Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club discussion

Island of the Mad (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #15)
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Archived VBC Selections > Island of the Mad - VBC July 2018

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message 1: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
It's the day we've all been waiting for, time to begin our discussion of the 15th Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes book, "Island of the Mad." In this book, Holmes and Russell find themselves in Venice in pursuit of a missing heiress and madwoman - or is she? Hope that you've had a chance to read the book and are ready to discuss - remember, no spoilers until after the 10th of the month!


message 2: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 26 comments I was the first hold on the book at my library and it already arrived! I’m almost finished! It so good to be back with Mary and Holmes❤️. But I miss Mrs Hudson as much as they do.


message 3: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sheri wrote: "I was the first hold on the book at my library and it already arrived! I’m almost finished! It so good to be back with Mary and Holmes❤️. But I miss Mrs Hudson as much as they do."

Sheri, at the launch Laurie said she is thinking of writing a story about Mrs. Hudson in Monte Carlo - I think that would be great, but I must confess I'm hoping that circumstances bring her back to Sussex! The Holmes villa just isn't complete without her...


message 4: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 26 comments I agree! We need her in Sussex!


Michal Yadlin (michalyadlin) | 15 comments I loved how they immediately emphasized how much they missed her in those first few sentences. Knowing LRK, that opening could have gone many ways but this was just perfect!


message 6: by Sara (new) - added it

Sara | 30 comments I love how Ms. King place Russell and Holmes in their time - in this case 1920s Venice. You see the world hasn't really changed much as some topics from our daily news were issues then.

I also liked the subtle "growing pains" Russell experiences here as she observes others around her and she realizes how set apart she has been. Even Holmes, ever observant, questions her about being with people her own age. The times, they are a-changing!

I am very curious about what lies ahead, and eagerly look forward to the next book! Thank you, Ms. King!


Bonnie | 3 comments I just got done reading and reviewing this book. I loved the setting, and the obvious attention to research and detail. I also appreciated the peek into how women were treated during this time. The only thing I had second thoughts about was Mrs. Hudson and her situation. However, it was written in a very open manner, so it is possible for her to reappear in future books.


message 8: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Stratton | 240 comments I miss Mrs Hudson too. They do seem lost without her. Mary Russell is many things but domestic is not one of them!


Bonnie | 3 comments Laura wrote: "I miss Mrs Hudson too. They do seem lost without her. Mary Russell is many things but domestic is not one of them!"

LOL Mary Russell reminds me somewhat of myself in the decided lack of cooking skills!


message 10: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Bonnie wrote: "LOL Mary Russell reminds me somewhat of myself in the decided lack of cooking skills!"

You'd think she'd do better, given her degree in Chemistry!


Bonnie | 3 comments Erin wrote: "Bonnie wrote: "LOL Mary Russell reminds me somewhat of myself in the decided lack of cooking skills!"

You'd think she'd do better, given her degree in Chemistry!"


One would think, eh!


Lenore | 1085 comments Erin wrote: "Bonnie wrote: "LOL Mary Russell reminds me somewhat of myself in the decided lack of cooking skills!"

You'd think she'd do better, given her degree in Chemistry!"


Baking is chemistry. If the proportions are off, or the rising agent is improperly treated, there will likely be total failure. Cooking, on the other hand, is the capacity to taste a combination of ingredients on the mind's tongue, and the necessary attention (not really skill) to avoid over- or under-cooking. I nearly flunked chemistry and, if I may modestly (hah!) say so myself, I'm a really good cook. Russell's problem with cooking is that she just doesn't enjoy it enough to pay attention to it -- hence the burned chicken of the opening pages.

BTW, I thought this was a much more convincing book than MURD, and really, really liked it. Having been in Venice a couple of years ago, I could really picture many of the places in my mind's eye. We never got to the Lido, though --next trip!


message 13: by Ellen (new) - added it

Ellen | 56 comments I've been looking forward to reading this book mostly because of the beginning in London. When my husband and I went there for our honeymoon, one of the first places we planned on seeing was the Imperial War Museum. We were interested in the current museum, of course, but also in its past as Bedlam. I don't know if any of you are familiar with the (very old) song "Maid in Bedlam" but it has a special connection to us because of how we met (not the insanity part! haha). Interestingly enough, it's about a woman who was involuntarily committed because her lover's parents didn't think she was good enough for him.


Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments I just finished and reviewed (on my Reading Room blog) Island of the Mad, and although my favorite setting for almost any story is England, I was thrilled with the Venice setting. I knew next to nothing about Venice, except for the canals and gondolas, and I got an exciting education about it. I didn't realize that there were different islands and then Venice city. I was fascinated by the history of the whole area, and the beginnings of the black shirts was another chapter to my WWII interests. Asylums interest me, too, especially ones from earlier time periods, and the reasons so many were "put away" are just ridiculous.

I loved Mary and Sherlock working together in this book, their seamless coordination in doing so. I didn't really get much of a chance to miss Mrs. Hudson, as the action quickly moved to Venice, but I do miss knowing that she will be there for their returns from adventure. I'm in favor of something bringing her back to Sussex.

So, as usual, I loved the new book and am looking forward to discussing it more.


message 15: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Ellen wrote: "Interestingly enough, it's about a woman who was involuntarily committed because her lover's parents didn't think she was good enough for him."

I haven't heard of the song, but I find it seriously frightening how easy it apparently was to have people (especially women!) committed to asylums back in the day. Definitely one of the most mind grabbing bits of this book for me.


Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments Erin wrote: "Ellen wrote: "Interestingly enough, it's about a woman who was involuntarily committed because her lover's parents didn't think she was good enough for him."

I haven't heard of the song, but I fin..."



A book I enjoyed about a woman committed to an asylum for unbelievable reasons was The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell. It takes place in Edinburgh, and I believe that the woman was committed in the 1930s and only released 60 years later.


Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments I just came across a rehearsal video of Broadway actress Sutton Foster singing and tap dancing to Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," cleverly alluded to in Island of the Mad. This is a great number, one I think Cole Porter would endorse.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcs09...


Lenore | 1085 comments Kathy wrote: "I just came across a rehearsal video of Broadway actress Sutton Foster singing and tap dancing to Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," cleverly alluded to in Island of the Mad. This is a great number, on..."

Even more impressive than the singing is the great choreography and dancing! Thanks for pointing us to that!


message 19: by KarenB (new) - added it

KarenB | 352 comments I was struck by the light-hearted tone to the entire book. Not, mind you, that serious issues aren't being dealt with, or that there aren't some dark undertones - this is Laurie, after all! - but the book as a whole strikes me as happy.


message 20: by Bardbooks (new) - added it

Bardbooks | 79 comments This series is one of the few that I always buy in HB and I'm never disappointed. Island of the Mad satisfies on so many levels; looking forward to the 10th!


message 21: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
bardbooks wrote: "This series is one of the few that I always buy in HB and I'm never disappointed. Island of the Mad satisfies on so many levels; looking forward to the 10th!"

I too always buy this series in hardback, also all the audio books. Thanks to Laurie I'm also blessed with ARCS, so I guess you could say I'm a Laurie R. King collector!


message 22: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
I have to say that I was especially dense when reading this book as I didn't catch any of the signs of what was happening with Vivian (I'm being elliptical for fear of Spoilers) until it was revealed at the end. The only thing that makes me feel better is that evidently Russell didn't, either...


message 23: by Bardbooks (new) - added it

Bardbooks | 79 comments Merrily wrote: "bardbooks wrote: "This series is one of the few that I always buy in HB and I'm never disappointed. Island of the Mad satisfies on so many levels; looking forward to the 10th!"

I t..."

I'd agree; you're a collector of the first magnitude!


Marjorie (laideemarjorie) | 38 comments Just popping in to say that I love this addition to the Mary Russell series. I love that Russell and Holmes stay together and don't go off in opposite directions. I love the inclusion of the real life people who make an appearance, too.


message 25: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: "I have to say that I was especially dense when reading this book as I didn't catch any of the signs of what was happening with Vivian (I'm being elliptical for fear of Spoilers) until it was reveal..."

I'm dying to talk about this part of the plot, too, Merrily. Sabrina and I were talking about it a few weeks ago because we both figured it out pretty early on. Waiting for next week!


message 26: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Marjorie wrote: "I love the inclusion of the real life people who make an appearance, too."

Cole Porter was a great cameo here! One of the things I love about real life people in Laurie's books is that I'm always drawn to go read a little more about them after I meet them in the book. And Cole Porter in particular was a really interesting person.


message 27: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Merrily wrote: "I have to say that I was especially dense when reading this book as I didn't catch any of the signs of what was happening with Vivian (I'm being elliptical for fear of Spoilers) unt..."

I know, Erin, several of my friends did, but this time I just missed it completely! I'm listening to the audio book now and I'm like "How did you not SEE this?"


message 28: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Marjorie wrote: "I love the inclusion of the real life people who make an appearance, too."

Cole Porter was a great cameo here! One of the things I love about real life people in Laurie's books is..."


I've had a thing for Cole Porter for years, probably since I saw "Night and Day" (a way fictionalized bio pic) as a kid. He was a very interesting man and his relationship with his wife - who was the love of his life despite the fact that he was gay - is fascinating. And needless to say I love his music, too - so witty in addition to being tuneful! "Love for Sale" was so far ahead of its time that they refused to play it on the radio!


message 29: by KarenB (new) - added it

KarenB | 352 comments That made me laugh, Merrily, as you are generally quite astute! I figured it out, or at least thought of that possibility, quite early and I'll admit I thought Russell was being incredibly naive for much of the book.


message 30: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
KarenB wrote: "That made me laugh, Merrily, as you are generally quite astute! I figured it out, or at least thought of that possibility, quite early and I'll admit I thought Russell was being incredibly naive fo..."

What can we say, Russell and I were having a bad week!


Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments Merrily, I'll have to add that I did figure the Vivian thing out fairly early, but I've had things hit me before that I can't believe I didn't see coming. It certainly doesn't matter whether it was figured out early or not, and you have great company at not guessing it early in Mary Russell not either.


message 32: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "Merrily, I'll have to add that I did figure the Vivian thing out fairly early, but I've had things hit me before that I can't believe I didn't see coming. It certainly doesn't matter whether it was..."

Thanks, Kathy, yes it's true that we're not all Great Detectives 100% of the time. And of course with most mysteries it's more fun if you don't figure things out early!


Norah Wolthuis (readingaway) | 8 comments I agree wholeheartedly, one of very favorite reading treats. I did notice one thing this time though, first as their are more books, it is necessary to do a little more explaining each time (catch up for new readers) and secondly, after using the wonderful trick of including JRR Tolkien and Dashell Hammett references, the Cole Porter inclusion seemed less fresh to me. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but I was looking for it. What a character!


message 34: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Norah wrote: "I agree wholeheartedly, one of very favorite reading treats. I did notice one thing this time though, first as their are more books, it is necessary to do a little more explaining each time (catch ..."

I think Laurie enjoys discovering the real people who happened to be in one of her locations at the time, and using them if she can - and in this case, the Porters and their fabulous palazzo fit so well into the milieu that Holmes was trying to infiltrate, she could hardly have resisted them!


message 35: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: "she could hardly have resisted them!."

It might have been more conspicuous if she had NOT mentioned them, from what I understand!


Norah Wolthuis (readingaway) | 8 comments !!!!


message 37: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Merrily wrote: "she could hardly have resisted them!."

It might have been more conspicuous if she had NOT mentioned them, from what I understand!"


Good point, Erin!


Elisabeth | 113 comments I really enjoyed this one - it was a nice balance of light and dark. I enjoyed the appearance of Cole Porter (I was in a musical about his work when I was in high school) and also the role he got to play. Russell & Holmes' interactions with history are always great fun to me, and King's characters - historical or not - are always vivid and delightful.

I did not like MMR very much and this one went a long way to make up for that.


message 39: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Elisabeth wrote: "I really enjoyed this one - it was a nice balance of light and dark. I enjoyed the appearance of Cole Porter (I was in a musical about his work when I was in high school) and also the role he got t..."

I did love the fact that Holmes and Russell were together in this one, and that we had more of the repartee between them that makes this series so much fun. I just returned home from a car trip, and was listening to ISLA as I drove - just love the scene in which Holmes learns that he's going to dress as Zorro, and further when he makes a Zorro-like leap from a dock to a speedboat!


message 40: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
In case I missed it: Early on in the book (after Holmes and Russell have arrived in Venice) they make a bet about whose approach is going to be the most successful in locating Lady Vivian. The loser is going to be stuck with the next unpleasant task that comes up during a case (I can't remember what the winner was to get). I don't recall that this bet was resolved by the end of the book - anyone notice whether it was? I suspect the bet was dropped as it was a draw, but got to thinking about it as I was driving home today and listening to the audio book!


Kathy  (readr4ever) | 399 comments Lenore wrote: "Kathy wrote: "I just came across a rehearsal video of Broadway actress Sutton Foster singing and tap dancing to Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," cleverly alluded to in Island of the Mad. This is a gr..."

Lenore, I was blown away by that dancing! I love tap!


message 42: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen 3_Piets (3_piets) | 11 comments Merrily wrote: " after using the wonderful trick of including JRR Tolkien and Dashell Hammett references, the Cole Porter inclusion seemed less fresh to me. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but I was looking for it. What a character! ..."

I really think my favourite famous (albeit fictional) person included in MR books is Lord Peter, in Monstrous Regiment of Women. I just love his character - and I hadn't met him before, though I have now.


message 43: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen 3_Piets (3_piets) | 11 comments Merrily wrote: "Elisabeth wrote: "I really enjoyed this one - it was a nice balance of light and dark. I enjoyed the appearance of Cole Porter (I was in a musical about his work when I was in high school) and also..."

I don't think this was resolved, maybe in the next book? On that note, Holmes mentioned in Watson's case in 1924. Have I forgotten something? (Please tell me if this is considered a spoiler).


Antoinette | 186 comments bardbooks wrote: "This series is one of the few that I always buy in HB and I'm never disappointed. Island of the Mad satisfies on so many levels; looking forward to the 10th!"

I always try to buy a book occasionally from my local independent bookstore and this month it was Laurie King.


message 45: by Tara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tara | 54 comments I don't think it was resolved! Moreso just another example of playful banter and a way to raise the stakes. Personally, I've made a lot of similar bets with my S.O. and they are rarely cashed in. That said, following up on that bet would be a fun way to start the next book, especially as there was no clear winner, and their arguments over who will do the next "tedious task" are often hotly debated!

Merrily wrote: "In case I missed it: Early on in the book (after Holmes and Russell have arrived in Venice) they make a bet about whose approach is going to be the most successful in locating Lady Vivian. The lose..."


message 46: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Jen wrote: "Merrily wrote: "Elisabeth wrote: "I really enjoyed this one - it was a nice balance of light and dark. I enjoyed the appearance of Cole Porter (I was in a musical about his work when I was in high ..."

Jen, no, I think that was a hint that Laurie was dropping for another story She likes to do that!


message 47: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Tara wrote: "I don't think it was resolved! Moreso just another example of playful banter and a way to raise the stakes. Personally, I've made a lot of similar bets with my S.O. and they are rarely cashed in. T..."

Tara, good idea, remind me to remind Laurie about that!


message 48: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen 3_Piets (3_piets) | 11 comments Can’t reply from my phone. Re: hint about Watson’s 1924 case -eeek sounds like fun. I just couldn’t remember if it was from something in the canon or not.


message 49: by Tara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tara | 54 comments Haha, if that ends up being the truth I'll just pretend I helped. ;-)


message 50: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Tara wrote: "Haha, if that ends up being the truth I'll just pretend I helped. ;-)"

It sounds like an intriguing case to me, Tara an Jen!


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