Mini-reviews: Touchstone by Laurie R. King; W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton; and Defending Jacob by William Landay

touchstoneTitle: Touchstone
Author: Laurie R. King
Genre: Historical fiction, spy thriller
Publisher: Bantam Books
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Small things: straws on camels’ backs.

Goodreads blurb: It’s eight years after the Great War shattered Bennett Grey’s life, leaving him with an excruciating sensitivity to the potential of human violence, and making social contact all but impossible. Once studied by British intelligence for his unique abilities, Grey has withdrawn from a rapidly changing world—until an American Bureau of Investigation agent comes to investigate for himself Grey’s potential as a weapon in a vicious new kind of warfare. Agent Harris Stuyvesant desperately needs Grey’s help entering a world where the rich and the radical exist side by side—a heady mix of the powerful and the celebrated, among whom lurks an enemy ready to strike a deadly blow at democracy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here, among a titled family whose servants dress in whimsical costumes and whose daughter conducts an open affair with a man who wants to bring down the government, Stuyvesant finds himself dangerously seduced by one woman and—even more dangerously—falling in love with another. And as he sifts through secrets divulged and kept, he uncovers the target of a horrifying conspiracy, and wonders if he can trust his touchstone, Grey, to reveal the most dangerous player of all…

Most of you already know that I adore Laurie R. King’s Russell/Holmes mystery series. I adore the writing, the characters, her historical research. Until I picked up Touchstone, I had never read any of her other work. Unfortunately, this one didn’t work for me the way her mysteries do. I was very intrigued by the premise, and I do think the second half improved on the first, but this book dragged quite in a bit in sections. I liked the characterization, but the plotting was a bit of a trudge, especially for a book that is billed as a thriller.

wTitle: W is for Wasted
Author: Sue Grafton
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Random House Audio
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Judy Kaye
Audiobook length: 17 hours and 13 minutes
First line: Two dead men changed the course of my life that fall.

Goodreads blurb: The first was a local PI of suspect reputation. He’d been gunned down near the beach at Santa Teresa. It looked like a robbery gone bad. The other was on the beach six weeks later. He’d been sleeping rough. Probably homeless. No identification. A slip of paper with Millhone’s name and number was in his pants pocket. The coroner asked her to come to the morgue to see if she could ID him.

Two seemingly unrelated deaths, one a murder, the other apparently of natural causes.

But as Kinsey digs deeper into the mystery of the John Doe, some very strange linkages begin to emerge. And before long at least one aspect is solved as Kinsey literally finds the key to his identity. And just like that,” she says, the lid to Pandora’s box flew open. It would take me another day before I understood how many imps had been freed, but for the moment, I was inordinately pleased with myself.”

In this multi-layered tale, the surfaces seem clear, but the underpinnings are full of betrayals, misunderstandings, and outright murderous fraud. And Kinsey, through no fault of her own, is thoroughly compromised.

Kinsey Millhone is a favorite character for me, and it is always fun to revisit her world for a bit. I love the fact that Grafton has kept Kinsey firmly rooted in her era, an era before cell phones and the inevitable computer in every home. It makes for a slower build to the mystery, because Kinsey has to do so much footwork. This mystery gives us a bit more of her personal history, as well, which I liked. Plus, I always enjoy the interaction between Kinsey and her elderly neighbor, Henry, and his wild bunch of siblings. I’m glad Grafton is still giving us more Kinsey stories. Also, Judy Kaye is a wonderful voice for Millhone, and I will always choose to listen rather than read Grafton’s books, if that option is available.

defendingjacobTitle: Defending Jacob
Author: William Landay
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Grover Gardner
Audiobook length: 12 hours and 25 minutes
First line: Mr. Logiudice: State your name, please.

Goodreads blurb: Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

I looked for this book at my local library after reading Wendy’s rave review. She was right. Don’t worry about what I have to say, just go get your hands on this book. And if you can get the audio edition, read by Grover Gardner, then all the better. This book has so many things I absolutely loved: an unreliable narrator, twisted family dynamics, intricate courtroom drama, and an ending that simply blew me away. You have to read this one!

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9 Responses to Mini-reviews: Touchstone by Laurie R. King; W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton; and Defending Jacob by William Landay

  1. I really want to try King’s mystery series. One of these days!

    I really enjoy Grafton’s books too and can’t wait to read this one. I still need to catch up though. I think I’m ready to start reading “U” any day now.

    So glad you liked Defending Jacob, Carrie! That ending could make or break the book for some, I think, but wow.

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I am on the hold list for W (I love that series, even though some books are better than others). And Defending Jacob! What a ride, huh? I think every book club in America is reading that one.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – I love the Kinsey series, too, even though it has its ups and downs.

  3. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    A friend of mine keeps pushing me to read Defending Jacob but I haven’t yet. I have it in print but Grover Gardner is awfully tempting.

  4. stacybuckeye says:

    Noce to see Kinsey is holding up well. I can’t wait to get my hands on Defending Jacob.

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