Review by DP

Laurie R. King is best known for her two long-running mystery series, one set in the England in the Roaring Twenties and starring Mary Russell as Sherlock Holmes’ feminist wife and the other set in modern-day San Francisco and focusing on lesbian detective Kay Martinelli. In addition, King writes the occasional stand-alone novel—most recently, Touchstone. Common to all of King’s writing are vividly written and painstakingly researched portraits of place and time. While her series focus on more conventional mystery plots, the majority of King’s standalone novels are psychological meditations on obsession, integrity and the cost of the human search for truth.

In Touchstone, King returns to England in the 1920’s, this time in the midst of the economic and political disruption that preceded the General Strike of 1926. Harris Stuyvesant, an American federal agent, has traveled to England on the tail of an anarchist bomber responsible for crippling his brother and killing his fiancée. In order to gain access to his potential bomber, Stuyvesant is led to Bennett Grey, also called Touchstone. After being nearly killed by a shell in World War II, Grey has developed an intense sensitivity to the cues and details of his environment, making him a human lie detector. Grey’s former lover, Lady Laura Hurleigh, is currently involved with Stuyvesant’s suspected bomber, and Stuyvesant uses Grey to infiltrate the high-class anarchist’s social circle. Unfortunately, a sinister operative named Aldous Carstairs is trying to coerce Grey into his service, while simultaneously plotting a Machiavellian overthrow of the British government. (more…)