In the hushed hours of the night, a woman is taken by the sea.
Was it a tragic accident? Or should the residents of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in?
In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall.
Each is looking to escape her past.
But one of them is not there by choice.
As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface.
And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . .
In a house full of strangers, who do you trust?
Was it simply a tragic accident? Or should the inhabitants of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in?
If you’re pining for Poldark and love a historical epic, then The Stranger might be something to fill the gap. For decades, Penhallow Hall has stood frozen in time, protecting the secrets of its isolated inhabitants. I love books that transport me in time and place and I read this during the snow we’ve just had – totally losing myself in 1940s Cornwall and Kate Riordan’s fantastic sense of place in this immersive read.
But even beautiful Cornwall is no shelter from the war, and Penhallow must finally open its doors to strangers. This book is set in 1940 and we hear about the nightly blackouts and the constant fear of a Nazi invasion, as three land girls arrive to grow vegetables at Penhallow. I really enjoy it when books let me see a historical period through the eyes of characters from very different perspectives and the fact that the three new arrivals all have very different personalities and motivation for coming to Cornwall really kept me engrossed.
The Stranger opens with a church bell clanging to announce the body of a young woman on the beach and we discover how this mysterious event came about as the novel unfolds. Each of the succeeding chapters form a timeline going back six weeks where we slowly learn more about how each of these characters’ backstories might have led to this mysterious drowning. This narrative form was very more-ish and several nights kept me up much later than I’d intended with a real sense of ‘just one more chapter…’
The strong plotting and skilful characterisation combine to draw you into a story bursting with secrets and Rose, Jane and Diana’s distinct voices all combine to keep you turning the pages. I really liked the fact that Diana was a really strong character whose persistence and headstrong nature certainly creates conflict in the story and adds to the feeling of suspense as we follow events to their tragic conclusion. It’s hard to write about The Stranger with no spoilers, but I’ve tried really hard as this is a book that you really need to experience for yourself.
If you like Daphne du Maurier or Lucinda Riley, you’ll love this book and I know that my mum’s definitely going to be pinching it from me for her holidays. I’d like to thank Jenny Platt at Michael Joseph for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour, I’m sure you’ll agree it looks absolutely gorgeous in my #OnTheShelfie
Writer on the Shelf
Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist who was born in London and grew up in Warwickshire. She spent her first years in journalism as a staffer, first at The Guardian as an editorial assistant and later at Time Out London, where she went on to become deputy editor for the lifestyle section, covering everything from travel to property to beauty. After seven fantastic years of weird and wonderful assignments, she decided to go freelance in order to concentrate on writing fiction, which had for a long time been an ambition (not least when she was interviewing authors for Time Out).
After moving to Cheltenham in the Cotswolds, she wrote Birdcage Walk, which was published by Diversion as an ebook in 2012. Her second novel sold to Penguin in the UK and HarperCollins in the US and Canada, and was published in early 2015 – as The Girl in the Photograph and Fiercombe Manor respectively. A German edition will follow in the autumn of 2015. She is now hard at work on her next novel, a dual narrative story full of secrets and intrigue and moving between the years 1877, 1910 and 1922.
Kate lives in the Gloucestershire countryside with her husband and their dog Morris, a Staffordshire bull terrier they adopted from a shelter in 2013.