I went to the library a few weeks ago and finally picked up a book that is NOT a Mary Russell series book by Laurie R. King, called The Bones of Paris. I got a few pages in when I realized that it was, sadly, the second book featuring the hard-boiled American Harrison Stuyvesant and the incredibly damaged Bennett Grey.
So, I went back to the library and picked up the first book, Touchstone. Because, you know, you can't read a series out of order...
The Mary Russell series is the first thing I recommend when anyone asks if I have anything good to read. I love those books, I love the character development, and since I LOVE the writing, I hoped that I would also enjoy these books. (I do also very much enjoy her other series about Kate Martinelli.)
Harris Stuyvesant is an operative in the fledgling FBI in 1926. He travels to England to try to track down a hunch - a serial bomber operating in the US whom he believes may be an up-and-coming Labour leader in the lead up to the General Strike that was threatened in England at the time. (By the way, one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels also deals with the build up to this same strike. Totally real event. But I digress...) He gets a lot of runaround throughout the British police/secret services, but eventually runs into a scary guy named Carstairs, who suggests that he talk to a man who barely survived The Great War, with some rather special abilities. Grey can basically sense the disharmony in a person when they are lying, as well as having hyper-sensitivity to smells and sounds. Cartstairs had a pretty awful plan for him after the war, before Grey eventually came apart, revolted, and went to hide out in the country. Being around people and all the constant disharmony was physically painful and intolerable to him for many years.
Grey and Stuyvesant both mistrust Carstairs, but the suspected bomber is dating Grey's former fiancee, and Grey's sister is her best friend and also works with their cause. Grey would like to test himself in public a bit and agrees to introduce Stuyvesant to the main players during a country weekend at the former fiancee's family manor.
Harris falls in love at first sight with Sarah Grey, which complicates matters some as he's trying to operate undercover, and needs to use her to get close to Bunsen, the suspected bomber.
I admit that I didn't love this book quite as much as King's other works. It read like a very, very long background file with little action. I liked the characters, and they do wind up fairly well developed because of all the backstory. However, there was a lot of discourse and discussion, political history, the conflict between Carstairs and Grey that is all intellectual, leaving the story dragging more than a little.
The book does end with a good action scene, and a believable but not totally satisfying ending. I almost always enjoy reading books between the World Wars, and the characters made it interesting enough, but it wouldn't necessarily be on my must-read list.
But then I went ahead and picked up The Bones of Paris.
Overall, I'm glad I read them, particularly since I enjoyed the second one so much.