The Madwoman's Coat, Ian Reid's fifth historical novel, is set In England and Western Australia during the late 19th century. It is a story of love and grief, artistry and insanity, acts of sudden transgression and moments of quiet contemplation.
1897: Isabella Trent is found murdered in an Australian asylum cell. Why did she die? Who is the killer? What is the meaning of the ornate motifs that Isabella has secretly embroidered on a man's frock coat?
Years earlier, young Lucy Malpass leaves her home town in Staffordshire for London, where she is drawn into a community of artists and socialists around William Morris and his family. Before long there is not only a prospect of fulfilling work but also a glimpse of reciprocal passion. Then her high hopes gradually begin to unravel.
There seems to be a link between Lucy and Isabella, related somehow to an old Icelandic tale. But what exactly is this link, and what can it explain about their closely held secrets?