Touchstone – Laurie R. King

Brought to us by the esteemed author of the Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell series, Laurie R King introduces Touchstone, a borderline thriller-mystery. I will admit up front that I’ve never read any Laurie R. King before, so this is my first exposure to her writing style. I’ve been debating about trying the Mary Russell novels, but I’m just not sure how I feel about a spin-off of a truly great classic.

Touchstone is post-WWI, and veteran and FBI agent Harris Stuysevant is in England tracking down a bomber. He’s gone rogue, in the UK unofficially, and he finds help from another man, Carstairs, who also works under the radar. Carstairs introduces Stuysevant to recluse Bennett Grey, another veteran who came home from the war with extrasensory abilities. It’s not mind-reading, but gives off that impression. Grey is to connect Stuysevant with his sister, who works closely with the bombing suspect. To introduce the two, Grey and Stuyvesant spend a weekend at Hurleigh house, hobnobbing with the duke, his children, and a possible terrorist. As Stuyvesant works to get closer and closer to finding proof of his suspect’s misdeeds, he finds himself attracted to both Grey’s sister and the suspect’s girlfriend, Lady Laura Hurleigh.

This synopsis is probably the best one I can give without revealing the plots-within-plots in this novel. The writing is well-crafted, and it hints about events to come by exposing readers to the thoughts of each main player. The tone of this novel is very serious, and does not introduce readers to a lighter side of the characters. There is a second book, and I’d be interested in reading it to see if Stuysevant/Grey have a lighter side to them.

One reason for the serious tone is the subject matter – this novel takes place during the General Strike of 1926 in England, where miners went on strike because mine owners were demanding longer hours for less pay. Other industries went on strike at the same time, which left the government in a panic and transportation shut down. If you’d like to read more about the strike, a brief article can be found at the BBC: Communism was also a threat at this time.

Both the miner’s strike and communism feature heavily in this novel. Grey’s sister, Sarah, Laura Hurleigh, and the bombing suspect are Red’s through-and-through. They continually advocate for the abolishment of government, freedom for the workers, and are fearless to confront the “problem” of capitalism. Especially considering today’s political climate, it’s a very interesting read. Part of me can’t believe that people think similarly to these characters, and the rest of me fears for these characters’ well-being while conversing at the dinner table.

So, it is a very serious tone. If you’re interested in what communists were/are like, give this book a read. Granted, they are fictional characters, but there’s no doubt that King has done her research and is reflecting the appropriate attitudes. 

I am happy that there is a second book as this one was a little slow for me. I’m hoping that this was the book in which we got to know all of the characters, and the next book might be paced a little more quickly. The writing was great, just a little long-winded at times. It was 458 pages, and I think it could have been condensed to 358 without missing anything major. 

This novel also was less of a mystery and more of a thriller; I will agree with other reviews on that. I was expecting more murder, mayhem, and clues, and I didn’t get any of those. The ending was still a surprise for me, however. It was also less romantic than its synopsis claimed, which was disappointing for me as I was looking forward to that. 

All in all, I want to read the second book to further investigate this duo of Grey and Stuyvesant. I haven’t mentioned a lot about Grey and his mysterious talents in this review, and that’s because he didn’t feature as prominently in the mystery plot as I would have thought. I would like to see him brought into the story as an asset rather than a facilitator, and maybe he will in the next book. I’d recommend this for someone who wants a more serious tone and who can stomach quite a bit of communist talk. I have to admit, it wore me out a little reading that. The ending was satisfactory, though, and the story well-written, if a little lengthy at times.

Published by SamIAmReading

I am an avid reader and lover of historical mysteries and romances, but happy to take review requests and expand my horizons! All opinions in this blog are my own and have been given freely.

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