Name: The Stranger Diaries
Author: Elly Griffiths
Number of Pages: 408 (Hardback)
Published: March 1st 2018 by Quercus
Genre: Mystery, Gothic, Thriller
Death lies between the lines.
A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?
Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM 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…
I loved The Stranger Diaries. A 5 star read so early in the year, what more could you ask for?
The gothic, ghostly air with which the novel opens is wonderful. It drew me in straight away, and the way it switches so suddenly to the modern setting had me rereading for a moment just to catch up with what had happened.
This book has so many things going for it. The inclusion of the ghostly short story entitled The Stranger, which true to form starts on a dark and scary night ( Halloween, could there be a better night for a creepy tale?!) with a stranger on a train in the middle of nowhere, sets the tone perfectly.
There’s also the ‘haunted house’ vibe of Holland House, the former home of the writer of said story which has been incorporated into a modern school complex, so the old and the new clash and contrast. The atmosphere of the Old Building with its preserved attic room and lady in white ghost is just wonderful, from the spiral staircase with the footprint pattern to the mystery of the tragic lady herself.
The interest in literature and writing, and the academic setting all adds to the atmosphere of this murder mystery tale.
And there some really great main characters…
With three main characters, each voice is distinctive and different.
There’s Clare, a teacher and R. M. Holland enthusiast who is trying to write a book about the author and uncover facts regarding a possible daughter of whom little is known. She’s also a colleague and friend of the murdered Ella Elphick.
DS Harbinder Kaur investigates once the bodies start to turn up. The way she may initially judge someone for the most insignificant of reasons (their clothes, their tan!) made her a little distant at first, but her blunt insights into characters and situations, her determination to solve the case and her eventual friendship with Clare made her chapters a joy to read.
Georgia is Clare’s teenage daughter, and although Clare has no reason to suspect it, Georgia has secrets from her mother, such as her aspiration to write a novel and her attendance at a Creative Writing class run by a supposed white witch.
There are so many creepy moments to revel in, people recalling encounters with the ghost of Holland House, or that awful moment when Clare discovers someone else has written in her diary, and the way in which the murder scenes echo scenes from The Stranger. I like the way the past and the present merge as passages from The Stranger are included throughout the narrative.
I loved The Stranger Diaries. A fast-paced, gothic-themed, intriguing mystery of a tale. As an added bonus – I actually worked out who the killer was! First time in forever that I’ve been right; I’m usually totally wrong.
The Stranger Diaries is certainly a book to pick up any time, but why not treat yourself during the dark nights and cold days of winter, just for that little bit of added atmosphere.