Talgarth School teacher, Clare Cassidy, is an expert on the author R. M. Holland and teaches his short story, The Stranger, as part of a course every year. When the body of her friend and colleague, Ella, is found at her home, suspicions arise when a quote from Holland is found alongside her horrific injuries. For many years an avid diary writer, Clare commits her feelings about Ella to paper only to find that there is some strange writing in her journal, writing that is not hers…
As a huge fan of the Ruth Galloway and Stephens & Mephisto series by Elly Griffiths, I could not wait to read this new standalone novel. When you love an author so much, there is always some slight trepidation, however, as to whether something new will live up to your expectations. This is Elly Griffiths – of course it did!
Although many books have the story told by multiple characters, I enjoyed the way the author used this device to retell events from different perspectives. First, we have Clare, the main protagonist. As the book progresses, we see her becoming more and more unnerved as she realises how interested the killer appears to be in her. Then, there is her daughter, Georgie. With an older boyfriend and a hidden interest in creative writing, does she know more about the crime than she is letting on? Finally, there is the detective investigating the case, D. S. Harbinder Kaur. An ex-Talgarth pupil herself, she is a great character who, despite the seriousness of the case, provides some very light-hearted moments.
While this could definitely be described as a murder-mystery plot, the inclusion of the mysterious diary entries and the ghostly undercurrent at the school, gives it a slight air of the supernatural. I admit to not being a huge fan of ‘ghost’ stories, but Elly Griffiths has provided just enough of this genre to make it a completely believable read. I particularly enjoyed reading the snippets of R. M. Holland’s The Stranger which were included throughout the book. This provided a Gothic feel and certainly helped to ramp up the tension.
The end of the book had a credible conclusion and, with hindsight, it became apparent that clues had been dotted throughout. The Stranger Diaries has a well-crafted, enjoyable plot and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page. Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year!
With thanks to Net Galley and Quercus for my ARC.