Tag Archives: Allison and Busby

Touchstone – Laurie R King (2013)

Click on image for link to Amazon UK.

Click on image for link to Amazon UK.

Review by ScotKris.

Good news for fans of Laurie R King – August saw the first UK paperback release of her 2008 standalone novel, Touchstone, featuring FBI Agent Harris Stuyvesant, in a beautiful new edition from Allison & Busby.

Once studied by British intelligence for his excruciating sensitivity to the world’s turmoil, Bennett Grey has withdrawn from the world – until an American Bureau of Investigation agent comes to assess Grey’s potential as a weapon in a new kind of warfare.  Agent Harris Stuyvesant needs Grey’s help to enter a realm where the rich and the radical exist side by side – a heady mix of power, celebrity, and sexuality that conceals the free world’s deadliest enemy.  Soon Stuyvesant finds himself dangerously seduced by one woman and – even more dangerously – falling in love with another.  As he sifts through secrets divulged and kept, he uncovers the target of a horrifying conspiracy, and wonders if he can trust anyone, even his touchstone.

Reviewed here back in 2008, this is a snapshot of what I said at the time:

“ …Laurie R King’s latest offering, Touchstone, a standalone novel set shortly after the Great War in locations as diverse as London and Cornwall.  I must confess immediately to a preference for novels which stand by themselves away from a series; as the author says on her own blog, it gives her ‘a chance to flex her literary muscles’, with the opportunity to develop a unique selection of characters and background that support the story in its entirety.  Touchstone is no exception: a rich and diverse offering which challenges the mind and demands a single-sitting reading – no easy task at 500 pages plus.  Indeed, part of the pleasure of this novel is in the savouring, with the lead character of Bennett Grey a superb vehicle from whom to provide just one of the many perspectives in this book.

“Followers of Laurie R King’s blog will know how much time, care and love go into her books.  No corporate publicity machine producing multiple titles each year: indeed, often eighteen months or more may pass between her books, and all are welcomed with open arms by an extremely loyal readership.  With Touchstone as the latest example of how this author keeps in touch with this reader, I would always welcome a more prolific output; however, I am glad Laurie R King doesn’t feel the need to compromise in any way, and continues to produce absolute gems.”

Now, five years later, with this new edition the opportunity arrives to revisit the characters and enjoy King’s fine writing and her enviable ability to weave such fascinating stories.

Link to Amazon UK.

Link to Amazon UK.

Since Touchstone was first released, King has produced four consecutive instalments in her renowned Mary Russell series.  Now too, at the end of September, we have The Bones of Paris, (review coming soon), which sees the return of Harris Stuyvesant.  So if you haven’t yet read Touchstone, catch up now, and immerse yourself in a 1920s world with more intrigue than Poirot could ever have faced.

Garment of Shadows – Laurie R King

Review by ScotKris.

In recent years I have, on occasion, been concerned when a number of writers have started consolidating their output by focusing on one series character at the expense of their other work.  Looking back over 30 years of a wide variety of crime writing in particular, no matter how much I enjoyed Ruth Rendell’s work for example, I preferred the variation of her standalone novels to the Wexfords.  I would not have sought three or four Wexfords in succession.

Laurie R King has, over almost 20 years, produced five police procedurals in the much missed Kate Martinelli series; five varied and intriguing standalone novels, and now, with Garment of Shadows, 12 novels in the Mary Russell series – the series which also features the post-retirement Sherlock Holmes.  Recently, King has concentrated on the Russell-Holmes series and Garment of Shadows is the fourth successive novel in four years.  I admit I felt a slight trepidation as to whether my attention would hold.  I had no qualms that I would enjoy the quality of the writing, more that the story would show signs of the series needing a break.  But I needn’t have worried…

After the humorous side-step of 2011’s Pirate King, King returns to a more serious subject matter, taking Russell and Holmes deep into a troubled Morocco and the war between Spain and France over control of the precarious North African country.  As with earlier Russell and Holmes novels, King appears to effortlessly interweave her characters with historical events, and a sign of her skill is to have the reader forgetting that this is fiction mingling with real events.  Decades have passed since the Rif Revolt, but King brings to life the anguish of a country fighting for its independence almost 100 years ago, without ever making this a history lesson.

The story opens with Mary Russell wakening in a strange bed in a strange room, with no memory of who she is or how she arrived in these circumstances.  There is blood on her hands; there are soldiers on her trail; and she has no awareness of Holmes.

Out in the hive-like streets, she discovers herself strangely adept in the skills of the underworld, escaping through alleys and rooftops, picking pockets and locks … Overhead, warplanes pass ominously north …

A fascinating trail ensues as Russell uses her wits in her attempts to find herself, as Holmes attempts to track her down.  This is King at her best, showcasing her characters in full swing as individuals before reuniting them and taking the story deep into its main theme.  Utterly believable, wildly improbable, totally plausible, Garment of Shadows is a more than worthy addition to this now long-running series, and comes highly recommended.

Garment of Shadows is now available on Amazon. With thanks to the publisher, Allison and Busby for the review copy.

O Jerusalem – Laurie R King

By ScotKris

After a gap of over ten years, the good news for fans of Mary Russell is the reappearance of O Jerusalem, the ‘missing’ Russell story that takes place towards the end of 1918, and referred to briefly during the events transcribed in the first Russell novel, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.  O Jerusalem stands alone, and tells the tale Sherlock Holmes’s flight from England to Palestine along with his apprentice: the nineteen-year-old Mary Russell.  They have been given a mission by Mycroft Holmes to solve a series of murders that may or may not be related to growing tensions in the region, a series of murders that has bewildered the local authorities.  The mission takes them deep into the Palestinian country, through bazaars and squalor to precariously placed monasteries.  Danger is ever-present and enemies have to be faced, with Jerusalem the setting for their meeting with their powerful and dangerous adversary.  As events come to a climax in that ancient city, the young Russell is tested on many levels, and proves herself to be a match for their enemy… this time.

O Jerusalem tells a riveting story, but also paints a picture of an early 20th century Palestine rich with character and colour, a combination handled so well by Laurie R King and a technique developed so successfully over later novels in this series.  The most recent, Pirate King, is now also available in paperback, with the 12th instalment, Garment of Shadows, due in the UK in October.  All of these are published by Allison & Busby, who are to be given kudos for the wonderful series ‘look’, with some stunning cover art.

O Jerusalem was reissued June 25, 2012 in the UK.

The Secret Archives of Sherlock Holmes – June Thomson

Link to Amazon UK.

By ScotKris

After a gap of eight years, it is a pleasure to revisit June Thomson’s delightful take on Sherlock Holmes in this, her sixth collection of short story pastiches, offering Holmes and Watson fans new deceptions to enjoy.  Since her first Holmes collection was published over twenty years ago Thomson has continued to invent some imaginative opportunities for the great detective, told from the perspective of the loyal Watson, and under the guise of ‘missing’ cases, or perhaps referred to obliquely in the original canon.

From counterfeit paintings to a skeleton in the back garden – via the clever diversion of the case of the widow with three hands, and a dead farmer in a barn with his son accused of murder – these seven short mysteries make for cosy evening reads, taking the reader from London’s gas-lit streets to the rambling and isolated hills of Wales.  Indeed, The Secret Archives of Sherlock Holmes tempted this reader to revisit the earlier collections – fortuitous, as two are to be reissued over the coming months, as well as Thomson’s fictitious biography of Holmes and Watson. Together, they offer a wonderful bonus collection to fans of both the original Conan Doyle stories and of the new takes on the character.

In good news, Allison & Busby have released this not only as a hardback with a stunning cover design, but also as an ebook for added convenience!  The first of the reissues can be expected in July, with more due in the autumn, and all come highly recommended.

Find The Secret Archives of Sherlock Holmes on Amazon here and the full title list at Allison and Busby here.

June Thomson, a former teacher, has published over twenty crime novels including these pastiche short stories available from Allison & Busby.  Her books have also been translated into many languages.