Saturday, June 2, 2018

ARC Review: Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King

Island of the Mad
Author: Laurie R. King
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (Book 11)
Publication: Bantam (June 12, 2018)

Description: With Mrs. Hudson gone from their lives and domestic chaos building, the last thing Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, need is to help an old friend with her mad and missing aunt.

Lady Vivian Beaconsfield has spent most of her adult life in one asylum after another, since the loss of her brother and father in the Great War. And although her mental state seemed to be improving, she’s now disappeared after an outing from Bethlem Royal Hospital . . . better known as Bedlam.

Russell wants nothing to do with the case—but she can’t say no. And at least it will get her away from the challenges of housework and back to the familiar business of investigation. To track down the vanished woman, she brings to the fore her deductive instincts and talent for subterfuge—and of course enlists her husband’s legendary prowess. Together, Russell and Holmes travel from the grim confines of Bedlam to the winding canals and sun-drenched Lido cabarets of Venice—only to find the foreboding shadow of Benito Mussolini darkening the fate of a city, an era, and a tormented English lady of privilege.

My Thoughts: Mary gets a phone call from a college friend which sends her off on her next case. Ronnie Beaconsfield Fitzwarren is concerned about her Aunt Vivian who has disappeared. Vivian has spent years in and out of asylums, most recently Bedlam for a series of mental health issues. Mary met her once when she accompanied Ronnie and her new baby son to Bedlam to show him off to her aunt.

Apparently, she and a nurse got a weekend pass to visit her older brother Edward, Marquess of Selwick, on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. She disappeared along with jewels she inherited from her mother and a few other trinkets from the family safe. She had a pretty good head start since she left before the birthday celebration and wasn't noted as missing until she didn't return to Bedlam some days later.

Mary goes down to Selwick to investigate and get a better picture of Lady Vivian than her one meeting afforded her. She meets the Marquess and takes an immediate dislike to him as he is a rather unintelligent misogynist in love with his own opinions and the sounds of his own voice and who has taken a strong interest in Benito Mussolini who is bringing fascism to Italy. Her other interviews with staff who remembered her don't really give her any clues to where she might be.

Meanwhile, Holmes has been looking for Lady Vivian in London including checking jewelers and pawn shops which might have received her jewelry. Mary decides she needs to check Lady Vivian's medical files at Bedlam and manages to get herself committed - briefly. Speaking with other inmates and checking Lady Vivian's files leads her to think that she might have gone to Venice.

Holmes was all set to let her go to Venice alone until Mycroft drafts him to go along and look into the fascists who are gaining control there. Together and separately, Russell and Holmes investigate with Holmes becoming an acquaintance of Cole Porter and his wife and Russell becoming part of Elsa Maxwell's Lido set.

Secrets are discovered and the two cases come together. Along the way, the reader sees what Venice was like in 1925, what is was like to be a woman at that time, what the social and sexual mores were, and what fascism was doing to Italy. The clever conclusion allows right to triumph and villains to get their well-earned comeuppance. This was another wonderful entry into a long-running series.

Favorite Quote:
"Would you like to come and help me commit grand larceny and trespass instead?"

"What, no battery and assault?"

"I'm hoping it doesn't come to that."

"Just as well. Italian prisons are not places of comfort. I should be honoured to assist you in your felonious pursuits, my dear Russell."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from both Amazon Vine and NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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