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The Stranger Diaries

Review

The Stranger Diaries

“What happened next?... Please read another page,” begs the child at bedtime. Anything to ward off the horrors of the dark.

In this dark story, we meet Clare Cassidy, a lovely single mom teaching at Talgarth High just outside of London. One of her joys is her creative writing class, in which she often features R.M. Holland’s short story, “The Stranger.” She chose Talgarth High in large part due to its connection with Holland. The author’s study still occupies the top floor of the Old Building, kept just as it was back in his day. More intriguing for Clare, a mystery surrounds the death of his wife, with some people claiming to have seen her ghost on the staircase. During her time here, Clare hopes to solve the question of what really happened. It is part of the focus of the book she’s writing.

"If you want, it can be a genuine page-turner. But the writing is so well paced, using exactly the right amount of words in precisely the most wonderful way, you might want to slow down and savor."

Clare and her teenage daughter, Georgia, have a fairly normal life; it’s just the two of them and their dog. All goes well until one of Clare’s colleagues, Ella, is murdered. Stabbed viciously. And a quote from “The Stranger” has been left by her body. What does that mean? The bigger question is, who would kill Ella? Everyone liked her. It seems so senseless. Naturally, the police investigate everyone even remotely connected, but begin to pay close attention to Clare. Why? After all, she and Ella had a friendly relationship. Okay, maybe there was a small falling-out, but that happens. It certainly doesn’t mean Clare would kill her because of it. But when someone else is attacked and Clare also knew that person, the police take an even closer look, widening their net to include Georgia and her friends. Oh, come on. They’re just kids. Although, in reality, kids have been known to kill, and these kids do have something of a different aura. There is a sort of mysticism about them. Maybe they do bear a little more scrutiny.

Clare really has her plate full now, trying to keep Georgia safe while picking up the slack left by Ella’s death. To top it off, Simon, her ex-husband, is making waves as if the murders were somehow Clare’s fault. He’s begun lobbying for Georgia to come live with him. As she always has, Clare relieves tension by writing in her diary. But now, rather than relieve tension, the diary instills fear. To Clare’s utter shock, someone else has written in her diary, which includes odd passages and more quotes from “The Stranger.” Who is doing this, and why?

THE STRANGER DIARIES is not quite the “creepy old house” story, but close. It has shadowy corners, creaky stairs, ethereal visions and sensations of being followed in the dark, but nothing beyond the realm of possibility. If you want, it can be a genuine page-turner. But the writing is so well paced, using exactly the right amount of words in precisely the most wonderful way, you might want to slow down and savor. I know I did. Elly Griffiths has a deep understanding of setting a mood and how to make your spine tingle. Five stars, Ms. Griffiths.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on March 29, 2019

The Stranger Diaries
by Elly Griffiths

  • Publication Date: March 5, 2019
  • Genres: Gothic, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 1328577856
  • ISBN-13: 9781328577856