Title: The Stranger Diaries
Author: Elly Griffiths
Published: November 2018
Length: 416 pages
Comment: Recommended well written Gothic themed crime mystery with compelling characters and a new detective team I’d love to read more of. Creepy in places but not scary as such.
I have to say this is one of my books of the year for 2018! I’ve never read Elly Griffiths before but I’ll be trying one of her popular detective novels now.
The story is told from the perspectives of three different but central characters: Claire Cassidy, her daughter Georgia and the detective Harbinder Kaur (and sidekick Neil Winston). Claire’s friend Ella is found dead and a note is found containing words from a Gothic short story written by reclusive Victorian writer R M Holland and subject of a biography which Claire is writing. The tension is increased when Claire finds words in her diary…words not written by her!
I enjoyed Claire’s perspective and that of DS Harbinder Kaur (she is in some ways the star of the show for me and like other reviewers have said I’d love to read more of her) but found it harder with Claire’s daughter Georgia but that may be because it’s a long time since I’ve been a teenager so getting into the teenage mindset wasn’t easy! Although suffering slightly from the inevitable issue that just when you’re enjoying reading from one character’s perspective the narrative jumps to a different character, the three perspectives actually gel pretty well. Each character knows things the others don’t so it’s intriguing to try to pick up clues from each perspective as you attempt to identify the culprit.
It’s described as a Gothic thriller and that’s probably accurate as it wouldn’t fit the horror category, not for me anyway. It is creepy without being scary if that makes sense (I guess that depends on your ‘scare threshold’)? The characters are all somewhat quirky in their own way, or maybe unusual is a better word. It’s almost like a cross between Midsomer Murders and Jonathan Creek with a measure of Gothic noir mixed in for good measure. I actually think this would make a good television series and there are plenty of cliffhanger moments to keep you turning the page for the next section.
It is rare for me to get to the end of a book and wish there was more but I wished there was more here even though it’s a little over 400 pages. I would have like to learn more about some of the characters and their backgrounds but I guess the author can only fit so much in!
I guessed ‘whodunnit’ but not until quite late on (I was quite pleased as I never guess right!) although I felt there were several plot threads left unanswered or answered with weak explanations but maybe this is a handicap of having so many who, why and when questions running through the book. The one criticism I have is that I thought the scene where the culprit is finally unmasked is a bit rushed and would have benefited from a slower unveiling. The setting was tailor made for a more creepy and slower paced reveal but it all happened pretty fast and left me wondering why the culprit would or wouldn’t do certain things. Sorry this is vague but to explain properly I really would have to go into spoiler-land.
All in all it’s a great read and recommended and I’d definitely love to read more of Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur. I’d love to read more of Claire Cassidy as well but it’s far more likely that the detective would have a book to herself. If you like creepy rather than scary wrapped in a crime mystery with quirky and intriguing characters then you’ll like this.
Rating: 4/5 – Recommended.
Thanks for reading.