Saturday, March 22, 2008

Book review: Touchstone, by Laurie R. King

AuthorLaurie R. King
Tagshistorical mystery, england. 20th century

Your reviewIn my opinion, Laurie R. King is One of the Best Authors Ever. Admittedly, my knowledge of contemporary literature is limited, but I'll stand by it anyway.

I was aware of King before I ever read her. She had the temerity to use Sherlock Holmes as a character in one of her series, the Mary Russell series. All the Holmes pastiches I had read were pretty dreadful, and understood the character not at all. But people kept talking about how good she was, and I did finally read some of her Kate Martinelli series about a woman policeman in San Francisco. They were very good. So eventually, I took the plunge and read the Mary Russell series and loved them, too. She did right by Holmes., if you can get around the outrageous premise he would get romantically involved with a woman, and a young one, at that. King makes it work, and she does it by having a respect for Conan Doyle's famous character.

But characters in a series have some limitations. They have to survive, first of all. They have to develop as characters, but not in a way that will turn the reader off (although the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay has pushed that envelope until it is almost useless). So King has written some stand-alone novels, and while her series books are excellent, it is in her stand-alones that she puts herself into that rarified atmosphere of author whose works illuminate the human condition in marvelous, and sometimes heartbreaking, ways.

In Touchstone, the plot revolves around Harris Stuyvesant, a US FBI agent in 1927. Harris is after radicals, especially one who has set three bombs in the US. The trail leads him to Richard Bunsen, a British labor leader, and Harris goes to England after him. A British agent connects hims with Bennett Grey, a man with the odd talent of usually knowing who is telling the truth. Grey and his sister are good friends of Laura Hurleigh, who is a Duke's daughter and Bunsen's mistress. Grey is able to connect Harris up with the Hurleigh family. A tightly-plotted story ensues, building to a literally shattering conclusion, one that takes the reader apart and puts her back together as a new individual.

In Laura Hurleigh , King has created a character that deserves to be rediscovered by new generations of readers much as they now discover King Lear, or Frodo Baggins, or Sherlock Holmes. Bennett Grey is almost as great a character.

Recommended reading? No, more like required reading.
PublicationBantam (2007), Hardcover, 560 pages
Publication date2007
ISBN0553803557 / 9780553803556

1 comment:

Leslie said...

I agree with you that Laurie King is one of the most talented popular writers out there. I'd go so far as to say that she's one of the most talented (and creative, and intellegent) writers being published today, period. I'm currently listening to her *Keeping Watch.* Astonishing how she inhabits the mind of a soldier in Vietnam.