosphere of the Fascists. As usual, the mystery held me captive until the final denouement. Island of the Mad is a fast-paced, page turning thriller that I highly recommend.

Reviews of other titles in this series

The Beekeepers Apprentice #1
Island of the Mad #11
Garment of Shadows #12
Dreaming Spies #13

Notes: New York Times bestselling crime writer Laurie R. King writes both series and standalone novels.

Reviewed 2018