Laurie R. King
Bantam, Jan 2008, $24.00, 560 pp.
By April 1926 although several years have passed since the armistice ended the combat the United States and England are still recovering from the War to End all Wars. Three bombs went off in a relatively short time in the United States causing much damage and killing innocent people. Harris Stuyvesant is determined to catch the bomber, not because he is a Bureau of Investigation agent but because one of the devices turned his favorite brother into a vegetable. He tracks the evidence to up-and-coming charismatic leftist politician, Richard Bunsen.
Trying to get close to the man he plays five degrees starting with meeting Aldous Carstairs who sends him to a former patient of his Bennet Grey whose sister Sara is friendly with Lady Laura Hurleigh who is Richard’s lover. Bennet was injured in the war and came through with certain abilities. He is a human lie detector and has a sense of what people are thinking and planning. He agrees to go with Harris to a Hurleigh weekend party. Tensions are high because the miner’s are going on the strike and a general strike is planned to bring the government down. Lady Laura is planning a weekend where the two sides can talk away from the noise of the public and media but there is another agenda being played, one Harris intends to stop.
TOUCHSTONE is a thick juicy story that shows England between the two world wars and how the government feels about the unions. Harris is in England to bring vigilante justice to the bomber and ends up falling for Sarah. He comes to care for Bennet and tries to rescue him from Carstairs clutches. Carstairs wants to be the power in the shadows that steers England on a course that seems acceptable on the surface but is deviously deceptive. Laurie R King creates fascinating characters and places them in several subplots so that the reader understands what motivates them.