A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Susan Hill meets Gone Girl and Disclaimer.
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…
When Olivia Mead messaged me to ask me about taking part in The Stranger Diaries Blog Tour, I was literally up early every morning waiting for the postman until it arrived. Having seen the stunning cover and read the blurb – as a real-life literature teacher who loves her Gothic Literature, my anticipation had really reached fever pitch.
Let me tell you straight away that The Stranger Diaries did not disappoint.
The cover itself hinted at dark events blossoming and promised to contain within a mysterious tale where everything is not quite as it seems and I’d have to say that Elly Griffiths, you have done it again in the invention of Clare Cassidy and her extreme case of art imitating life…
There are so many fantastic ‘dark’ reads on offer right now that writers have to think outside the box if they want their readers to be genuinely drawn into their novels. My column this month fave 12 tips for dark & deadly reads – and if I’d read this book before submitting it to the editor – it’d most definitely been one of my dozen Autumn reads in 2018! I like a Gothic tale to keep me on my toes, I am happy to report that Elly Griffiths manages this with skill and originality. I am also determined to ensure that there are no spoilers as this ending really is worth the wait.
I absolutely love a book with multiple narrators and really enjoyed all three characters that we meet in this ale. I was obviously most drawn to Clare as a fellow teacher but DS Harbinder Kaur and Claire’s teenage daughter Georgia are both wonderfully drawn characters in their own right and these three voices blend to keep you turning the pages late into the night. I feel that inThe Stranger Diaries you’re not just getting one voice that hints at there being more to their unfolding narrative than meets the eye, but three wonderfully contrasting voices that play with your mind and weave in and out of your sense of direction until you really are left wondering what on earth is going on and who to trust when we hear two very different versions of the same set of events…
I loved the contrasting voices of everyday Claire with her private diary as the novel unfolded and appreciated the skill with which Elly Griffiths manages to create both credible dialogue and mystical and inexplicable events coming together – in a finely tuned balance that really made her prose sing. Added to this, her slow-burning sense of rising tension really made this a page-turner as you race to see if your ‘narrative compass’ is as reliable as you thought it was.
I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from the claustrophobic and intriguing world that Elly draws you into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this novel was a real treat. This book is the narrative equivalent of a ‘Magic Eye’ painting – you know that there’s more going on below the surface and try as you might to decipher exactly why it is, things keep shifting before your very eyes and the final picture eludes you right to the very end. And perhaps even afterwards…
Anyone who has ever committed their most secret thoughts to paper in a diary will find much to relate to in the secret writings throughout this stunning novel I was very impressed by how much insight we got into the secrets that were being kept by so many of the characters we meet and how much access we got to their ‘inner landscape’ through the diaries and the natural and wholly credible conversations that evolve as things begin to close in on the culprit – nail biting is not the word and my light was on really late as I was so determined to get the answers and find out if what I suspected was true. I can’t wait for someone else I know to read it and I’ll definitely be recommending that my book group read it as I can’t wait to hear everyone’s response to what I feel is one of my reads of the year!
I loved this novel and I’ll be recommending it to everyone who likes their novels unpredictable, dark and with a fabulous set of characters that you’ll absolutely believe in. After loving Elly’s Ruth Galloway books, I was nervous in case this stand-alone gothic number would fall short of their high standards. I needn’t have worried – this is an amazing book. Elly Griffiths is one of my favourite writers for a reason, and if you haven’t devoured her entire back catalogue – what are you waiting for?
Treat yourself to a copy of The Stranger Diaries here – and buy the hardback – it’s blooming stunning and looks marvellous in my #OnTheShelfie below
Writer On The Shelf
I’ll let Elly introduce herself in her own words. To find out more, head over to her gorgeous-looking website Elly Griffiths
My name’s Elly Griffiths, except it’s not really.
My real name is Domenica de Rosa and I’ve written four books under that name (see link above). I was born in London in 1963 and my family moved to Brighton when I was five. I loved Brighton and still do – the town, the surrounding countryside and, most of all, the sea. I went to local state schools and wrote my first book when I was a 11, a murder mystery set in Rottingdean, near the village where I still live. At secondary school I used to write episodes of Starsky and Hutch (early fan fiction) and very much enjoyed making my readers cry.
I did all the right things to become a writer: I read English at King’s College London and, after graduating, worked in a library, for a magazine and then as a publicity assistant at HarperCollins. I loved working in publishing and eventually became Editorial Director for children’s books at HarperCollins. All this completely put me off writing and it wasn’t until I was on maternity leave in 1998 that I wrote what would become my first published novel, The Italian Quarter.
Three other books followed, all about Italy, families and identity. By now we had two children and my husband Andy had just given up his city job to become an archaeologist. We were on holiday in Norfolk, walking across Titchwell Marsh, when Andy mentioned that prehistoric man had thought that marshland was sacred. Because it’s neither land nor sea, but something in-between, they saw it as a kind of bridge to the afterlife. Neither land nor sea, neither life nor death. As he said these words the entire plot of The Crossing Places appeared, full formed, in my head and, walking towards me out of the mist, I saw Dr Ruth Galloway. I didn’t think that this new book was significantly different from my ‘Italy’ books but, when she read it, my agent said, ‘This is crime. You need a crime name.’
And that’s how I became Elly Griffiths.
You should also follow her on Twitter to hear all about her books and hopefully get news of where she’s appearing in person
A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?
‘Utterly bewitching … a pitch-perfect modern Gothic’ AJ FINN, author of THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW
‘Compelling, intelligent and increasingly mesmerising’ PETER JAMES
‘At once a homage to the Gothic thriller, and a re-imagining, it is goose-bump spooky, smart, and haunting, in every sense. I loved this book! And you will too’ LOUISE PENNY