Friday, May 2, 2008

Review of Touchstone

This is one of those books where the cover has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the novel. I notice that they've changed the cover for the U.K. edition:

That one seems much more appropriate, in my opinion.

Anyway, I couldn't remember why I'd requested this from the library. My theory is that I thought I was requesting The Art of Detection, but didn't remember the title. I love Laurie King's Mary Russell novels, so the description on Amazon that read, "King's novel merges characters from her two best-known series: San Francisco detective Kate Martinelli and Sherlock Holmes's wife, Mary Russell," piqued my interest.

However, I ended up requesting Touchstone instead, and this novel was not anything like the Mary Russell novels, which is good in a way; I mean, it's a bummer when you find a new favorite author and set about reading everything they've written, only to discover that they're writing the same novel over and over again (David Eddings, I'm talking to you...but I still love you, for all that. You're lucky that your one novel is good!).

The first difference is that the novel is told mostly from a man's perspective (although there are moments where she focuses on the female characters), not a woman's, and that the novel is in third person, rather than first. I confess that I tend to prefer first person novels because they draw me into the story more, but some of my favorite novels are also third person (Harry Potter, anyone?), so I know it can be just as effective if done well. This one, however, was a slow goer. It took me a long time to care about what was going to happen to the characters. I think the reason is that the most interesting character, Bennett Grey, is not introduced until well into the novel. This book got really mixed reviews on Amazon, and after reading it, I could see why.

The premise is this: An American FBI agent, Harris Stuyvesant comes to Britain in the 1920s to investigate a suspect in some terrorist bombings. Along the way he gets mixed up in local politics and meets Grey, who was injured badly in the first World War. The injury is the most interesting thing; when he recovered, he discovered that he knew things he couldn't before, like when a person was lying, what their emotions were, what objects were made of and how old they were, etc. His descriptions of how he sees the world are fascinating. Of course the British government would like to use his truth-discerning abilities to question prisoners, and of course Grey wants nothing to do with that. Then there's a whole bit about the British miners potentially going on strike that I found pretty boring, to be blunt. Also, I guessed who the bomber was very early in the novel, which I suspect was not the author's intent. So, maybe I'm a smartie ;-), or maybe King was unsuccessful in this one. Also, the end was odd--I didn't see how one of the female character's actions would really achieve the results of the ending.

Regardless, I think it was an interesting book. Once I got into it (seriously, it took about 200 pages), I really did want to know more about the complex characters she'd created (although Stuyvesant goes from being somewhat of an oaf to a lean mean uber-competent agent, a little unbelievably), and I wanted to know how it all wrapped up, so that's something. I believe I will read the Art of Detection soon, as well.

Next up: Rock On: An Office Power Ballad, by Dan Kennedy. I think this one will be entertaining!

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