Review: Island of the Mad

Island of the Mad

Author: Laurie R. King
Bantam Books
ISBN #978-0804177962

 Island of the Mad cover

I absolutely adore all of Ms. King’s books, but her Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series is my favorite! “Island of the Mad” does not disappoint! I am not thrilled that Mrs. Hudson is taking a “side-trip”, but she would not have been in this book anyway, as it features Holmes and Russell in lovely Venice.

Russell has been asked by a friend to find her Aunt, while Holmes has been asked by his brother Mycroft to “check into things” in Venice re Benito Mussolini and the rising Fascist movement. Holmes is not quick to make that clear to Russell, however! We are looking at a post WW I, pre-WW II environment.

The missing Aunt, Lady Vivian Beaconsfield) by the way, has been in and out of insane asylums for many years. Her condition was said to have been brought on by the loss of her brother and father in the Great War – but is that really so? It is interesting to note that Lady Beaconsfield arranged to leave the asylum to attend her other brother’s birthday party, but she managed to disappear (after taking a large amount of money from her personal account, and having her brother get an expensive diamond necklace that is hers out of the vault). The nurse that was attending her has also conveniently disappeared!

Once in Venice the focus is on the Lido cabarets, wealthy, privileged individuals at play, and the ominous presence of the Fascist “Black Shirts”. Cole Porter, and a new (to Holmes) violin also come into play. There is also a strong LGBTQ theme, along with the rights of women – or rather, their lack of rights.

As always with Ms King, the characters are wonderfully bold, the storyline does not wander one iota, and the intensity of research shows through clearly. Thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended!

© July 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission from the author.

The Holy Fool

I just finished reading Laurie R. King’s “To Play The Fool”. This is a mystery, set in contemporary San Francisco. One of the major characters in this book is someone who is quite literally playing the Fool – I capitalize this because this is how the person thinks of themself, not because of any direct connection to the Fool in the Tarot.

This Fool speaks only in quotes (mainly from Shakespeare and biblical references), and has the people around him entranced. He is living his life on the street, for the most part, this Fool and his staff (which has a face at the top that strongly resembles his own). The first that we hear about him is when he is presiding over a funeral pyre for a small dog (not his, but the dog of another street person), in the middle of a park.

There will be another funeral pyre in this park – only this time the body involved is that of the small dog’s owner – a man not well-liked by many people. There are several questions to think about: Was the Fool involved in the murder of this man? If not, does he know who was? If he knows who did it, why won’t he say? And why does it take another innocent death to bring him out of the Fool mode and into reality?

What is a Holy Fool? A Holy Fool is the archetype of the trickster – he acts in “foolish” ways, he is the royal jester that dares to do and say what no one else will. He can be found in all religions. Jesus Christ and St. Francis of Assisi can be seen as Holy Fools. He deliberately leaves the mundane life to lead a life in which he deliberately flaunts religious and societal mores – playing the Devil’s advocate.

In King’s story, the character of the Fool was formerly an ordained minister and a professor of divinity, who underwent a life crisis of monumental proportions. In the end, he returns to the life of the Fool.

Certainly, this gives us something to think about when the Fool comes up in a reading. What are the depths of this archetype, and how is this manifesting in the life of the Seeker?

There is an interesting video here that shows the actions of a Holy Fool:

(c) January 2009 Bonnie Cehovet

Reproduction prohibited without the written permission of the author.