Harper Fox really is a marvel. At the sheer level of craft she is one of the best writers in the genre—brilliant, perfect metaphors seeming to slip off her pen effortlessly, page after page. Her settings are especially extraordinary, drawn with such incredible sense of place that you feel not just that you’ve visited them, but that you know what it would be like to live there.
Salisbury Key is the third novel of hers I’ve read, and I think I like it best so far. In part I was riveted by its portrait of grief—as the blurb tells you, the main character Dan loses his lover, Jason, to a totally unexpected suicide. The sequence is beyond intense—it feels almost physically grueling at times--and contains many notes that will feel deeply authentic and familiar to those who have lost someone close. Though I know, everyone knows, that suicide would be so very much worse, it’s hard to even speak of what it would be like to survive it without feeling presumptuous. But there wasn’t a false note here in my opinion: her depiction of Dan’s experience was shockingly vivid.
But, of course, that isn’t the whole story. Though I wasn’t at all surprised that the love story that took place after was wonderful and satisfying, I was very surprised and gratified at how riveting and suspenseful the thriller plot was. Too often I find them disappointing, implausible or clichéd. This wasn’t at all, and the stakes were high without feeling overly pumped up.
Very highly recommend.