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Touchstone Hardcover – December 26, 2007

87 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Harris Stuyvesant Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set shortly before Britain's disastrous General Strike of 1926, this stand-alone thriller from bestseller King (Keeping Watch) offers impeccable scholarship and the author's usual intelligent prose, but a surfeit of period detail and some weighty themes—the gulf between rich and poor, the insidious nature of both terrorism and the efforts to curb it—overpower the thin plot and stock characters. When Harris Stuyvesant, an investigator for the U.S. Justice Department, arrives in London to look for the mastermind behind a series of terrorist bombings on American soil, he tells Aldous Carstairs, a sinister government official, that his prime suspect is Labour Party leader Richard Bunsen. Carstairs suggests Stuyvesant should talk to Bennett Grey, whose brush with death during WWI has heightened his sense of perception to the point that he's a kind of human lie detector (he's the touchstone of the title), and to Lady Laura Hurleigh, Bunsen's lover and a passionate advocate of his brand of socialism. The threat of violence at a secret summit meeting held at the Hurleigh family's country house about preventing the strike provides some mild suspense. (Jan.)
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“This suspense novel unfolds slowly, but King is so adept at telling a story that the pace never lags. …. an entertaining mix of ambition, intrigue, social unrest and unfettered idealism.”—Arizona Republic

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553803557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553803556
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #489,323 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

75 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Julia Walker VINE VOICE on January 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Union men and Stanley Baldwin and an FBI agent at King Arthur's court - what an unlikely mix. And yet King weaves all this and more into a tapestry as vivid as any hanging in the Victoria and Albert. If you've read bits and pieces about the General Strike of 1926, you will fill in some gaps with Touchstone, but don't confuse this with a book about an historical event.

This is a book about people. The Duke's daughter with a bone-deep sense of duty, the archetypal English gentleman whose body bears the wounds of the Great War and whose soul remains at some eternal Agincourt, the half-caste hero of the trenches caught in the warp and woof of the British class system - each one is going to break your heart, but never quite in the way that you expect.

Fair warning: the book is a slow start.

Until you begin to care about the people - about page 175 for me - the multiple agendas of the personal and the political seem too grim for recreational reading. But, if you are one of King's faithful readers, you will keep turning pages until smitten with the beauty of the settings - nature and art - and lulled into cozy fascination by the words and actions of pretty people in an exquisite landscape, England at its most magical. And then you are hooked. The mists of Avalon part and you see the players' political commitments as inevitable manifestations of their love of family, love of country.

Here we find politics and art and a love story - two, no, three love stories - and a family saga and (eventually) a truly nail-biting thriller. But you have to put in the time to get to know these people and their England.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Isch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not one of King's Russell or Martinelli mysteries; this is a stand-alone thriller set in England shortly after the end of the first World War and the two most important things you should know about it are l. that the last 90 pages are absolutely gripping, and 2. that before you get there, you're going to have to slog through 458 pages of meticulously detailed descriptions, digressions and setup.

Few writers write descriptive material more beautifully than Laurie King. But she does have a tendency to overdo it. And never moreso than in this book. Example: It takes our protagonist three and a half entirely uneventful pages just to walk from his bedroom to the drawing room. Another: As a conclusion begins ever so slowly to build, one of the principals sends the hero a message marked urgent; he dashes off to meet her in the chapel but before we learn why, we must pause for a detailed examination of a painting of a Madonna and Child on the chapel wall. Well, you say to yourself, that's surely because this painting is going to figure prominently in the denouement to come, right? Nope, it doesn't. But this digression and dozens like it do explain why this book runs some 200 pages longer than King's others. The plot itself doesn't need the extra space. And her settings and characters do not seem to come more alive on the page because of it.

I'm giving this one four stars because King is such a terrific writer, and because two of the six principal characters--Bennett and Laura--are exceptionally interesting and well drawn, and the ending's a doozy. Also I think she really pours heart and soul into these stand-alone books and I hope she'll do more of them. But please not at such length.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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.

Harriet Klausner
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