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Mystery Books - Claire North - Touch


Claire North
Redhook 2015
432 pages

If your body is subject to a traumatic death, you might be one of the rare humans, who with the simple brush of your fingertips, can switch positions and jump into the skin of an unsuspecting target, to be that person; any gender, any age, any time.

You are your thoughts and your feelings, but you are not your skin.  The life and the body you chose to inhabit are how you are recognized.  You can live as your host for as long as it serves your purpose.  You can be anybody.  How about the rich and famous?  Dominoes of passengers waiting at a train platform?  Maybe a stooped elderly gentleman will make a ready disguise.

He is called Kepler.  This reader assumes he is a he, however his original identity and gender are perhaps long forgotten.  They don't matter.  His love, Josephine, is murdered.  Switching into new bodies and genders at will, Kepler is on the hunt for the killer and the reason why.

This is Touch, a fantasy mystery by Claire North.

It is is a complicated yet simple story of murder, escape, and fear, cloaked in the very interesting concept of malleable identity.  North's descriptions are often very vivid and compelling, notably the feeling of abruptly experiencing and adjusting to another's body.  Why and how hosts are chosen are fascinating at times, with jumpers having different motivations in selecting the skins they inhabit.

There are mysterious and powerful entities sporting the names borrowed from Roman gods, Greek myths, and significant historical figures.  Who they are is quite underdeveloped.  Plus, a clandestine organization is hell bent on destroying the ghosts.  If all this sounds confusing, it is.

Jumps occur so often, however, that they become mundane.  Maybe that's the point?  Who's who takes on an entirely new meaning.  With everyone being someone else, then someone else again, the characters' real identities can be difficult to follow, even for Kepler, who sometimes takes time to “recognize” others inhabiting unfamiliar bodies.  It certainly gives pause to the saying that we are who we are inside.

Likewise confusing is the time line.  There are flashback sequences which occur almost as frequently as the switches.  Details of the underlying story seem more like ghosts themselves, and the reader becomes less than enamoured by the original concept.  

North has a great imagination.  She is a writer who is very good at novelty and evocative descriptions.  That being said, Touch would have been more enjoyable for this reader if it contained a smoother flow, more solid characters, and a tighter plot line.

J Curran

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