The Stranger Diaries

Elly Griffiths is an author I’ve begun to trust when it comes to crime, suspense stories. I was hooked on her Ruth Galloway series (note to self: do a review of them soon), the first real crime books I read and the ones that got me hooked on the genre. You have to read them. Anyway this is a stand alone novel, advertised with being ‘a gripping Gothic mystery perfect for dark autumn nights‘. To be honest for me it didn’t need the strap line, I was hooked by the authors name. Would it live up to the authors reputation? There was only one way to find out, dive between the pages (or in my case the Kindle).

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to tales of murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer R.M. Holland, she teaches a short course on them every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an R.M. Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers..

So the blurb goes. Gothic novels to mean bring to mind Frankenstein and Dracula, that we read at school. Dark stories where there was little light. The first modern one I read was by Marcus Sedgwick and it was a delight, bu this is about this book. Too many times, I get sidetracked.

This is a very cleverly done story that sneaks up on you. The main characters are Claire, an English teacher is a school in the south of England. She’s divorced with a teenage daughter, Georgie. One of Claires friends is murdered, she’s a fellow teacher at Talgarth High. The detective sergeant sent to investigate, Harbinder Kaur is a real oddball. With more murders over the horizon, the race is on to find the murderer.

Told through the eyes of three of the main protagonists the story is interwoven alongside the pages of RM Holland’s story. The style of writing, through the different eyes of the protagonist, is enlightening. Sometimes that way of writing doesn’t work, but here it makes the story. Almost diary like entries that are interwoven, often showing the story from different points of view. Along the way the characters are moulded through friendship and adversity so the people they were at the beginning are vastly different to those at the end.

The characters are strong and believable along with a side cast who add to to the story. You get quickly immersed into plot that time flies by. Playing detective yourself, you suspect everyone being pulled by the will of the writer in one direction and then the other. All the candidates I picked were innocent, most meeting an unhappy end. I wouldn’t make a detective. This would make an excellent tv film, but I think Ruth Galloway books would as well. Guess I’m a sucker for these books.

All in all this is a great book, a worthy addition to the library. I look forward to the next book from Elly Griffiths, always something new, always something exciting

What do you think?

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