Two linked suspense novels

Folly is the first in a two part series by Laurie R King. The second book is Keeping Watch. I have read both books in the last month or so and am going to review them together, although I think you could read them separately.

Folly is set on an island off the coast of Washington state in America. It was owned by a great-uncle of Rae and he built a house on the island which was never finished. Rae has had a number of terrible events happen in her life culminating in the death of her husband and daughter and an assault and attempted rape on her. Rae is not robust mentally and she has been detained in a mental facility. In an effort to regain some health she makes the decision to live alone on the island and to restore the house – she is a carpenter and artist by trade.

It soon becomes clear to Rae that not all the threats which she perceives are in her head. There really are attempts to unsettle and to harm her. She needs to work out what is going on and to avoid those who would hurt her or have her incarcerated again.

This was a true suspense novel, building up slowly to a frightening climax. If you are looking for a fast-paced action novel then this is not it because so much of it involves what Rae is thinking and how she sees things. I liked the build-up and enjoyed watching Rae cope with what life throws at her and regain her strength. The author doesn’t make the mistake of thinking that lifelong mental health problems can be overcome quickly or solely by strength of will and she ensures that Rae receives the help she needs with her illness and the things of her life.

I was completely gripped by this novel and only wished that the ending hadn’t been quite so rushed as I would like to have known more about what motivated the perpetrator of the crimes.

I was so gripped by Folly that I immediate purchased Keeping Watch. This book features Allen who is a character that appears towards the end of the first book. Although it mostly follows on chronologically from the first it doesn’t involve the same people except peripherally.

Allen has been a soldier in Vietnam and has come out of that war badly traumatised resulting in him leaving home and living in an isolated way. He has now spent most of his adult life since the war helping families where a child is being abused and removing them from the family home to a place of safety. He is ready to cease this work and to reconnect with his brother and make a life with Rae but his last job turns out to have consequences. Some of the book is told from the point of view of Allen, some is told in flashback to his time in Vietnam and some is told from the point of view of the abused boy, Jamie.

Jamie’s father has gone missing, presumed dead, and Allen needs to take Jamie away from his new home and find out what exactly might have happened. This means that quite a lot of the book is just Allen and Jamie together building up a relationship. The author understands and shows that it takes a long time to recover from the trauma of war, if you ever can, and also that sometimes a loving home cannot eradicate the results of childhood abuse.

This second book is also a slow paced story and maybe there are a little too many of the Vietnam flashbacks for those of us who are not particularly interested in war stories. The book is excellent, however, in its portrayal of two wounded people and I enjoyed the way that the author did not instantly fix all their problems. There is a great climax to the book and a very satisfying ending.

These two, linked novels are beautifully written and I enjoyed them both a lot. I liked the slow way in which the stories were told and the realistic way in which the author showed us the results of trauma and mental fragility.

Laurie R King is also the author of a series of books about a wife and companion for Sherlock Holmes which I review here and a series of modern detective novels which I review here. I highly recommend any, or all, of these.

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