Island of the Mad, the latest instalment by Laurie R King, is a joyous return to the world of Sherlock Holmes and his much younger wife (but equally clever) Mary Russell.
This time the mystery is set first in England of 1925, then moves to Venice as Mary hunts for her university friend’s missing aunt. Sherlock accompanies her, ostensibly to assist her search for the missing heiress but also to undertake a task for his brother Mycroft concerning the rise of Fascism.
Mary Russell novels tend to be filled with deft touches of humour, world politics (past, present and future, thanks to Mycroft Holmes), a case set before them, sometimes involving a family member or close friend but always with a couple of plots running consecutively. Overall, there is the wonder and sheer fun of watching a retired Sherlock Holmes re-enter and conquer the new world thanks to his marriage to a clever Jewish American heiress a third of his age. By this stage, they are old soul mates who can communicate non-verbally; equally are determined to find justice for those who cannot help themselves, right the wrongs and set the world on a safer path (thereby pleasing Mycroft).
In this story, there are some surprising characters introduced (including Cole and Linda Porter), the first wife of Benito Mussolini and Bedlam (formally known as Bethlam Royal Hospital). Sherlock, though retired and now working two cases in Venice, has not lost his touch and recruits a new circle of Irregulars to assist. In all, this novel is a complex, lengthy story, a pleasure to delve into and resurface some hours later.
Ms King continues to display her deft, light touch of word and phrase, a joy to read. This book was worth the wait.
Review by Belinda Coombs, Member of the SMSA Mystery & Crime Reading Group