Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Touch Touch
by Claire North

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

Touch is the second book written as Claire North, a nom de plume of Catherine Webb (who has also written as Kate Griffin) a successful author of young adult fiction. Touch is not young adult fiction.

Touch concerns Kepler, a mindful spirit who can shift bodies by skin on skin touch and whose leaving gives the host a gap in his or her memory matching the period of Kepler’s occupancy. Kepler started shifting bodies when he was killed in a mugging in eighteenth century London. The setting is current day Europe. Kepler is also not the only spirit shifting bodies. Unfortunately for Kepler and its ilk (the reader is never told if Kepler first began as a man or a woman and Kepler doesn’t differentiate when chosing a host) there is a secret organisation, the latest in a series of such organisations, dedicated to killing off the spirits – and Kepler is being hunted.

I found the story satisfyingly complex in its plotting and characters but similarly, satisfyingly uncomplicated in its delivery. Flashbacks are used sparingly to illustrate Kepler’s past inter-actions with other spirits and to illustrate motivation for current actions. Kepler is also self-aware enough to realise that if he/she could pass from one body to another she/he could be traced by the confusion experienced by the host when Kepler moves on to a new host. Kepler might be insubstantial but can be traced – quite easily as technology has improved.

In reading this book, I wondered how much the author – via the sausage grinder of the writing process – drew on her own professional experiences of juggling her different authorial names. Whatever the genesis of the book Claire North (or Catherine Webb) has produced an excellent book. Definitely a keeper.

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