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

I know I just did a book review on Wednesday, but due to BookTubeAThon, expect a whole lot more book reviews in the next couple weeks (apologies, regular posts will continue soon).

Anyway, this is the 15th book in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes suspense series. I have been following this series since I was a teenager, for at least a decade, and if you look at my ratings for the books, they have gradually declined over the years. In my opinion, the series has really lost any of the interest I had for it in the beginning. But I’ll save that for my review.

Release: June 12, 2018

Synopsis: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are finally back in England, when one of Mary’s oldest friends Ronnie begs her to help find her missing aunt, a woman who has been confined to a madhouse for many years. Now, Russell and Holmes set on a daring mission to find the missing lady, which takes them to Venice. (The synopsis on Goodreads makes the book sound make better, but this is a more realistic synopsis.)

Non-Spoiler Review

Where do I start with this review? This book is so mediocre, which is such a disappointment because I am such a fan of this series. I keep hoping the books will get better, but they don’t. In fact, I think this is the last book I will read in this series. It was that bad.

There are so many pointless side plots in this book, and honestly the actual suspense could have been narrowed down to less than fifty pages. It took half the book for Mary and Sherlock to even reach Venice. Sherlock was hardly in the book and all but a handful of his scenes are pointless. A lot of the characters (such as Cole Porter and Mussolini’s Blackshirts) added nothing to the plot and instead just had me skimming multiple pages.

There were a handful of interesting scenes, but they were so rare and far-between that I found myself yawning through most of the book. In fact, I kept putting it down so often that it took my nearly two weeks to read (as opposed to the day or two I usually read one of these books).

One of the things that intrigued me early on were the hints of Mary and Sherlock’s unhappiness in their marriage. Sherlock was concerned with Mary and Mary wondered if she wanted more in life, but all this led to nothing by the end of the book. Why put in compelling character conflicts if you ignore it by the end?

I feel like most of the things I have to say about this book have to do with the ending, so I’m going to go straight to the spoiler review.

Spoiler Alert!

What was the point of Sherlock Holmes getting to know Cole Porter and his wife? What was the point of having both of the protagonists fumble around in the dark as if neither had the brilliant minds they have been portrayed as having? What was the point of spending half the book in London learning about Vivian only to have most of what we learned in London by pointless to finding her? What was the point of introducing tons of red herrings (the jewels, the nurse, etc.) when it seemed clear to me near the beginning what was happening?

So, they find Vivian in the end, and it turns out she was molested by her brother and then put herself in an asylum to stay away from him. And this seemed to be a surprise to Mary, even though I had figured out this before they even got to Venice. I kept expecting some twist to throw off my expectations, but it never came. Isn’t the whole point of having a brilliant character so that they figure out complex mysteries before the reader can?

And yet I felt as if I was multiple steps ahead of the characters.

I cannot describe was a disappointment this book was. Every hint of something more complex (like the doctor at the asylum doing experiments on rats and the tension between Holmes and Russell) seemed to be ignored in the end.


I keep trying to like this series because I think so highly of the first books (at least the first four were exceptional). But book after book now has been so mediocre that it is discrediting even the first few books for me. I will not be reading this series anymore.
If you have not read this series, I highly recommend the first four books. After that, however, read at your own discretion because all the depth and intricacies slip out of the series from that point forward.

Have you heard of this series? Read any of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

11 thoughts on “Book Review: Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King

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