Laurie R. King gave us the brilliant recreation of Sherlock Holmes with more depth than Conan Doyle ever mustered in her Mary Russell novels. Now, in Bennett Grey, she has created her own tortured sleuth for this story set during Britain’s Great Strike of 1926. In the trenches of the Great War, a shell killed the old Grey. It replaced him with a man who has preternaturally heightened senses, including an ability to tell, through what he calls “dissonance,” when someone is lying. Such dissonance has rendered him incapable of living among his fellow men and driven him to Cornwall, where he frequently considers stepping off Land’s End altogether.
An agent for the fledgling FBI appears as Grey’s Watson. Harris Stuyvesant draws Grey into his hunt for a union agitator who may be responsible for a number of stateside bombings. And the game’s afoot.
King’s ear is so good, we can tell from the first sentence whether a chapter is in the American’s or the Brit’s point of view. The country house weekend party, which Agatha Christie used for its neatly limited slate of suspects, also receives new life here. We get so many more luscious, spot-on details, something historical fiction gives us that the writer of the period, even a Christie, ignores because they are daily bread and butter to her. And just when we thought we’d read every description of the horrors of the trenches, and they could only begin to repeat, in two or three short pages King brings new life—er, death—to this as well. By no means finally, Touchstone’s musings on terrorism remind us that this is not our own personal latter-day affliction and very wisely comments on its base causes.