Last year, Claire North gave us the superb time-tripping novel The Fifteen Lives Of Harry August. Now, she returns with another story of almost-immortality and the price that must be paid for living at a remove from the rest of humanity.
Our narrator can jump from body to body, effectively possessing their host at the merest touch. She is hundreds of years old, but suddenly finds her life under threat when a shady organisation hunts her down. Now, the being known as Kepler must find a way to survive and figure out who exactly is behind the attempts on her life.
North throws the reader right into the midst of the action, picking up the story as Kepler barely escapes the body of her murdered host in Istanbul. She sets off on a journey across Europe, and the author vividly renders a succession of cities, train journeys and hotel rooms in incredible detail. Kepler’s escape is interspersed with scenes from her history.
As with Harry August, North seems interested in the disassociation that comes from living too long, with Kepler one of the few romantics in a group of pleasure seekers and psychopaths. She creates scenes of affecting pathos, as well as some shocking violence (the exploits of the ghost known as Galileo are certainly memorable).
However, Kepler’s narration is only intermittently involving; she’s a lot easier to root for as a vengeful fugitive than a jaded sprite, while the present-day storylines are less exciting than her trips into the past. That being said, North is highly adept at finding small details that bring her world to life and the occasional lulls are quickly broken. Touch might not be as good as its predecessor, but it’s an entertaining thriller that continues to showcase North’s talent.