The Stranger Diaries is not a Ruth Galloway novel. It’s not even a Stephens & Mephisto novel. It’s a new stand alone from Elly Griffiths, out on 1st November, and I’m very grateful to Net-galley and Quercus books for the advance ebook.
The Stranger Diaries
A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?
A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Wilkie Collins and MR James meet Gone Girl and Disclaimer.
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… [goodreads]
I am predisposed to enjoy Elly Griffiths books, but I nervously awaited this stand-alone. Would the ghost element be too much for me?
Answer: no. It’s creepy without being scary. There are mysterious lights that create atmosphere, but not too much in the way of things swooping down on you. Dead bodies are really dead bodies for crime solving, not for gore.
But it is weird.
The plot twines between Clare’s research into a long-dead author, his spookier works, and the rumour of the ghost of his wife. Did she die, or was she pushed? His preserved study at the top of the school building might hold the key.
The Stranger Diaries is an excellent diversion from Elly Griffiths. All her hallmark detail, accuracy in crime elements, empathetic character-building.
The narrator feels like someone I’m comfortable with, and then, suddenly it changes, to a much more abrasive character, who sees the first narrator in a completely different light, one I hadn’t seen at all from her own musings. After a while I really enjoy the second character. She’d make a good friend. A third narrator tells her own point of view, which adds to the complexity of the story.
Are any of them reliable narrators? I think they all were, and that is the author’s genius at work. She shows how three people, each with part of the story, backed by their own backgrounds and experiences, can come to completely different conclusions.
I might be tempted to dock half a star for authorial negligence, which led me to suspect the right perpetrator early, but then, it was always a guess, and the revelation was well worth the wait. Although I did consider someone else for a long time, too. So I’m sticking with five stars for this excellent, haunting, creepy, gothic take on a modern crime novel.