Touch by Claire North took me completely by surprise. I’d never heard of Claire North. (Yes, I know. More about that later.) I hadn’t seen much pre-release buzz about the book. I don’t think I’d ever read a book from (Hachette imprint) Redhook before. I frankly thought the blurb sounded a bit too standard-horror-ish, but I picked it up anyway to try a few pages and see if it could draw me in.
Am I ever glad I did. Touch is a gloriously dark and almost perfectly executed novel. (More about that “almost” later too.) It’s so good that I set out to get the author’s first novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, even before I finished Touch, and then read it before I got around to writing this review, deadlines and work and sleep be damned.
I was entirely unaware of this author until I crossed paths with Touch. Since then, I learned that Claire North is the second pseudonym of Catherine Webb. Webb has by now published sixteen novels, eight of them under her own name, six as Kate Griffin, and now two as Claire North. She was born in 1986, which means she’s under 30 years old as I’m writing this. She apparently wrote her first novel when she was only 14. Discovering all of this after just having read two of my favorite pieces of speculative fiction in years was nothing short of mind-blowing for me.
(I obviously haven’t read any of the novels she wrote as Webb or Griffin yet. They seem very different from her work as Claire North: YA for Webb, and more traditional fantasy for Griffin. Whether it’s the author’s decision or the publisher’s, I can definitely understand using different pseudonyms to compartmentalize these three very different styles of fiction.)