A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?
Clare Cassidy is no stranger to tales of murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer R.M. Holland, she teaches a short course on them every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an R.M. 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…
Clare Cassidy is an English teacher, and is writing a biography of R. M. Holland in her spare time. Holland used to live at the school where Clare teaches, which is part of what has driven Clare in her quest. A writer of ghost stories, his most famous tale, The Stranger, is shared with the readers in snippets throughout the novel. I do love a book within a book, and Griffiths uses it to great effect here. The Stranger has a decidedly creepy feel, and this atmosphere pervades Clare’s story line when one of her fellow teachers is murdered, and as she finds a stranger’s writing in her personal diaries. If Griffiths ever wanted to turn her pen to the ghost story, I’d read it!
The novel is told through the alternating perspectives of Clare, DS Harbinder Kaur, and Clare’s daughter, Georgia. I thought that this worked brilliantly. Not only does the reader see events from different perspectives, but the three also have very different attitudes, and I particularly enjoyed the somewhat acerbic DS Kaur, who adds a little humour to this otherwise dark mystery with her rather cutting observations. 15 year old Georgia also adds an interesting element to the story, and I felt that Griffiths absolutely nailed this character – the angst, the frustration (sexual and otherwise), and the somewhat secretive nature combined with occasional glimpses of dependence made Georgia’s character extremely convincing, which is no mean feat.
The Stranger Diaries isn’t a fast-paced novel, but I was gripped throughout, and I read it in two sittings. I did have my suspicions as to who the culprit was before the big reveal, but it’s a novel where I had to read on to see if I was correct and, perhaps more importantly, to understand their motive. The Stranger Diaries is the first novel I’ve read by Elly Griffiths, but it won’t be my last – I absolutely loved this novel, which successfully blends thriller and Gothic mystery into one captivating read. Highly recommended.