BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anna Gareau can, with a touch, read a person’s past, whether she wants to or not. After a woman is drowned at the hotel where she is staying, Anna is drawn into investigating the murder.
PROS: Clear writing style, easy read, lots of humor, potentially interesting magical setting.
CONS: Flat characters, humor wears thin after awhile, a weak ending.
BOTTOM LINE: Not a bad read if you like supernatural murder mysteries.
Touch, by first time author Gayleen Froese, is the story of Anna Gareau and her ability to read a person’s past by touching something of value to that person. While staying at a hotel in Victoria, B.C., a woman is drowned in the hotel pool. Anna is drawn to helping the dead woman’s best friend, Collie Kostyna, solve the murder. What follows is a sometimes interesting murder mystery with heavy supernatural and magical overtones.
I’ll state right out that supernatural stories aren’t my preferred type of story, so it’s a testament to how well Ms. Froese writes that I kept wanting to go to the next page to see what happens. It’s not a page turner, for me, of the usual sort where I had to read as fast as possible to find out what’s happening, but it did keep me interested till the end. Ms. Froese writes competently, if not stylishly, and her prose helps move the story along by staying out of the way. This made it easy to keep on going with Anna and her investigation. There is also a lot of humor infused in the story, most of it of the sarcastic, witty comeback type. It reminded me a lot of the conversations (in general) that we have around the lunch table, which is a good thing.
However, that’s about the only type of humor there is in the story, and with several deaths along the way, some other type of humor could have been used to lighten the mood. The sarcastic replies got old after awhile. Another drawback is that the characters themselves are rather flat. No one really seems to change or to be fleshed out well, with the minor exception of Anna, who gets some development. I wasn’t sure I bought into the reality of the characters.
I will say that Ms. Froese does setup an potentially interesting magical setting, where magic does exist in the modern day world, and there is an entire culture of people who are able to use it. They basically exist in the background and don’t try to draw attention to themselves. Within in this setting, Ms. Froese uses a deranged magician with the power to compel others to do his wishes to setup an atmosphere of fear and paranoia on the main character’s part. As the story progresses, the hidden culture is slowly revealed and I was fully expecting the members of this society to become a ‘deus ex machina’ and to help Anna out. This didn’t happen which I view as a good thing since it would have been the easy way out. However, the actual ending of the investigation didn’t really make sense to me because I didn’t understand why the bad guy would do what he did. There was really nothing to explain his action. There is also a subplot about Anna having terrible nightmares involving swarms of beetles that I felt really didn’t fit into the story overall, except to possibly increase the fear on the part of Anna about her situation.
Touch is a good story about magical and supernatural powers and being a first novel portends good things from Ms. Froese in the future. I think the setting she has created here has lots of possibilities to explore how magic and it’s practitioners could interact with the modern day world. If the supernatural interests you, give Touch a read.