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Folly Paperback – May 28, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

"The thing about madness was, it just took so damn much energy, and it was so thoroughly tedious in the meantime." Master woodworker Rae Newborn knows madness intimately, with every bone, every pore, every particle of her being. At 52, with three suicide attempts, extended hospitalizations, the death of her husband and daughter, and a vicious attack behind her, Rae has come to Folly Island, far out in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, to rebuild her life by building a house:

She would pull herself together, she would go and rebuild Desmond's house, she would lift his walls and dwell within them quietly all the rest of her days. Everything that House was lay there waiting for her to take it up: House as shelter, House as permanence, House as a continuation and a legacy, comfort and challenge, safety and beauty, symbol and reality joined as one.
Bequeathed to Rae by Desmond Newborn, a great-uncle she never met, Folly Island is lovely indeed. But when Rae discovers Desmond's journal in the 70-year-old ruins of his house, she learns that Desmond had his own internal horrors to confront on the island. As she labors in solitude, her prickly nature deterring all but the most determined of her would-be neighbors, it's not just her well-being that's at stake. Rae must prove herself sane if she is to have any contact with her beloved granddaughter Petra. So when the "skin-crawling feeling of being watched" doesn't fade, she does her best to ignore it. But does paranoia have its roots in reality? And is Rae doomed to repeat her ancestor's tragic end?

So effectively does King weave together past and present--the shrouded history of Desmond's life and death on Folly, and the tense, dusty, exhilaratingly panicky account of Rae's wrestling with old demons and new timber--that the future seems less important than the author might have wished. In other words, the eventual unmasking of Rae's watcher pales in comparison to the gradual revelation of Rae herself within King's haunted and haunting narrative. But with such a strong character and such moodily lovely prose, readers shouldn't miss the denouement-driven trappings of standard suspense. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Beautiful prose and intriguing characters can't quite save the confusing, and at times needlessly complicated, plot of this challenging psychological thriller, set on a fictional addition to the San Juan Island chain in Washington state, from Edgar-winner King. Talented, 52-year-old wood artist Rae Newborn suffers from severe depression, having survived several suicide attempts, as well as the death of her beloved second husband and their young daughter in a car crash. After being mugged by two strangers near her mainland home, Rae decides to wwork for healing by rebuilding the house called Folly that her great uncle, Desmond Newborn, constructed in the '20s as a way of mending his own war-wounded psyche. She capriciously dumps all her medications into Puget Sound, then lives in a tent while she digs and saws and chisels her way to bringing Folly and herself back to life. In uncovering and solving one murder, she works toward regaining sanity and--perhaps--love. While King skillfully portrays psychological illness, the book's sheer complexity of detail is overwhelming. There's more mass than the average mind can keep straight, and the passages about rebuilding Folly, especially, have a tendency to bog down. The denouement is a bit hokey, though definitely more attention-grabbing than all the rest put together. (Feb. 27)Forecast: Fans of King's Mary Russell and Kate Martinelli series will ensure strong initial sales, as will some serious ad/promo and a preview in each paperback copy of Night Work, currently on sale. This is far from King's best work, though, and may turn off some of her fans, leading to poor word of mouth and a weakening of sales down the road.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (May 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553381512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553381511
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

New York Times bestselling crime writer Laurie R. King writes both series and standalone novels. For a complete list of her books in order, please visit

In the Mary Russell series (first entry: The Beekeeper's Apprentice), fifteen-year-old Russell meets Sherlock Holmes on the Sussex Downs in 1915, becoming his apprentice, then his partner. The series follows their amiably contentious partnership into the 1920s as they challenge each other to ever greater feats of detection. For a complete list of the Mary Russell books in order, click here:

The Kate Martinelli series, starting with A Grave Talent, concerns a San Francisco homicide inspector, her SFPD partner, and her life partner. In the course of the series, Kate encounters a female Rembrandt, a modern-day Holy Fool, two difficult teenagers, a manifestation of the goddess Kali and an eighty-year-old manuscript concerning Sherlock Holmes.

The Stuyvesant and Gray books feature Harris Stuyvesant, a Bureau of Investigation agent who finds himself far out of his depth, first in England during the 1926 General Strike (Touchstone), then in Paris during the sweltering confusion of September, 1929 (The Bones of Paris).

King also has written stand-alone novels--A Darker Place as well as two loosely linked novels, Folly and Keeping Watch--and a science fiction novel, Califia's Daughters, under the pseudonym Leigh Richards.

King grew up reading her way through libraries like a termite through balsa before going on to become a mother, builder, world traveler, and theologian.

She has now settled into a genteel life of crime, back in her native northern California. She has a secondary residence in cyberspace, where she enjoys meeting readers in her Virtual Book Club and on her blog.

King has won the Edgar and Creasey awards (for A Grave Talent), the Nero (for A Monstrous Regiment of Women) and the MacCavity (for Folly); her nominations include the Agatha, the Orange, the Barry, and two more Edgars. She was also given an honorary doctorate from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

Check out King's website,, and follow the links to her blog and Virtual Book Club, featuring monthly discussions of her work, with regular visits from the author herself. And for regular LRK updates, follow the link to sign up for her email newsletter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By jean utley on January 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Despite the horrible review given this book by Publisher's Weekly, I've read a copy of Folly and I think it is one of the best novels of the year. It is a wonderful story of a woman who heals herself emotionally and physically after the loss of her family. She comes to an isolated island between Washington State and Canada and begins to build a house and a new life for herself, always wary of the past and learning from her mistakes. There is a small mystery but it is mostly the conflict within herself that keeps Rae interesting. I think this is an award winner-and at the very least, a terrific read! I urge everyone to read this book and all of Laurie King's work. I think she gets better every book!
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Julia Walker VINE VOICE on July 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
King's newest novel is everything that the other reviewers claim, good and bad. (Except that it's NOTHING like Mary Higgins Clark, whose works I had to ban from my Women's Murder Mystery class after finding them 98% romance and 2% mystery.) But in "Folly," King does use obvious symbolism, long digressions, unexpected and non-chronological flash-backs, bleeds a bit into romance, and lacks a clear articulation or resolution of the immortal "who dunnit?" Or at least "why?"
But it is a very good book.
Unlike the books of her Kate Martinelli series or Mary Russell series, King's newest novel is only incidentally a mystery, although almost none her other books are _simply_ mysteries. But in "Folly" there's certainly fearful suspense artfully manipulated and enough problems to be solved to provide a satisfactory, if not perfectly neat resolution. The plot's chronology is complexly presented, so it's no book to read when you have to put it down for a day then pick it up for thirty minutes before bedtime. But the focus on single and mutably complex main character (however unfortunately allegorical her name) justifies that.
While I am a great fan of King's work, I wouldn't claim that she can't write a less-than-wonderful book -- see "To Play the Fool" or "The Moor," a book that gave me an even worse headache than the Dorothy L. Sayers' exercise with Scottish fish and train timetables. But this book IS, in many ways, wonderful. The metaphor of a woman rebuilding herself as she rebuilds a house may be as obvious as "new born" and "sanctuary," but that doesn't make it any less compelling -- see Homer or Virgil or Dante, also writers with obvious controlling metaphors.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Cathy Wright on June 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
Having read and loved both the Mary Russell and Kate Martinelli series' by King, I expected a similar read with Folly, but I was surprised and pleased to see her go in an entirely different direction with this astonishing, heartbreaking and ultimately victorious work of fiction. While King's series work plots complex mysteries with strong characters, Folly is more a character study, with a 50-ish woman in the unlikely role of heroine.
Rae Newborn has endured tragedies and loss that would destroy a weaker woman, and while she has faltered, she has not fallen. Instead she finds redemption in a house-building project that she tackles alone, on a desolate northwest Washington State island. King uses the metaphor of house construction to underline Rae's rebuilding of her shattered psyche, one layer at a time; she gives older women readers insight and hope as she slowly tears down the old, then begins constructing the new, developing Rae's muscles and physical stamina to parallel her slowly evolving mental and emotional health.
I loved the character of Rae Newborn for her own life's "folly" of attempting the incredible task of building a house. I cried for her tragedies and losses and suicide attempts. I was angry at her family members (like I would be at my own) if they could not, or would not, see the person beneath the title of Mother or Daughter, Aunt or Niece, etc. I cheered at the characters who fought to befriend the frightened, desperate Rae when she tried so hard to stand in isolation rather than chance loss once more.
Mostly I hated the last pages of this book, because they WERE the last pages and I would have to leave Rae Newborn, when I wanted to stay with her on that island, or wherever life took her, forever. She became my sister, my friend, my hero.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This lovely novel builds slowly but surely, weaving a spell around the reader. I particularly like the fact that the author has focused the book around a woman who has suffered from depression and even outright psychosis at certain points in her life. And yet she doesn't seem frightening or weird but simply as a person who is doing her best in spite of the challenges she faces, both emotional and otherwise. This woman, Rae Newborn, has had a difficult life. Her periodic depressions, breaks with reality and unpredictable behavior have left her realtionship with her daughter (the product of an early marriage) severely strained. She has a son-in-law who is equally unloving and on the verge of keeping her grand-daughter from her, a girl Rae loves dearly. And there have been other troubles, deep ones, in Rae's life - crises I won't reveal here (not wanting to spoil the story). The past and recent pains in Rae's life have left her shell-shocked and fearful. Still, she's a resilient woman and she decides the best way to cure her pain is to confront it head on, with no one to turn to for support except herself. She moves to an island and decides to build a home which was started by another member of her family, long ago. And that's when things come to a climax - although it's a climax that builds gradually, allowing the reader to get to know Rae and her past more fully. I found this to be an extremely satisfying read, one that left me feelng as if I knew Rae quite well. I also liked the fact that the author did a fine job of demystifying mental illness. I felt drawn to Rae, to her courage and her willingness to take huge risks to become the person she wanted to be.
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