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Eerie season is almost upon us

Cover of The Stranger Diaries
A review of The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

October and the spooky season are just around the corner and I have the book for you. Elly Griffiths' (best known for her Ruth Galloway series of mysteries) Stranger Diaries is suspenseful and even spooky at times (there's even a ghost) and is a gothic book about a gothic story that is being written about for a book. Okay that sounds like nonsense, I know. So here's the scoop: Clare Cassidy teaches at an English high school and she specializes in Gothic writer R. M. Holland, for whom she's working on a biography. R. M. Holland once wrote a story called "The Stranger" and as Clare explains the gothic tropes to be found in that story, the reader realizes those same tropes are carrying through this novel. A murder occurs that seems to mimic one of the deaths found in the the Gothic story. And, if that's not scary enough, Clare finds a note written by someone else in her own diary: "Hallo, Clare. You don't know me." Spoooooky. As the investigation gets underway it becomes increasingly clear that the murder(s?) are connected to Clare in some way which makes the police very interested in her and her research into R. M. Holland.

The novel is told from three overlapping points of view, Clare's, Clare's daughter Georgia, and the female detective Harbinder Kaur who is seriously suspicious of Clare. Those three differing narrators are all unreliable to some extent. Don't get me wrong, no one is deliberately lying. Instead, each of the women is crafting the narrative from her point of view with all of the flaws and blind spots that come from any person who is telling their version of events. The tight plotting, contained school setting, and small cast of characters make this a claustrophobic experience which is all to the good as it ratchets up the suspense. You may want to read this one with the lights on.

Sep 5, 2023