Touchstone (2007)

touchstoneNominated for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award.touchstone

The doorman took one look at the figure that lurched into his tidy foyer and moved to return the straying lunatic to the streets. Stuyvesant pushed down the impulse to deck another Brit and summoned his most charming, lop-sided smile, assuring the man that he did, in fact, have an appointment with Mr. Carstairs, although he’d had a little accident, if he could just phone..?

Without turning his back on the disheveled American, the man went back to his desk to pick up his telephone. He spoke, listened, grunted, and hung up.

“If you’ll just wait a minute.”

It was less time than that when a weedy specimen with freckles and twitchy hands came through the connecting door, and stopped dead. He looked at Stuyvesant, and at the doorman (who gave him a What-did-I-say? shrug) then stood back, holding the door.

“Mr. Carstairs?” Stuyvesant asked. “His secretary,” the man replied. “The Major is expecting you.”

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What they say

“Laurie R. King’s meticulously plotted tale of an ordinary man with an extraordinary gift, Touchstone, is an Anglophile’s treat of sixth sense and sensibility.” — Entertainment Weekly

Booklist starred review: In England in 1926, [King’s characters] form the points of an intricate star drawn around the old families and the coming general strike, the legacy of the war, and the desperation of poverty and class struggle.  King works her mastery not only in a vivid and sometimes terrifying psychological study but also through gorgeous evocation of the English landscape, detailed description of the dynamics in a country house inhabited by the same family for half a millenium, and perceptive analysis of the intricate complexities of politics, power and gender, and social justice.  Cinematic in the intensity of its shifting points of view and boasting characters so charismatic that we can hear not only their voices but also the sound of their breathing, King’s latest combines a compelling plot with a richly, even lushly, imagined time and place.


Read Laurie’s thoughts on writing Touchstone on her blog, Mutterings.

Read a Q&A on the Alison & Busby Book Club.

What is a touchstone?

1926 politics

The general strike

…its chronology as seen by the Trades Union

…and from a Marxist point of view


Emma Goldman’s definition

History of the FBI/ Bureau of Investigation

Social life

English life between the wars

Flapper dress, jazz age suiting


Standing stones

Land’s End

Gloucestershire (oddly, there is no mention of Hurleigh)


Owlpen Manor

For a timeline and various links, go to Mary Russell’s World


Bennett Grey was not the only man to suffer from shell shock.

Click above to visit the gallery.