Every now and then, I find myself finishing a book and wondering how to review it. Ava Marsh’s Untouchable, featuring Stella, a forensic psychologist-turned-high class call girl (!), is one of those books. It is sexy, it is violent, and it gets down deep into the issues of sex, class, and power controlling our society today. Whether Untouchable handles those issues well or not is subjective, based on the values of the reader. I think much dislike or love of the book will stem from value judgement of it–how it portrays women as call girls, women as sexual beings, women as victims and perpetrators of violence.
Enough analyzation, already. Let’s get to the plot! Stella is a classy call girl, getting down and dirty with men for money. Marsh describes this experience through Stella’s eyes in explicit visuals–from the arousing to the repelling, and everything in between, it’s all there. Get ready to be turned on, then skeeved out. After a party with some high-powered men, one of Stella’s fellow prostitutes ends up dead. The police aren’t too interested in the dead hooker in a hotel room, but Stella thinks there’s a reason for the murder and wants justice. Through her own investigation, utilizing her network of johns and fellow working girls, Stella uncovers what happened to her friend while risking her own life.
The combination of sex and violence make for some heart-pounding, eye-popping, page-turning stuff. Marsh isn’t afraid to build Stella as a fallible character, who makes an occasionally shockingly cruel mistake. If you are looking for a hooker with a heart of gold story, you won’t find it here.
After reading Robert Kolker’s Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery last year, I believe Untouchable did glamorize the profession a bit. This may be a cultural difference–Ava Marsh lives in London, where prostitution is not illegal, although activities surrounding it are. Marsh’s Stella is a high class girl, and her friend is murdered for an elaborate reason not directly related to her profession. But Kolker’s (nonfiction) book described a much bleaker and much more dangerous life, where men who like to kill women specifically seek out prostitutes because they realize so few people notice when prostitutes go missing. Because of this, I have mixed feelings about Untouchable–I applaud Marsh for discussing prostitution at all in a world that often doesn’t, but wonder if she padded the bleaker details surrounding the profession a bit.