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Touchstone Hardcover – December 26, 2007
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Mystery/thrillers are definitely outside my main reading diet, but
this novel by the author of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series was so much fun to read that I slowed way down and took two weeks to read it, and was very sad when it ended. It has terrific characters, and not just the main ones. I was fascinated by Bennett Grey, whose horrific WWI injuries left him so sensitive to the noises, smells and sights around him that it's as if he can read minds, and people who are lying, or evil, cause him severe physical pain. What an interesting change on the Sherlock Holmes syndrome that is -- like an extreme version, only relatively helpless.
If there's any downside to this book it's the English "house party" at a grand estate, that goes on for days and days, recounted in what feels like real time detail over 200 plus pages. Lots of it was wonderful, but it all got to be a bit too much.
I'd love to see a movie, or better, a miniseries, of this. It's got a couple of strong, interesting women characters, along with a great bad guy. And as a mystery/thriller it kept me going almost to the end, guessing at the central puzzle.
I was very happy to realize that there's a second book in what's now a series, and have ordered it and can't wait.
A great yarn about Harris Stuyvesant, an American in England in 1926, years after his WW I service there, who has temporarily left his job as an agent for the US Bureau of Investigation (now the FBI) to find a "mad bomber" who has set several bombs in the US. During his frustrating search for someone to help him in the English governmental bureaucracy, he is put in touch with Bennet Grey, an Englishman who, after being severely injured during his WWI service, is "sensitive" to who is lying and who is not. Stuyvesant and Grey, along with Grey's sister and members of the esteemed Hurleigh family, are caught up in the convergence of several plots: the chase for the political extremist(s) who may be working to foil attempts to settle a Labor strike that threatens to shut down the country, the efforts of another seemingly nefarious governmental official to harness Grey's abilities, with or without his consent, and Stuyvesant's own plot to arrest, or kill, the person(s) responsible for the bomb that severely injured his beloved brother.