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Island of the Mad (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #15)

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Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are back in the New York Times bestselling series that Lee Child called "the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today." A June summer's evening, on the Sussex Downs, in 1925. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are strolling across their orchard when the telephone rings: an old friend's beloved aunt has failed to return follo Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are back in the New York Times bestselling series that Lee Child called "the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today." A June summer's evening, on the Sussex Downs, in 1925. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are strolling across their orchard when the telephone rings: an old friend's beloved aunt has failed to return following a supervised outing from Bedlam. After the previous few weeks--with a bloody murder, a terrible loss, and startling revelations about Holmes--Russell is feeling a bit unbalanced herself. The last thing she wants is to deal with the mad, and yet, she can't say no. The Lady Vivian Beaconsfield has spent most of her adult life in one asylum after another, yet he seemed to be improving--or at least, finding a point of balance in her madness. So why did she disappear? Did she take the family's jewels with her, or did someone else? The Bedlam nurse, perhaps? The trail leads Russell and Holmes through Bedlam's stony halls to the warm Venice lagoon, where ethereal beauty is jarred by Mussolini's Blackshirts, where the gilded Lido set may be tempting a madwoman, and where Cole Porter sits at a piano, playing with ideas...


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Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are back in the New York Times bestselling series that Lee Child called "the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today." A June summer's evening, on the Sussex Downs, in 1925. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are strolling across their orchard when the telephone rings: an old friend's beloved aunt has failed to return follo Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are back in the New York Times bestselling series that Lee Child called "the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today." A June summer's evening, on the Sussex Downs, in 1925. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are strolling across their orchard when the telephone rings: an old friend's beloved aunt has failed to return following a supervised outing from Bedlam. After the previous few weeks--with a bloody murder, a terrible loss, and startling revelations about Holmes--Russell is feeling a bit unbalanced herself. The last thing she wants is to deal with the mad, and yet, she can't say no. The Lady Vivian Beaconsfield has spent most of her adult life in one asylum after another, yet he seemed to be improving--or at least, finding a point of balance in her madness. So why did she disappear? Did she take the family's jewels with her, or did someone else? The Bedlam nurse, perhaps? The trail leads Russell and Holmes through Bedlam's stony halls to the warm Venice lagoon, where ethereal beauty is jarred by Mussolini's Blackshirts, where the gilded Lido set may be tempting a madwoman, and where Cole Porter sits at a piano, playing with ideas...

30 review for Island of the Mad (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #15)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 One would think that a series featuring Sherlock Holmes would be outstanding and difficult to solve mysteries. While at the heart there always is intrigue or another, in this case a missing wealthy woman, but this is a series that those who don't read mysteries. They are so much more, some well researched history, in this case the Fascists in Italy and the rise of Mussolini. They are travelogues, here we travel to Venice where Holmes will put together a team of irregulars as usual, but here 3.5 One would think that a series featuring Sherlock Holmes would be outstanding and difficult to solve mysteries. While at the heart there always is intrigue or another, in this case a missing wealthy woman, but this is a series that those who don't read mysteries. They are so much more, some well researched history, in this case the Fascists in Italy and the rise of Mussolini. They are travelogues, here we travel to Venice where Holmes will put together a team of irregulars as usual, but here it will be gondeliers, who travel throughout the canals and hear much. Her books, and this one is no exception, are always interesting, well plotted with so much atmosphere, here it is the masked and costumed balls held by the wealthy. Cole Porter and his wife Linda are an integral part of this outing, with Holmes taking up the violin. We start out with a short tour of Bedlam, where the missing young women had been a patient, and end up in Venice at another such island institution. The pace is slow but my interest was sustained by some excellent writing throughout. As for Holmes and Russel's relationship as Mary says, "It is a precious thing, to be in agreement with ones husband, particularly when it comes to misbehavior." ARC from Netgalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jen 3_Piets

    I’m going to mark this down as my most anticipated book of 2018. There will be other new releases, but if I’m going to have a sick day and go into hiding in the local library, it will be the day the new Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes book arrives on my Kindle. The anticipation won’t kill be but only because I’m sooo excited to read a new one!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina Flynn

    Whenever I read a book in this series, it feels like coming home. I loved Island of the Mad. Holmes and Russell spent quite a bit of time together in the book, and there was a very big nod to Nelly Bly—a female stunt reporter/investigative journalist in the late 1800s.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    3.5 stars One more off the pile although at this rate, I'll be leaving Mount TBR to my descendants in my will. Lots of reviews already as I'm fashionably late getting to this but I will say I enjoyed this much more than the last book. We're back to travelling with Mary & Sherlock & get a neat little mystery along with an interesting look at Mussolini's Italy that seems frightening relevant today.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    I have to admit that having Mary Russell's old friend Veronica Beaconsfield making an appearance in this book brought back a lot of fond memories from the earlier books. Yeah, I got nostalgic and all remembering Mary and Veronica's school days not to mention the religious sect "The New Temple of God" that Veronica was involved with that turned out to be quite an adventure for Mary. READ THE REST OF THE REVIEW OVER AT FRESH FICTION!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susanna - Censored by GoodReads

    Actual rating: 3.5 stars. As Mary searches 1925 Venice for the missing (and insane) aunt of one of her best friends, and hangs out with the Bright Young Things on the beaches of the Lido, Sherlock Holmes watches the fascists (on a suggestion from his brother), and gets a little help from Cole Porter. A fun installment in the series.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shomeret

    In Island of the Mad, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes conduct their investigations in Venice which is under the rule of Mussolini. I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Net Galley and this is my honest review. For Mary Russell, this is a missing person case that begins in England. She is searching for a college friend's aunt who had been consigned to Bedlam. Holmes accompanies Russell, but he is on a mission for his brother, Mycroft. Holmes' investigation brings an espionage element in In Island of the Mad, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes conduct their investigations in Venice which is under the rule of Mussolini. I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Net Galley and this is my honest review. For Mary Russell, this is a missing person case that begins in England. She is searching for a college friend's aunt who had been consigned to Bedlam. Holmes accompanies Russell, but he is on a mission for his brother, Mycroft. Holmes' investigation brings an espionage element into the book. The involvement of American musician Cole Porter adds extra interest. Yet it was the disappeared Aunt Vivian who really held my attention. She is an independent minded woman. Desiring independence was still considered enough of a sin against convention that she might well be committed to an institution for that alone, but there are secrets motivating the missing woman that Mary Russell will uncover as part of the process of finding her. There are some feminist themes and the fascist environment provides relevant political commentary for our contemporary times. I think that Island of the Mad should be considered one of the best books in Laurie R. King's Russell/Holmes series. For my complete review see http://wwwbookbabe.blogspot.com/2018/...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Linda Baker

    It's 1925, and Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are still recovering from the events of The Murder Of Mary Russell and the loss of their longtime friend and housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson. Her departure forces Russell to undertake domestic duties with frustrating and less than stellar results. One evening Russell receives a call that will upturn their lives and take them into the fledgling fascist state taking shape in Italy. Her friend Ronnie Beaconsfield's aunt Lady Vivian Beaconsfield has disappear It's 1925, and Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are still recovering from the events of The Murder Of Mary Russell and the loss of their longtime friend and housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson. Her departure forces Russell to undertake domestic duties with frustrating and less than stellar results. One evening Russell receives a call that will upturn their lives and take them into the fledgling fascist state taking shape in Italy. Her friend Ronnie Beaconsfield's aunt Lady Vivian Beaconsfield has disappeared from a family gathering, along with her nurse. Lady Vivian, still young in her early 30's, has been in and out of asylums most of her adult life. Her most recent home is Bethlehem Hospital, the notorious "Bedlam." Bedlam is a far cry from the nightmare it was in previous centuries, and Vivian is now voluntarily committed, having been placed there by a less than sympathetic half-brother. Ronnie is unable to help in the search as she is still a recent widow, in straitened circumstances with a toddler to raise on her own. As their investigation proceeds, Russell and Holmes discover that there is more than there appears to be to Vivian and her half-brother. Vivian is not mad, and her brother may be more sinister than the average upper-class twit. They are lead to believe that Vivian fled on her own, with the aid of her nurse, and may be hiding among the louche expatriate society which congregates on the Lido in Venice in summer. Sherlock's brother Mycroft importunes him to investigate what is going on in Italy, in the fear that fascist ideology is gaining a foothold in England. Russell and Holmes encounter Black-shirted brutality on their first evening in Venice and learn to steer away from the thugs. Both Elsa Maxwell (who I actually remember from the ancient TV show, Whats My Line?) and famous songwriter, Cole Porter, play a part in the search for Vivian. Both Russell and Holmes are playing roles; Russell as a rich party girl and Holmes as an itinerant violinist I was not on board with the Russell-Holmes series in the beginning. The idea that Holmes might have an adolescent girl as a partner and later wife seemed absurd. It only took reading The Beekeeper's Apprentice to win me over, however. Ms. King has a beautiful knack for bringing places in particular and history into focus. We have traveled all over the world with Holmes and Russell; Palestine, France, Japan, San Francisco, and more. Each place is so well-described that I felt I had visited there myself. Actual historical figures who appear in the books are always accurately represented, even though they are placed in fictional situations. There is a broad vein of feminism running through all the books and political commentary on the times. Ms. King makes a tongue in cheek disclaimer in her afterword about the book "not being political." It is hard to not draw parallels to our own times, with the rise of right-wing politics, intolerance for homosexuality and attempts to roll back hard-won women's rights. I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys the Holmes oeuvre and historical fiction. I would suggest starting at the beginning of the series to get the full enjoyment. Thanks to Bantam Books and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    4.5 stars; I wouldn't call it "amazing" necessarily, but certainly great fun and a delightful return to form for Ms. King. Good mystery, great current events, the rich travelogue we've come to expect from this series, all painstakingly researched and with notes in the back - and Holmes and Russell, back at their best. I particularly appreciate the history in this volume, as it is frighteningly relevant again today. I also appreciate the lightness and exuberance of the story - anything darker migh 4.5 stars; I wouldn't call it "amazing" necessarily, but certainly great fun and a delightful return to form for Ms. King. Good mystery, great current events, the rich travelogue we've come to expect from this series, all painstakingly researched and with notes in the back - and Holmes and Russell, back at their best. I particularly appreciate the history in this volume, as it is frighteningly relevant again today. I also appreciate the lightness and exuberance of the story - anything darker might have been too much. I received an ARC of this book - possibly because I rated the last one so poorly. :) It worked.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    A visit with Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell is one of my favorite ways to spend time. Since falling in love with this series with its first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie King has never failed to give me a tale that keeps that love burning. Two people of such spectacular problem-solving intelligence and consistently delightful wit as Russell and Holmes are rare and, thus, all the more special. In Island of the Mad, #15 in the series, I'm thrilled that Russell and Holmes are working t A visit with Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell is one of my favorite ways to spend time. Since falling in love with this series with its first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie King has never failed to give me a tale that keeps that love burning. Two people of such spectacular problem-solving intelligence and consistently delightful wit as Russell and Holmes are rare and, thus, all the more special. In Island of the Mad, #15 in the series, I'm thrilled that Russell and Holmes are working together again, even though Holmes has a job he's taking care of for his brother Mycroft, too. The duo are such superb sleuths together, and their witty repartee always entertains me. And, as much as I love an English setting, the setting of Venice in this book completely captivated me with its unique beauty and history. Barely having had enough time to catch their breaths since The Murder of Mary Russell and the departure of the steadfast Mrs. Hudson, Mary is drawn into a search for a friend's aunt. A call from Mary's oldest friend Ronnie, Veronica Beaconsfield, about her missing aunt, Lady Vivian Beaconsfield, has Mary promising Ronnie to look into the disappearance. Lady Vivian, who is not much older than Mary and Ronnie, had been home to the Beaconsfield estate from her residence at Bethlem Royal Hospital, a London mental institution, for her brother Edward's birthday celebration when she was discovered missing after the party. Lady Vivian's nurse from Bedlam (the informal name for Bethlem) has also disappeared. With Ronnie tied to the care of her toddler, it's up to Mary to do the footwork and follow the clues, clues which lead to the colorful island paradise of Venice, Italy. Mary is excited about revisiting a place where she has ties involving her mother, a place of fond memories and mysterious geography. It being 1925, Mycroft Holmes and the British government are interested in the effect the new facist government of Italy under Mussolini is having, so Holmes is the natural choice to investigate that interest while in Venice. Venice is the proverbial needle in the haystack location to find someone, even with excellent sources of gossip and information. There is the city of Venice; the Lido, where the rich and un-tethered Americans and other nationalities like to play in the sun and party all night; the islands of San Clemente and San Servolo, housing mentally ill women and men respectively; and Poveglia, an island associated with tragedies such as the plague and WWI. Add to the many hiding places, the hampered transportation means of navigating the canals and open waterways, and Venice becomes a tricky place for Mary to find her friend's aunt and nurse. Sherlock has his challenges, too, needing to infiltrate the scene where fascists may end up or be the topic of conversation. Of course, both of these capable sleuths are masters at playing a part, with the right costuming and props. Mary works her way into the Lido crowd, where American Elsa Maxwell holds court and proves helpful in Mary's plans. Sherlock takes on the role of a violinist and works his way into the good graces and musical performances of American Cole Porter. There is the unexpected danger of someone from England, who figures into both of the investigations and especially threatens Mary's. Venice proves the perfect place to both find and lose people. There is so much to enjoy in this latest Russell and Holmes, and Laurie King's taking our sleuthing couple to Venice provided many opportunities to bring in new, exciting characters who actually did live and play in Venice. The history of Venice, both past and at the present time of the book, 1925, was fascinating to me. The fascists black shirts and their beginning infiltration into the life of vibrant Venice was a voice hearkening from the past to the present. History teaches us if we care to pay attention. Just having finished one World War, Sherlock and Mycroft both agree that yet another one is on the horizon. And, on a lighter note, I found great satisfaction in King's witty dialogue for her characters, as always. Russell and Holmes are so in sync that Russell can merely feel Holmes' nod and move forward. A pair that at first might have seemed an unlikely one has once again demonstrated their perfect pairing indeed.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    Not the best Russell/Holmes, but far from the worst. That distinction belongs to Pirate King, the only real stinker in the series and the only one of Laurie R. King's many novels to which I've given a 2-star rating. The backdrop of this one is mid-1920s Venice (think Brideshead Revisited), an intriguing city and so unlike any other in Italy. Mary's old Oxford friend, Lady Veronica Beaconsfield (Beekeper's Apprentice and Monstrous Regiment of Women), now Fitzwarren, reappears along with her young Not the best Russell/Holmes, but far from the worst. That distinction belongs to Pirate King, the only real stinker in the series and the only one of Laurie R. King's many novels to which I've given a 2-star rating. The backdrop of this one is mid-1920s Venice (think Brideshead Revisited), an intriguing city and so unlike any other in Italy. Mary's old Oxford friend, Lady Veronica Beaconsfield (Beekeper's Apprentice and Monstrous Regiment of Women), now Fitzwarren, reappears along with her young aunt, Lady Vivian, who is confined to Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam) as allegedly being mad. The adventures, of course, follow in full measure. King gives us the ageless Venice with gratifying historical accuracy and with her customary literary style.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Another great entry in the Mary Russell series! With much of the book focused on experiencing a new place that has personal meaning for Russell (Venice!) and becoming the right character for the investigation, it hearkened back a bit to some of my favorite parts of The Game and O Jerusalem. Maybe a touch less danger to Russell and Holmes than some of the earlier books. And I always love when we get to see characters that are old friends again. If you are already a fan of the series, you will love Another great entry in the Mary Russell series! With much of the book focused on experiencing a new place that has personal meaning for Russell (Venice!) and becoming the right character for the investigation, it hearkened back a bit to some of my favorite parts of The Game and O Jerusalem. Maybe a touch less danger to Russell and Holmes than some of the earlier books. And I always love when we get to see characters that are old friends again. If you are already a fan of the series, you will love this one too. If you've never heard of Mary Russell, this is a great introduction.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    Ahh, this is more like it. (I was not a big fan of the previous book which featured Mrs Hudson). Mary and Sherlock head for Venice, each on a case. Mary is doing a favor for a dear friend--trying to find the friend's aunt Vivian(who may have mental health problems). Mary believes Vivian to be in Venice, but how to find her? There's where it get tricky. Meanwhile, Sherlock is doing a bit of observation for his brother Mycroft--keeping as eye on Mussolini's Fascist Blackshirts--as well as giving an Ahh, this is more like it. (I was not a big fan of the previous book which featured Mrs Hudson). Mary and Sherlock head for Venice, each on a case. Mary is doing a favor for a dear friend--trying to find the friend's aunt Vivian(who may have mental health problems). Mary believes Vivian to be in Venice, but how to find her? There's where it get tricky. Meanwhile, Sherlock is doing a bit of observation for his brother Mycroft--keeping as eye on Mussolini's Fascist Blackshirts--as well as giving an assist to Mary. The plot gets a bit convoluted at times but the story is clever and fun. Both Mary and Sherlock get involved with ex-pat Americans staying in Venice in 1925: Mary with Elsa Maxwell and her Lido party crowd, Sherlock with Cole Porter and his wife Linda and their crowd of friends. Casting a shadow over all the frivolity is the omnipresence of the Blackshirts, who have an important role to play in the exciting climax. While the author obviously had fun with the partying Americans and British upper crust, the Fascisti were treated as the seriously scary group that they were. As for Vivian, she is found, and the threat to her welfare is thwarted in a very satisfactory manner. Case closed. I am already looking forward to the next book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    eyes.2c

    A tricky enquiry! Not only but also! An absorbing investigation by Mary and Sherlock that takes us from Bedlam to the Lido and onto the Venetian asylum island of Poveglia. What a fabulous conondrum for the wonderful Mary Russell and her ever fascinating husband Sherlock Holmes. Mary is asked by an old friend to find out about her aunt Vivian Beaconsfield who seems to have absconded from Bedlam along with some family jewels. The whole family seems cowered by Vivian's brother the Marquess of Selwick A tricky enquiry! Not only but also! An absorbing investigation by Mary and Sherlock that takes us from Bedlam to the Lido and onto the Venetian asylum island of Poveglia. What a fabulous conondrum for the wonderful Mary Russell and her ever fascinating husband Sherlock Holmes. Mary is asked by an old friend to find out about her aunt Vivian Beaconsfield who seems to have absconded from Bedlam along with some family jewels. The whole family seems cowered by Vivian's brother the Marquess of Selwick, who may or may not have been responsible for confining Vivian to Belam. The search leads Mary to pre war Venice with Mussolini in power and his Blackshirts are instilling their reign of terror. Wonderful descriptions of the Lido and the going on of the permanent visitors to Venice, including Cole Porter are detailed. (Mycroft has asked Sherlock to look at the Fascists. He is disquieted!) I love the way King has Holmes dropping one off lines to Cole that end up as songs that are well known down through the generations. An amusing way to have Sherlock's influence quietly confirmed, all fiction of course, but a titillating idea. Venice, it's gondoliers, it's residents, the islands that served as places and asylums are all well interpreted. The threat of the rise of fascism thinly veiled. A very clever and racy read that had me fairly galloping towards a satisfactory Holmesian end. A brilliant foray into pre war Venice of 1925. A NetGalley ARC

  15. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Island of the Mad takes Mary Russel and Holmes to Venice, when Mary is asked to find the aunt of an old friend. I love the relationship between Mary and Holmes - they are truly partners, both resourceful and intelligent. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book (besides the mystery itself) was the historical setting. From Bedlam, to Mussolini, to Cole Porter, it was fun to see the slices of history interspersed with the story, and I got interesting enough in some of them to do some resea Island of the Mad takes Mary Russel and Holmes to Venice, when Mary is asked to find the aunt of an old friend. I love the relationship between Mary and Holmes - they are truly partners, both resourceful and intelligent. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book (besides the mystery itself) was the historical setting. From Bedlam, to Mussolini, to Cole Porter, it was fun to see the slices of history interspersed with the story, and I got interesting enough in some of them to do some research online in between chapters. This book would be ok to read as a stand-alone, but as with most long-running series, some extra enjoyment will be had for those who get to revisit some past books' characters.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    I won a copy of Island of the Mad from a Goodreads Giveaway. I confess I was lured mainly by the dark title and intrigued to read it since this is my first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes story. I didn't know what to expect so I went in with an open mind. Mary Russell's college friend's great aunt Lady Vivian has absconded with the family jewels with her caretaker. Mary agrees to take on the case, interviewing associates and family members of this once vibrant young woman who has spent several I won a copy of Island of the Mad from a Goodreads Giveaway. I confess I was lured mainly by the dark title and intrigued to read it since this is my first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes story. I didn't know what to expect so I went in with an open mind. Mary Russell's college friend's great aunt Lady Vivian has absconded with the family jewels with her caretaker. Mary agrees to take on the case, interviewing associates and family members of this once vibrant young woman who has spent several years in and out of mental institutions. Mary's investigation leads her and Holmes to Venice, a favorite destination of Lady Viv's, and where Mary hopes the woman has come to seek refuge. On the surface, its an interesting case, filled with the dark history of the current times; the background of mental asylums, Fascism, the rise of Mussolini, Holmes' interaction with the famous Cole Porter and his socialite wife, Linda, hobnobbing with society's elite and ruffians. But there were too many things I didn't like including: 1. How the story drags. Mary spends most of her time hanging out with snobs and half-wits, trying to weasel her way into their parties to search for Vivian. 2. Subplots having to do with Viv's disgusting half-brother, the perverted Marquess, and his love for the Italian dictator; Holmes' investigating Fascism for his brother Mycroft and meeting the Porters. 3. Random POV switches; first we get Mary's perspective for many chapters and suddenly, now its Holmes. 4. I figured out why Lady Viv was lashing out at her brother way before Mary did but that may be due to the current state of our modern society and our sexual politics. 5. It took me awhile to realize Mary and Holmes were married and it kind of grossed me out. I understand back in ye olden days, it was safer (and expected) for a woman to be married than single but why did Mary have to be so much younger than Holmes? It reeks of cliche. I haven't read any of the previous 14 books so I don't know how they hooked up but the writing reads of a marriage of convenience which is acceptable given ye olden times. They call each other by their last names. They are cordial, polite. They talk about their cases and offer insight and opinions. I just don't understand why she has to be half his age!

  17. 4 out of 5

    farmwifetwo

    DNF pg 149. I have tried to read it for nearly a mth. I am bored. May try it again later . Many others have enjoyed it , so don't take my word for it . It is due to the library and we'll see how it goes later.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Teri-K

    Island of the Mad is a good story and I enjoyed reading it, but I didn't love it. Before this book came available at the library I'd started rereading O Jerusalem, one of my favorites, and the contrast between the two is pretty strong. Jerusalem has Mary and Sherlock in a difficult, sometimes life-threatening, situation. They have to depend on others who may not be trustworthy, and the stakes are quite high if they don't succeed - possibly another World War. Also, because it is Mary's first visi Island of the Mad is a good story and I enjoyed reading it, but I didn't love it. Before this book came available at the library I'd started rereading O Jerusalem, one of my favorites, and the contrast between the two is pretty strong. Jerusalem has Mary and Sherlock in a difficult, sometimes life-threatening, situation. They have to depend on others who may not be trustworthy, and the stakes are quite high if they don't succeed - possibly another World War. Also, because it is Mary's first visit to the Holy Land, there are some personal feelings and reactions from her that let you see more into her heart and mind. Combined with some fascinating minor characters, it makes an amazing book. In contrast, this one never really has any danger for our MCs. Sure, there are fascists running around, violent and cruel, but Mary and Sherlock never come up against them. When the book ended I was really disappointed that Holmes (view spoiler)[ never interacted with the Fascists at all, despite the fact that his excuse for going was to spy for Mycroft. It felt like the author set up the idea and then didn't follow through. (hide spoiler)] Holmes' excuse that he's getting older didn't add up. The stakes here are important - a woman's safety - but not on the same level as a threat to destabilize an entire region and start more wars. And, though Mary visited Venice several times with her mother, there are no personal remembrances or reflections beyond a couple of thoughts about motherhood early on. In fact the story felt impersonal - like it could have been about anyone, not necessarily Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. Despite the fact that Mary and Sherlock are both prominent in the book, they rarely interact in any significant way, which was disappointing too. In the same way I thought the secondary characters, including Cole Porter and his wife, were more stereotypes put there to hammer home King's theme, (view spoiler)[public perception of homosexuality at the time, (hide spoiler)] than to add to the story. The author sometimes gets too wrapped up with her themes at the expense of telling a great story, I think, and she did that here. And finally, I thought the solution to the mystery was obvious, which is never good. So though the book held my interest it didn't have the complexity and depth that some of the others in this series have for me and I can only give it 3 stars. It's not bad, of course - King is an accomplished writer - but it's not particularly good, either.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cat M

    I love these characters so much and am always thrilled to come back to this series. Once again, King manages a nice balance between serious topics and madcap adventures, keeping the arc of the story hopeful, but never diminishing or dismissing the darkness underneath. And there is darkness here. The background is the rise of fascism in Europe: the first inklings of flirtation in England, and then the reality of Italy under Mussolini. In England, a friend of Mary’s comes to her for help. Her aunt Vi I love these characters so much and am always thrilled to come back to this series. Once again, King manages a nice balance between serious topics and madcap adventures, keeping the arc of the story hopeful, but never diminishing or dismissing the darkness underneath. And there is darkness here. The background is the rise of fascism in Europe: the first inklings of flirtation in England, and then the reality of Italy under Mussolini. In England, a friend of Mary’s comes to her for help. Her aunt Vivian, who has for years been a voluntary resident of Bedlam Asylum, has suddenly disappeared, along with her not inconsiderable personal financial resources and one of her nurses. Mary’s friend is concerned for her aunt’s safety and wishes reassurance that she is well and not being manipulated or controlled by someone else. The search for Vivian takes Holmes and Russell to Venice, into the overlapping circles of wealthy and queer English and American summer residents. Vivian’s story is one of resilience, of escape, and of building light out of darkness. It’s about queerness and mental illness and “madness” as both a response to trauma and an explanation for women who refuse to behave as their families wish. In places this is a very hard read for a woman with mental illnesses of my own. There are several scenes that take place within mental institutions which I found to be respectful of the women described, but also unflinchingly honest about the realities of their lives and thus quite difficult to read. In Venice, the madcap elements of the story are helped on by the vibrant presence of two larger-than-life real-life personages: the influential hostess and society figure Elsa Maxwell, and the up-and-coming songwriter Cole Porter. The entire sequence of Sherlock Holmes and Cole Porter meeting and becoming friends is a goddamn DELIGHT and even if the rest of the book were disappointing (it’s not) that subplot alone would make me happy to have read it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I liked much of the story. It was fascinating, mysterious, and held some nice twists. Russell's university friend Veronica's aunt has been in and out of mental institutions for the last decade or so, and then she suddenly disappears, so Veronica asks Russell to look for her aunt. Russell and Holmes follow her trail to Venice, which has just come under the rule of Mussolini and the fascists, and all the historical details were awesome. They end up rubbing elbows with people like Cole Porter, so t I liked much of the story. It was fascinating, mysterious, and held some nice twists. Russell's university friend Veronica's aunt has been in and out of mental institutions for the last decade or so, and then she suddenly disappears, so Veronica asks Russell to look for her aunt. Russell and Holmes follow her trail to Venice, which has just come under the rule of Mussolini and the fascists, and all the historical details were awesome. They end up rubbing elbows with people like Cole Porter, so that was fun. But I was bothered by Russell and Holmes' very modern reactions to finding out various people involved in the case were homosexuals. They were practically ho-hum, and while many people in the 21st century would react that way, it felt pretty weird for the time and place the book was set. Yes, Russell and Holmes have always been unconventional characters, but this began to feel like the foisting of an author's agenda into her characters' behavior and words that I just didn't appreciate or enjoy. It was like if Holmes and Russell suddenly started talking about reducing emissions and saving the ozone layer and needing to find sustainable fuel -- it just didn't seem to fit. So anyway, if you like the series, you'll still have fun hanging out with Holmes and Russell here. But this won't be a favorite of mine.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    Island Of The Mad By Laurie R. King What it's all about... Mary Russell is now married to Sherlock Holmes. In this book Russell...and then Sherlock...are searching to find an old friend’s aunt. This takes Russell and Sherlock to Venice and gets them in some strange and complicated situations. It’s the era of Fascism, Black Shirts and Cole Porter! It’s an era of hiding your true sexuality...especially if you happen to be gay. Why I wanted to read it... There are so many of these Russell/Holmes books t Island Of The Mad By Laurie R. King What it's all about... Mary Russell is now married to Sherlock Holmes. In this book Russell...and then Sherlock...are searching to find an old friend’s aunt. This takes Russell and Sherlock to Venice and gets them in some strange and complicated situations. It’s the era of Fascism, Black Shirts and Cole Porter! It’s an era of hiding your true sexuality...especially if you happen to be gay. Why I wanted to read it... There are so many of these Russell/Holmes books that I hated reading them out of order. But I couldn’t resist this one. Russell can’t cook or keep house...Holmes is much older than she is but they are quite a match for each other. I didn’t get to see their relationship build and there doesn’t seem to be much romance between them but I could still sense that it was there. Russell is quirky and doesn’t give up easily...in this book she even had Sherlock check her into an asylum! What made me truly enjoy this book... The situations...the history...the era...were fascinating. Russell steering a boat through the canals of Venice...amazing. Cole Porter and his wife and their parties and Cole Porter’s struggle writing songs? So amusing! This book was so enjoyable. You will love reading about one of Cole Porter’s songs...the one at the end of this book...it was delightful! Why you should read it, too... Readers who love this series and are familiar with these characters will love this book. I think this one can be read without reading others before it but there are references to a Mrs. Hudson that I would like to explore. I will do that by reading more in this series. It was a wonderful reading experience for me! I received an advance reader’s copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley and Amazon. It was my choice to read it and review it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dee Mills

    This isn't quite a full 4 stars. I would give it 3 1/2 if it were possible. This was a read-aloud book for us. The story meandered quite a bit and at times seemed more like a travelogue for Venice, although that was interesting. But the plot got lost. Laurie King is a good writer, and we always enjoy her books, but this one was not my favorite.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Martin

    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 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.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dgordon

    Another great addition to the Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes stories. A missing crazy heiress, Venice, Mussolini's Black Shirts, Cole Porter and Elsa Maxwell, what could be more fun.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    The life in the Roaring Twenties can seem like a mad, mad world, but their latest case brings Russell and Holmes face to face with the truly mad, the dangerously ignorant, and a hard look at their own eccentric life. Island of the Mad is the fifteenth installment in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. The books are strong on suspense, but also follow closely with global and personal historical events for the main characters so they must be read in order. In the latest, Mary and Holmes are The life in the Roaring Twenties can seem like a mad, mad world, but their latest case brings Russell and Holmes face to face with the truly mad, the dangerously ignorant, and a hard look at their own eccentric life. Island of the Mad is the fifteenth installment in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. The books are strong on suspense, but also follow closely with global and personal historical events for the main characters so they must be read in order. In the latest, Mary and Holmes are just settling back into their life back in Sussex after a string of daring cases when a phone call from an old friend has them back in action once again. Ronnie's eccentric, mad aunt has gone missing along with her nurse and a stash of jewels. Was it voluntary or something much more sinister and if it was voluntary, is it a good idea to have a woman from a madhouse loose? Starting from the beginning has Mary investigating the inside of Bedlam and confronting both the mad and the current day treatment of the mad along with her journey to the ancestral home to discover if the answer lies within the family to Lady Vivian's disappearance. Meanwhile, Mycroft wants Holmes to look into the disturbing reports about the Fascists in Italy under Il Duce, Mussolini. Mary worries that Holmes is getting too old for this sort of thing and Holmes worries that he may just be too old for his own wife. The case takes them across the continent to Venice where Holmes and Mary are faced with some of the wealthiest and powerful 'bright young things' drinking and partying in the palazzos and waterways of Venice. I confess that Sherlock Holmes and his violin and Cole Porter on his piano in a few jam sessions was probably my favorite scenes in the book. Island of the Mad presents a good mystery, but leans just as heavily toward historical fiction the way it delves into the activities, thinking, and social mores of the day from those on the lunatic fringe, to those put away for madness, to the powerful and growing Fascist movement, women's issues, homosexuality, and the darkness that can drive a person to seek asylum in a mad house. Russell and Holmes take turns with the narration and both ponder on all these things. There were some thrilling moments as Russell and Holmes worked the case and a mystery, but this was tucked in so much more that I think those who enjoy fiction set in the Roaring Twenties are as likely to love this as mystery fans. As always, I was well-pleased to get another installment in a long-time favorite series. The author has carefully preserved the spirit of the Sherlock Holmes world from the beginning and keeps it authentic even into these stories that explore his later years and the clever and resourceful young woman who is his partner in every way. Definitely recommend the series to Sherlock fans and to historical mystery lovers. I rec'd this book from Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    LifeBreakingIn

    Summary (from LaurieRKing.com) A June summer’s evening, on the Sussex Downs, in 1925. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are strolling across their orchard when the telephone rings: an old friend’s beloved aunt has failed to return following a supervised outing from Bedlam. After the previous few weeks—with a bloody murder, a terrible loss, and startling revelations about Holmes—Russell is feeling a bit unbalanced herself. The last thing she wants is to deal with the mad, and yet, she can’t say no. Summary (from LaurieRKing.com) A June summer’s evening, on the Sussex Downs, in 1925. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are strolling across their orchard when the telephone rings: an old friend’s beloved aunt has failed to return following a supervised outing from Bedlam. After the previous few weeks—with a bloody murder, a terrible loss, and startling revelations about Holmes—Russell is feeling a bit unbalanced herself. The last thing she wants is to deal with the mad, and yet, she can’t say no. The Lady Vivian Beaconsfield has spent most of her adult life in one asylum after another, yet she seemed to be improving—or at least, finding a point of balance in her madness. So why did she disappear? Did she take the family’s jewels with her, or did someone else? The Bedlam nurse, perhaps? The trail leads Russell and Holmes through Bedlam’s stony halls to the warm Venice lagoon, where ethereal beauty is jarred by Mussolini’s Blackshirts, where the gilded Lido set may be tempting a madwoman, and where Cole Porter sits at a piano, playing with ideas… Review: I'd just finished another (modern, high school-aged) Holmes adaptation when I received an e-ARC of ISLAND OF THE MAD, so I happily dove into the latest in the series I had discovered as a high schooler myself. I read the first Russell and Holmes book as a teenager, over a winter break when a personal tragedy had struck my life. Going with Mary Russell on her adventures, the greatest starting over her winter break at Oxford, was a lifeline. Mary was better than me, but similar in ways not many girls were in the few teen girl protagonist books I got my hands on were. Going to see Laurie King at a book signing was the first author event I attended outside of school author visits. These books, therefore, have always held a special place in my heart. I've also enjoyed King's other series, some of which cross over with her Sherlockian exploits. Each book offers clearly copious historical research, arch humor, and a certain twist, whether it's exploring the romance of Russell and Holmes, shining a light on the darker dealings of the British Empire, or digging into the psychological damage of trauma and addiction. ISLAND OF THE MAD seems to give a vacation to the poor Russell and Holmes, who have been on one grueling adventure after another in the last several books. During their efforts to ascertain the safety of a friend's aunt, they get to enjoy themselves, helping to invent water skiing and Cole Porter lyrics. (In this way it's more in the vein of THE PIRATE KING than some of their darker adventures, though there are heftier themes present as well.) King's writing is always engaging and utterly readable. I noted down several lines that had me bursting out laughing, as Russell contemplates attacking her boorish dinner companion with a fork and runs through her own feminist thoughts to herself. The dinner with the awful lord is like Facebook with your parents' cousins, except you're hoping the lord will be a murder victim, rather than just blocking the distant family members. The book delves into downright chilling discussions of fascism taking hold in democratic nations and thugs succeeding and taking power, and the very real implications this has on people's lives, especially queer people and women. In this way King makes this historical book relevant to today's unfortunate political situation as well as providing a cathartic response in the success of Russell and Holmes' and the friends they enlist to help. I attended a panel at a book festival this weekend and at the "Thrillers" panel someone mentioned Laurie King's method of using a spreadsheet to ensure clues are dropped at a good pace and the characters' lives are fully worked out. The care she takes is evident in the clear presentation of her plots. This book has the bonus fun of (often short) chapters from Holmes' (third person limited) POV, which, ultimately, delightfully intersects with Russell's efforts on the behalf of her friend's relative. I can't speak specifically to the representation of mental illness--it appears respectful--but as always King brings in positive viewpoints on the reality of life for queer characters living in a less accepting time. This makes King's books some of my favorite historical mysteries. If you haven't read any of King, I do recommend starting with THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE, but when you do make it through the first few you could skip ahead to ISLAND OF THE MAD for a fun adventure.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    We are now up to 1925 and Mary has been contacted by Veronica Fitzwarren, Mary's friend from Oxford and now the widowed mother of a three year old boy. Ronnie's aunt has disappeared and she desperately wants Mary to help in the search, especially as Ronnie is concerned about her uncle's possible role in the disappearance. The uncle, Edward Marquess of Salwick, is feeling economic pressures after some unwise investments have left him close to bankrupt and Aunt Vivian, Edward's half sister has mon We are now up to 1925 and Mary has been contacted by Veronica Fitzwarren, Mary's friend from Oxford and now the widowed mother of a three year old boy. Ronnie's aunt has disappeared and she desperately wants Mary to help in the search, especially as Ronnie is concerned about her uncle's possible role in the disappearance. The uncle, Edward Marquess of Salwick, is feeling economic pressures after some unwise investments have left him close to bankrupt and Aunt Vivian, Edward's half sister has money from her mother's estate (Edward's step mother). It is important to keep these facts clearly in mind as the story flits about through Venice following Mary's and Holmes' search for the missing woman and her psychiatric nurse companion. We are introduced to the treatment of the insane in Britain and Italy and in contrast to that we go to the Hotel Excelsior and party with Elsa Maxwell and her very mixed group. Holmes becomes a hired musician at the palazzo rented by Cole Porter and his wife Linda and we spend an afternoon creating the music we connect with Porter. King apparently wanted to introduce the fascist element in the series' narrative arc as early as possible so Italy was the place for it. I assume she will have one set in Spain eventually. This was a good read and no bodies to be found anywhere. There are a number of fun stunts and Mary learns the difference between punting and propelling a gondola. The research for this book shows in all the gondolier details, the palazzo descriptions and the clothing shopping. The image of Holmes costumed as Zorro is wonderful. I wonder if she ever feels Holmes standing behind her shaking with rage and frustration. Mary would just laugh.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cole

    The plot of this book revolves around the search for Lady Vivian Beaconsfield, the young aunt of Mary Russell's college friend Ronnie). Specifically, Lady Vivian has gone missing from (sorta) Bedlam. She's spent most of her adult life in various mental institutions, at first against her will and then eventually by choice (of a sort) because it is where she is safe. As per usual, Laurie R. King weaves together a few distinct threads into one story. In Island of the Mad we've got mental institutio The plot of this book revolves around the search for Lady Vivian Beaconsfield, the young aunt of Mary Russell's college friend Ronnie). Specifically, Lady Vivian has gone missing from (sorta) Bedlam. She's spent most of her adult life in various mental institutions, at first against her will and then eventually by choice (of a sort) because it is where she is safe. As per usual, Laurie R. King weaves together a few distinct threads into one story. In Island of the Mad we've got mental institutions (specifically Bedlam), fascism, Venice, and Cole Porter (really, if you haven't seen De-Lovely, just watch it first). It can feel a bit hodgepodge as there is a fine line between character profile and caricature. However, the saving grace is the amount of love and curiosity King brings to her subjects, specifically Venice and Cole Porter, in this book. If it works for you and you are interested in these subjects, it'll be great. If you aren't then hopefully, by the fifteenth book in this series, you are able to enjoy what you enjoy and leave the rest. My favorite parts of Island of the Mad were the interactions between Russell and Holmes, the Holmes pov sections (brief, but well used), and recurring consideration of what safety means especially for people in vulnerable situations. Through all of the romp through Venice with Cole Porter, King still *says* something worthwhile in Island of the Mad. It isn't my favorite of the series, but it is a strong addition to a longstanding and fun series.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I absolutely loved this new installment of the Mary Russell series. Laurie R. King hit the nail on the head with this book, and I loved every minute of it. A friend's missing aunt, Venice in the 1920s, the rise of Mussolini and Fascism in Italy (something my own ancestors fled to America from) - all the ingredients you need to make quite the page turner when you add the vital mixture that is Russell and Holmes. I completely loved the tone of this story, light with the perfect dash of darkness tha I absolutely loved this new installment of the Mary Russell series. Laurie R. King hit the nail on the head with this book, and I loved every minute of it. A friend's missing aunt, Venice in the 1920s, the rise of Mussolini and Fascism in Italy (something my own ancestors fled to America from) - all the ingredients you need to make quite the page turner when you add the vital mixture that is Russell and Holmes. I completely loved the tone of this story, light with the perfect dash of darkness that is perfectly appropriate for the revelations that come about Vivian Beaconsfield and her motives for running away, as well as the constant background presence of the Blackshirts that are constantly on the ground in Venice. Plus, we have Russell and Holmes working closely together again on the case, which is always a huge plus for me. One of my favorite aspects of the story is how King interwove history into the story. Cole Porter and his wife Linda are fascinating, and I loved how they ended up helping Holmes and Russell save the day in the final pages of the book. It was great, watching the Blackshirts get outsmarted and hoisted by their own petard. A great book. Definitely buying my own copy just as soon as the paperback edition comes out in January 2019.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alina

    It was a pleasure to be introduced to Mary Russell. This is my first book of the series and I've enjoyed the fun detective. The story begins with the disappearance of Lady Vivian Beaconsfield, an aunt of Mary's close friend, Ronnie. After looking into Lady Vivian's history, Mary uncovers a secret that her friend's aunt has been hiding for most of her adult life. And the last piece of information gives Mary an approximate whereabouts of Lady Vivian. Not wasting any time, Russell is off to Italy, a It was a pleasure to be introduced to Mary Russell. This is my first book of the series and I've enjoyed the fun detective. The story begins with the disappearance of Lady Vivian Beaconsfield, an aunt of Mary's close friend, Ronnie. After looking into Lady Vivian's history, Mary uncovers a secret that her friend's aunt has been hiding for most of her adult life. And the last piece of information gives Mary an approximate whereabouts of Lady Vivian. Not wasting any time, Russell is off to Italy, and to her (and my) big surprise she is being joined by her husband. While in Venice, the Russells make new but dangerous acquaintances. They both make intriguing discoveries. Even though the couple has different goals to achieve while they are in Italy, they work together, help each other to actualize their purpose there and bring peace to Beaconsfield family. The disappearance of Lady Vivian's was the main part of the book and I absolutely enjoyed it. The story has a great twist. And Mary Russell's character was witty, sassy and fun. The only thing that really disappointed me was Holmes. As a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was taken aback by this new polished version of his character. Thank you, GoodReads and Laurie R. King for this wonderful book.

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