PW’s love for ISLAND
Island of the Mad
Set in 1925, Edgar-winner King’s well-plotted 16th Mary Russell novel (after 2016’s The Murder of Mary Russell) finds Mary helping Ronnie Fitzwarren, an old friend of hers from her first year at Oxford, with what Ronnie calls an emergency. In 1922, Ronnie’s eccentric Aunt Vivian was confined to Bethlem Royal Hospital (aka Bedlam Asylum) after several violent outbursts, including the attempted murder of her half-brother Edward, for whom she “always demonstrated a particular antipathy.” Now Vivian has disappeared, along with her nurse, while on leave from the hospital to celebrate Edward’s 50th birthday. Mary’s search for Vivian takes her first to Bedlam and later to Venice, accompanied by her husband, Sherlock Holmes, who has been sent by his brother, Mycroft, to monitor fascism in Italy. There they have an unpleasant encounter with Edward, an admirer of Mussolini, and befriend composer Cole Porter, who assists them in revealing what’s behind Vivian’s animus toward Edward. This ranks as one of the better recent installments in this popular series.