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Touchstone by Laurie R. King

Touchstone (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Laurie R. King

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5192919,506 (3.85)51
Authors:Laurie R. King
Info:Bantam (2007), Hardcover, 560 pages
Collections:Your library

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Touchstone by Laurie R. King (2007)

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Maybe I shouldn't read too much King in a row. This one was just a slog for me.

I think there's a point in an author's career where s/he doesn't get as much love from their editor as they should. Meaning, it is assumed that at a certain point, whatever a popular author writes will be basically well received by the fans, even if s/he starts a new series, takes an entirely different thematic tack, etc. Therefore, more words are a good idea! I appreciate that to some extent, but it results in logy tomes, if nothing else.

In this first Harris Stuyvesant novel, at least the first 2/3 of the book is encumbered by ultra-detailed description of settings and scenes, as well as pages upon pages of thought process that, frankly, was already detailed 50-100 pages before. There was only so many times I could handle Harris wondering what Carstairs was up to, or Grey musing on how difficult his life was, or Carstairs himself being a schmuck. I actually started skimming these parts.

Yes, the ending is pretty decent (although I saw two major plot points coming because, again, she wrote too damn much about them in advance), but I won't be continuing on to the next book. I'll stick with the magnificent Russell/Holmes series instead.

Also, you can't use the name Carstairs unless you actually are channeling the CIA director from Dorothy Gilman's mystery series. I couldn't read that name, each and every time, without thinking of Mrs. Pollifax. Not quite the same feel, these two series! ( )
1 vote khage | Oct 21, 2015 |
I'm not sure how I overlooked this novel when it came out, but I very much enjoyed Harris and Bennett as characters. Both are deeply flawed, but also possessed of innate integrity. Harris is also a joy because he has a gift for putting things together and seeing the bigger picture. The political background was very interesting. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Dec 21, 2014 |
Just before the release of The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King, I was offered an egalley to review. Now while Touchstone and The Bones of Paris stand alone, I felt like I didn't understand and Harris Stuyvesant's personality and motivation. To avoid giving The Bones of Paris a rushed and unfair review, I decided to start at the beginning, namely Touchstone.

Agent Harris Stuyvesant, American, is working in London, following a string of bombing from the United States, across the pond. Now he's being called into the countryside to work with a man who could break the case open, except that he's too shell shocked.

Stuyvesant ends up at the Hurleigh House, belonging to one of the oldest and most influential families. Some one there is responsible for the politically motivated violence.

In terms of tone and basic mystery plot, the book mostly reminds me of the Arncliffe Puzzle by Gordon Holmes (1907). Both focus on the power that the oldest nobility have (for good or bad) and the way the 20th century was a difficult transition as the well established (for better or worse) class structure had begun to buckle. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 24, 2014 |
This is what happens when editors go on extended vacations.

Touchstone is a great psychological thriller. The reader is right inside of everybody's psyches. We know people's backstories, what makes them tick. King does a great job of evoking a particular time and place in history.

But the great premise makes the novel that resulted even more disappointing. The shifts in point of view are so rapid that they're distracting. Twice the author forgets how many daughters the family that is central to the plot has. She mentions "the third daughter" on a couple of occasions, forgetting that there's actually a fourth. It's unclear, at least to me, which of the two women's points of view is represented in the very first chapter, since it turns out that both women are involved in the incident described there.

There's also the fact that parts of this book felt recycled from some of King's earlier novels. The loving detail she lavishes on descriptions of the Hurleigh house sounds suspiciously like descriptions of the manor house in Justice Hall. Bennett Grey's posttraumatic "abilities" are astonishingly reminiscent of the detective abilities of Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes.

And it was so grim and dark! Spending all that time inside the heads of those poor tormented people makes me want to take a nice long break before I pick up the sequel to this one. ( )
  Turrean | Feb 15, 2014 |
Six-word review:

Slow, suspenseful build to explosive finish. ( )
  Meredy | Oct 19, 2013 |
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To Michael and Josefa, with thanks for giving far, far beyond duty's call.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553803557, Hardcover)

Hailed for her rich and powerful works of psychological suspense as well as her New York Times bestselling mysteries, Laurie R. King now takes us to a remote cottage in Cornwall where a gripping tale of intrigue, terrorism, and explosive passions begins with a visit to a recluse upon whom the fate of an entire nation may rest—a man code-named . . .

It’s eight years after the Great War shattered Bennett Grey’s life, leaving him with an excruciating sensitivity to the potential of human violence, and making social contact all but impossible. Once studied by British intelligence for his unique abilities, Grey has withdrawn from a rapidly changing world—until an American Bureau of Investigation agent comes to investigate for himself Grey’s potential as a weapon in a vicious new kind of warfare. Agent Harris Stuyvesant desperately needs Grey’s help entering a world where the rich and the radical exist side by side—a heady mix of the powerful and the celebrated, among whom lurks an enemy ready to strike a deadly blow at democracy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here, among a titled family whose servants dress in whimsical costumes and whose daughter conducts an open affair with a man who wants to bring down the government, Stuyvesant finds himself dangerously seduced by one woman and—even more dangerously—falling in love with another. And as he sifts through secrets divulged and kept, he uncovers the target of a horrifying conspiracy, and wonders if he can trust his touchstone, Grey, to reveal the most dangerous player of all ….

Building to an astounding climax on an ancient English estate, Touchstone is both a harrowing thriller by a master of the genre and a thought-provoking exploration of the forces that drive history—and human destinies.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:09 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Left with an extraordinary sensitivity that allows him to determine the lies and deceptions of everyday life with a mere touch after the Great War, Bennett Grey lives a reclusive life until he is called in by the British government to find a terrorist.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Average: (3.85)
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