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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 shor 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...


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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 shor 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...

30 review for The Stranger Diaries

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Elly Griffiths writes the perfect October read with this contemporary take on the Victorian Gothic novel set on the Sussex coast. Attractive Clare Cassidy is a divorced English teacher with a 15 year old daughter, Georgia, teaching at local comprehensive school, Talgarth High, where there is a building that Roland Montgomery Holland, a reclusive Victorian writer lived, a man famous for a short story titled The Stranger. Clare is writing a biography of RM Holland and is interested in the death of Elly Griffiths writes the perfect October read with this contemporary take on the Victorian Gothic novel set on the Sussex coast. Attractive Clare Cassidy is a divorced English teacher with a 15 year old daughter, Georgia, teaching at local comprehensive school, Talgarth High, where there is a building that Roland Montgomery Holland, a reclusive Victorian writer lived, a man famous for a short story titled The Stranger. Clare is writing a biography of RM Holland and is interested in the death of his wife, Alice Avery, rumoured to have fallen to her death, and his mysterious daughter, Mariana, about whom virtually nothing is known. Alice's ghost is said to haunt the school, and if seen, is said to foreshadow a death. Clare's best friend and colleague, Ella Elphick, is found murdered with a note that is a quote from The Stranger 'Hell is empty'. In a narrative delivered by three female voices, Clare, Georgia and DS Harbinder Kaur, aspects of The Stranger are interspersed throughout the novel, as creepy and menacing echoes of the Victorian story are to be found in a series of murders in the present. Ella was a well liked member of the English department and the entire school is shocked by her death. The police investigation is led by DS Kaur who attended Talgarth High as a pupil and her experiences of the school pepper the story. Clare is less than forthcoming to Kaur about the intrigue in the department and Ella, but then events take a sinister turn and more murders take place. Clare has been a long term keeper of personal diaries documenting her inner thoughts and events in her life. She is left afraid and unsettled when she discovers someone else has written in her diary at which point she hands her journals to Kaur who finds them revealing of Clare, and the truth of Ella's character and personal life. Clare thinks she knows her daughter, Georgie, rather well, but there is much that Georgia keep secret, including her attendance of a creative writing course run by Bryony Hughes, known as a white witch. In the meantime, Clare finds a romantic interest in Cambridge academic, Henry Hamilton, who has unearthed further information on RM Holland. Elly Griffiths always writes compelling stories with gripping characters and this is no different. There is plenty of atmosphere of the ghostly and menacing kind along with that of the location with its dense sea mists and abandoned warehouses. Whilst Clare was of less interest to me as a person, I loved her daughter, Georgie, with her much older boyfriend, the dog, Herbert, and the gay DS Harbinder Kaur is a person I would definitely like to meet again with her wit, her family, her mum that waits up for her and cooks such fabulous food. This is a great read for this time of year with Halloween approaching. I found it an enthralling read which I recommend highly. Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Holly B

    An absorbing and unsettling contemporary thriller that mirrors a gothic tale~ Some elements I loved~ 1. There is a gothic Victorian book placed inside the main story. ooh...book inside a book . 2. Several points of view. 3. The mixture of modern and old school. 4. Police procedural mixed with the creepiness of the setting. 5. A quirky female detective with a sharp eye for inconsistencies. (She was my fave) 6. The setting of a "haunted" school. If your craving something a little different from you An absorbing and unsettling contemporary thriller that mirrors a gothic tale~ Some elements I loved~ 1. There is a gothic Victorian book placed inside the main story. ooh...book inside a book . 2. Several points of view. 3. The mixture of modern and old school. 4. Police procedural mixed with the creepiness of the setting. 5. A quirky female detective with a sharp eye for inconsistencies. (She was my fave) 6. The setting of a "haunted" school. If your craving something a little different from your standard thriller, this one has a lot to offer. I was absorbed in the story and it has "just enough" creepiness without being gruesome or overly graphic. I loved how the author brought in the gothic feeling by using a book inside of the story that would hold answers to the mystery. I found it atmospheric, entertaining, and unique. Thanks to NG for my copy to read/review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Heavy draperied rooms, long winding staircases, and imposing carved wooden doors lend themselves to a Victorian Gothic panoramic view. Elly Griffiths sets this treasure box of a story within the walls of Talgarth Academy in Sussex. There's an array of buildings that stretch across the campus including the Old Building that houses the original effects of the writer, R.M. Holland. Holland lived there with his wife, Alice, and an elusive daughter, Mariana. According to legend, no one knows what hap Heavy draperied rooms, long winding staircases, and imposing carved wooden doors lend themselves to a Victorian Gothic panoramic view. Elly Griffiths sets this treasure box of a story within the walls of Talgarth Academy in Sussex. There's an array of buildings that stretch across the campus including the Old Building that houses the original effects of the writer, R.M. Holland. Holland lived there with his wife, Alice, and an elusive daughter, Mariana. According to legend, no one knows what happened to Mariana. Alice, dear Alice, was to have taken a tumble down the lush staircase and never recovered. Students claim to have seen a white mist floating at times with a definite chill in the air. An immediate death was to occur after the sighting like clockwork. We're introduced to Clare Cassidy, a literature teacher, who is smitten with The Stranger by Holland and implements the story into her classes. She is presently writing her own book on Holland's peculiar life and career and wishes to find out what happened to Mariana. Georgie, her fifteen year old daughter, resides with Clare off campus and attends the Academy. Clare has been divorced from her husband, Simon, for the past two years. Clare has no idea of what murderous intent will be assigned on this semester's syllabus. A sudden pounding on Clare's front door marks the arrival of tragic news. Ella, best friend and co-worker, has been stabbed to death in her own cottage. DS Harbinder Kaur is lead investigator. Griffiths has created quite the multi-faceted character here. Kaur is bright, witty, and highly analytical by nature. Her backstory is layered with interesting detail and the reader is drawn in immediately. It's my hope that Elly Griffiths brings Kaur back front and center in another book. The story weaver lines up many threads throughout with inserts of The Stranger between chapters and references to The Woman in White. Pay attention to the Shakespearean quote from The Tempest: "Hell is empty and all the devils are here." A luscious literature stew simmering on a burner of mystery told in revolving chapters by the main characters. Truly a classic who-done-it with all the trimmings. I received a copy of The Stranger Diaries through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to the talented Elly Griffiths and to Quercus Books for the opportunity.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Although I was interested in the description of this novel, I was, initially, a little wary. I had tried Elly Griffiths popular Ruth Galloway series, and stalled with it. However, I am glad that I gave this a try, as I absolutely loved it and it has made me determined to go back and give Ruth Galloway another try. This is a clever, literary mystery, with an excellent cast of characters. Clare Cassidy is a divorced English teacher, living with teenage daughter, Georgie and working at Talgarth High Although I was interested in the description of this novel, I was, initially, a little wary. I had tried Elly Griffiths popular Ruth Galloway series, and stalled with it. However, I am glad that I gave this a try, as I absolutely loved it and it has made me determined to go back and give Ruth Galloway another try. This is a clever, literary mystery, with an excellent cast of characters. Clare Cassidy is a divorced English teacher, living with teenage daughter, Georgie and working at Talgarth High. Although a modern secondary school, there is an Old Building, where Gothic author, R.M. Holland once worked. Indeed, his study remains, intact, at the top of the building and Clare is writing a book about him. However, when we meet her, her research has stalled and she is teaching a creative writing class in the holidays. When fellow English teacher, Elly Elphick, is murdered, it sends shock waves through the school. There is a quote left by the body and then messages are written in Clare’s private diary… I particularly enjoyed the characters in this novel. Spiky, assertive, D S Harbinder Kaur and her partner, Neil Winston, added an excellent dimension – so often in crime novels you have either interesting suspects, or interesting investigators, but this novel has both. There is also an engaging academic flavour, with Henry H. Hamilton, a Cambridge academic, contacting Clare about some possible information he has on R.M. Holland, and a rather creepy teacher, Bryony Hughes, who seems to see herself as a modern Miss Jean Brodie. Over-riding the story are snippets from R.M. Holland’s most famous story, which mirrors events in a very creepy way. A really good cast of possible suspects makes it hard for you to spot the killer and I enjoyed Clare’s diary snippets too – as well as those of Georgie. Diary writing might be a dying art, but hopefully Elly Griffiths will persuade some readers to take up their pen. Overall, I loved this and I particularly hope that D S Kaur will appear in future books. I am now, most definitely, an Elly Griffiths convert! I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    NZLisaM

    The perfect blend of gothic horror, psychological suspense, and police procedural! ‘"If you’ll permit me,” said the Stranger, “I’d like to tell you a story.”’ As much as I love spooky old houses with a dark history, and possible ghosts sightings, a thought-to-be haunted house turned into a secondary school had me even more excited. The Old Building of Talgarth High, was once home to Victorian Horror writer R.M. Holland, best remembered for his horror-themed, scary short story, The Stranger. The t The perfect blend of gothic horror, psychological suspense, and police procedural! ‘"If you’ll permit me,” said the Stranger, “I’d like to tell you a story.”’ As much as I love spooky old houses with a dark history, and possible ghosts sightings, a thought-to-be haunted house turned into a secondary school had me even more excited. The Old Building of Talgarth High, was once home to Victorian Horror writer R.M. Holland, best remembered for his horror-themed, scary short story, The Stranger. The top floor still houses his study, out-of-bounds to students, and eerily preserved just as he left it. The ghost of Holland’s wife, Alice, rumoured to have died tragically from a fall down the stairs, is said to haunt the corridors and classrooms of the lower floor, the belief being that if you see her, someone will die shortly thereafter… Not only is the school creepy, but so was the location of the protagonist, Clare’s, house – one of a row of townhouses in the middle of nowhere, initially built to house workers of the nearby cement factory – which now sits abandoned and derelict. As scary as I’ve made it out to be, this is neither gory, nor a horror story, but is largely modern day crime, mystery, psychological suspense, with a side of gothic foreboding, meaning that even those who don’t do horror would enjoy this. We were given three first person narrations; Clare Cassidy – An English teacher at Talgarth, single mum to Georgie, friend and fellow co-worker of Ella, currently working on a biography of R.M. Holland. DS Harbinder Kaur – The detective investigating the murder of one of the school’s English teachers, Ella Elphick, who was stabbed to death in her own home. Harbinder attended Talgarth as a student. Georgie Cassidy – Clare’s teenage daughter, current student at Talgarth. The POV’s were split into parts, with Clare voicing Part 1, Harbinder Part 2, you get the picture. Excerpts from The Stranger were included throughout, as well as pages from Clare’s diary. I warmed to all three characters early on, even though right from their introduction all of them came across as secretive, and not entirely trustworthy. I enjoyed the contrasting perspectives – teacher, student, detective/former student – and how they all had a connection to Talgarth. I alternated between the book and the audio version, and have to mention that Andrew Wincott’s over-the-top, dramatic reading of the gothic tale, The Stranger, is a must listen. Side Note: I was thrilled to bits when Claire’s dog, Herbert, was described as a white Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, the first in a series of children’s picture books penned by New Zealand author, Lynley Dodd. Ta-Dah! This is what he looks like, except white. Elly Griffiths totally killed it – every element fitted together seamlessly. One of my favourite reads for this year, and will undoubtedly make my top ten. Perfect for next Halloween, but why wait that long, cosy up by the fire with it this winter, or if like me, you are heading into summer, prioritise it as your next beach read. Move it to the top, or add it to your tbr, today! You won’t be sorry!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tammie

    The Stranger Diaries was a solid 4 stars for me. A mystery/thriller, this book centers around main characters Clare (a divorced English teacher who specializes in RM Holland), Georgie (her 15 year old daughter), and Harbinder Kaur (a detective). Most of this thriller centers around the school Talgarth High-this is where the famous Victorian writer RM Holland wrote and lived. An interesting character, Clare spends some of her free time researching aspects of his life for a book she is writing. Th The Stranger Diaries was a solid 4 stars for me. A mystery/thriller, this book centers around main characters Clare (a divorced English teacher who specializes in RM Holland), Georgie (her 15 year old daughter), and Harbinder Kaur (a detective). Most of this thriller centers around the school Talgarth High-this is where the famous Victorian writer RM Holland wrote and lived. An interesting character, Clare spends some of her free time researching aspects of his life for a book she is writing. The real mystery in Stranger Diaries begins when fellow English teacher Elle is murdered in her home with a quote written on her body-a quote from Holland’s story “The Stranger”. Someone is also leaving messages in Clare’s personal diary-could it be the killer!? Told from multiple POVs, readers get to know the main characters in better detail and their observations and thoughts on Elle’s murder. Overall, Stranger Diaries is a slower paced book but well-worth the read. Recommended to fans of mystery/thriller books.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    Modern gothic with a noir feel, a creepy intelligently woven story and a proper old school whodunit, The Stranger Diaries is a beautifully immersive reading experience. I read it all in one go. Excellent. Full review for publication in November.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    Clare teaches English – key stage 3 in term time, adult creative writing courses over the holidays – and specialises in the work of R.M. Holland, a 19th-century writer of ghost stories whose personal life was as lurid as his fiction. At the beginning of the book, Clare receives a phone call with the awful news that her friend and colleague Ella has been murdered. She's later told a handwritten note was found next to Ella's body: a phrase from The Tempest, 'hell is empty'. The quote also happens Clare teaches English – key stage 3 in term time, adult creative writing courses over the holidays – and specialises in the work of R.M. Holland, a 19th-century writer of ghost stories whose personal life was as lurid as his fiction. At the beginning of the book, Clare receives a phone call with the awful news that her friend and colleague Ella has been murdered. She's later told a handwritten note was found next to Ella's body: a phrase from The Tempest, 'hell is empty'. The quote also happens to have links to Holland's best-known story, The Stranger, and soon it seems that Holland's work could be instrumental in identifying Ella's killer. Elly Griffiths is best known as the author of the Ruth Galloway crime novels, a series I've only dipped my toe into – I read the first book, The Crossing Places, about 7 years ago, and found it enjoyable, but not interesting enough for me to persist further. The Stranger Diaries, meanwhile, is a standalone, billed as 'a contemporary gothic thriller'. Before starting this I'd seen a couple of lukewarm reviews suggesting the gothic elements were just window dressing, which made me feel a bit wary. But what quickly becomes apparent – and it's not exactly surprising given her background – is that Griffiths really knows how to write a story that grips you from page to page. It's as hooky as a bush full of sticky buds. (Side note: was prompted to look up the proper name for these; it's Galium aparine or 'cleavers'. 'Sticky buds' was the name I grew up with but apparently some people call it 'sticky willy'?!) There are numerous narrative voices in the book, and they do actually sound and feel like different people, Clare and Harbinder especially. And I for one was pleased with how much a spooky, chilling atmosphere pervades the story. There are some slightly grating implausibilities – for example anachronistic language in Holland's story and his letters. I also knew immediately there was something off about one character, simply because there is a situation in the book I found completely unbelievable, and from there... well, let's just say it's quite easy to figure certain things out. What I look for in books like this is pure enjoyment. I want something I can curl up on the sofa with and devour. The Stranger Diaries suited those needs perfectly – plus it has a Halloween setting. And because I was interested in the characters, it didn't really bother me that 'whodunnit' is obvious. If this also turns into a series, I'd consider reading more, especially if they all have gothic tendencies. I received an advance review copy of The Stranger Diaries from the publisher through NetGalley. TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Two books for the price of one. Elly Griffiths has a new crime mystery that has no direct link with her two established series. One of the things it does have in common is that it is very good. Full of her delightful humour and investable characters but for her as an author a bold venture as lacking the security of the familiar. It strays into uncharted territory moreover as there is a cap doffed to gothic horror and ghostly terror. Interspersed with the modern day fiction is the frightening tale Two books for the price of one. Elly Griffiths has a new crime mystery that has no direct link with her two established series. One of the things it does have in common is that it is very good. Full of her delightful humour and investable characters but for her as an author a bold venture as lacking the security of the familiar. It strays into uncharted territory moreover as there is a cap doffed to gothic horror and ghostly terror. Interspersed with the modern day fiction is the frightening tale of a Stranger on a train who recounts a horror story while the journey is delayed, fittingly he narrates his story on 31st October, as it concerned events that happened on previous Halloween nights. The mantra “Hell is empty” ties this story into the modern murder mystery as an English teacher is found dead. With the body is a note which is a quote from The Stranger which also relates to a quotation from The Tempest. Set in part within a school English department which in itself shares part of Holland House where the author of The Stranger lived and where his wife is a noted ghostly apparition. Elly blends the fiction of the narrated tale on the lonely train with her modern murder mystery. The detective team in the police investigation are as lost as we readers are. The book tells its story through the perspective of three characters which spins the narration around like a fairground ride and disorientate one’s own focus on who is perhaps less open and truthful. It is almost a play within a play full of drama and high pitched tension. It is a genuine stand-alone by a well respected author who does not need to enhance her reputation but this novel clearly does that by its originality and should seal her self-belief. The Stranger Diaries reflects well on her story telling ability and her writing prowess. I loved this homage to English Literature and thought it a fitting tale to demonstrate real skill for an accomplished author at ease in her work and in love with literature. I can imagine the plot has moved across the waters of Elly’s subconscious since her own student days, like some sea fret rolling ashore. It is always a pleasure to meet Elly at book events and signings. Behind bright, intelligent eyes you know that there is talent with so much more to give. I am delighted to say that twinkle in her eyes just got brighter as this new novel is a tour de force. Other authors look away now. She is also one of my favourite modern writers as a person and as a exponent of her art. And the reading audience shout. “More..........”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    “Hell is empty!” Clare Cassidy is writing a biography of the writer RM Holland, who was best known for his terrifying ghost story, The Stranger. So she’s happy to be teaching at Talgarth Academy, a school in Sussex which was once Holland’s home and where his study is still intact, giving Clare access to his papers. Clare uses The Stranger as part of her lessons, both for her school pupils and for the adults who attend her creative writing classes in school holidays. But when one of her colleagues “Hell is empty!” Clare Cassidy is writing a biography of the writer RM Holland, who was best known for his terrifying ghost story, The Stranger. So she’s happy to be teaching at Talgarth Academy, a school in Sussex which was once Holland’s home and where his study is still intact, giving Clare access to his papers. Clare uses The Stranger as part of her lessons, both for her school pupils and for the adults who attend her creative writing classes in school holidays. But when one of her colleagues is brutally murdered, Clare is shocked to learn that a piece of paper was found by her body containing a line from Holland’s story. And soon, as the plot thickens, it becomes clear that somehow the story holds the clue to the case... Elly Griffiths is brilliant, and so is this! I’m tempted to leave the review at that, since the real joy of the book is going into it completely cold and watching Griffiths gradually build up some great characterisations and a truly spooky atmosphere. So, if you’re going to read it soon, my advice would be to stop reading this and avoid other reviews just in case. * * * * * Still here? The book is told to us from three points of view – Clare, her daughter Georgie, and DS Harbinder Kaur, the detective in charge of the case. I found each of them a little off-putting at first for different reasons, but as Griffiths gradually developed them more fully, I grew to like them all – though not necessarily to trust them! In fact, as the saying goes, I trusted no-one – Griffiths left me happily in doubt all the way through as to everyone’s guilt, innocence, reliability as narrators, motives. The pleasure of this one is not so much the destination as the journey. The three voices are distinct, and each is fun in her own way. Through Clare we learn a lot about the background to RM Holland’s story and the rumours that the school is haunted by the ghost of his wife. We also learn about her friendship with Ella, the victim, often through extracts from Clare’s diary. Georgie is a bright, intelligent teenager and her narrative shows her manipulating the adults around her by playing on their expectations of what a teenager should be like. Harbinder gradually becomes the star, however. Indian, gay and still living at home with her parents in her thirties, her sections are increasingly full of humour as the reader realises that her abrasiveness and sarcasm are really a kind of defence mechanism. I loved the way Griffiths gradually fed us the story of The Stranger, which in itself is a pretty good pastiche of a real Victorian ghost story. But the spookiness doesn’t stop with it – the main story has some seriously goose-pimply moments, and at least two where I gasped out loud! Lovely Gothic stuff, with the old house and all the diary-writing and mysterious messages and other things I’ll leave you to discover for yourself. Even the investigation has a rather old-fashioned feel to it, with the emphasis on suspects, motives and clues rather than on forensics. A great read, especially for this time of year. Griffiths is undoubtedly one of the most talented (and prolific) writers out there at the moment, and she shows here that she can step beyond the usual police procedural. I’ve seen a few reviewers say they hope Harbinder will get a series of her own. Much though I enjoyed her character, I vote no! I’m hoping Griffiths will continue to break free from the predictability of series and give us more standalones, complete in themselves, instead. Highly recommended! NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Quercus. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jess at JessicaWrites.co.uk

    DNF @ 5% I am just not a fan of the way this is written and it's making it incredibly difficult to read and get into/invested. I feel bad for not even getting 25% through as this was an ARC but I just can't bring myself to carry on.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Hall

    Elly Griffiths first sensational standalone is a magnificent piece of storytelling that manages to combine a contemporary murder mystery between the pages of a chilling Gothic ghost story and proves as entertaining as it is atmospheric. The Stranger Diaries not only works as a homage to the work of R.M. Holland, a fictional Victorian writer known for his Gothic mysteries, but it also brings to life his crowning achievement in the form of his notable short story, The Stranger. Cleverly worked and Elly Griffiths first sensational standalone is a magnificent piece of storytelling that manages to combine a contemporary murder mystery between the pages of a chilling Gothic ghost story and proves as entertaining as it is atmospheric. The Stranger Diaries not only works as a homage to the work of R.M. Holland, a fictional Victorian writer known for his Gothic mysteries, but it also brings to life his crowning achievement in the form of his notable short story, The Stranger. Cleverly worked and full of literary flair, three contrasting and highly memorable female characters give voice to a fast-moving modern tale packed with unforeseen twists that will keep the reader guessing until the closing pages. Attractive single mother and respected forty-five-year-old English teacher at Talgarth High, a middling comprehensive school in West Sussex, Clare Cassidy is fascinated by the life of renowned Gothic mystery author, R.M. Holland. As she teaches creative writing in the rooms in which the reclusive author resided that are now part of Talgarth High, she uses his most famous short story to deliver a primer in ghost stories. Midway through writing a biography of Holland and hoping to shed light on the mysteries in his own life (the circumstances of the dying fall of his wife, Alice, the presence of her ghost within the school grounds and the existence of a daughter), Clare is also contemplating a return to a new term and her mixed bag of colleagues from a trendy super head with politically correct ideas to the old school socialist in her department. A popular figure within the school and mother to fifteen-year-old pupil, Georgia, the news that Clare’s colleague and friend in the shape of vivacious English teacher, Ella Elphick, has been brutally murdered sends shockwaves through the school community and unsettles Clare. With no forensic evidence to be found at the scene, the one clue is a note beside Ella’s corpse reading, “Hell is empty..”, a key line from both Shakespeare’s The Tempest and The Stranger, the more obscure M.R. Holland ghost story. And this is just the start of things as another murder soon follows.. The arrival of DS Harbinder Kaur, a three-five-year-old punchy Indian detective still living at home who takes a instant dislike to Clare and her smug demeanour and seems to fancy her for the murder of Ella soon picks up on the literary quote. Her suspicions are further heightened by the appearance of mysterious writing in the journals of dedicated diarist, Clare, which not only sheds light on her unspoken feelings but the work of an insatiable killer Narrated by Clare, DS Kaur and Georgia, who unbeknownst to her mother is crafting her own storytelling with a select group of students attending the sessions of spiritual sixth-form tutor and reputed white witch, Miss Bryony Hughes, the story builds to a tense denouement. Griffiths pitches the voice of each of these flawed characters perfectly and all leave a lasting impression, perhaps because they feel so on point and ordinarily human,. At times I could empathise with each of them and I was impressed at how the story allows each of the protagonists to develop and fully emerge from the page throughout its course. The lively exchanges between DS Kaur and her sidekick, DS Neil Winston, himself happy to take a back seat, provide a witty commentary on the investigation as they test out theories, work through the list of suspects and expose many a secret along the way. Griffiths attitude to education and the tropes who flock to teaching is refreshing honest as is her take on modern comprehensive eduction and this thoroughly engaging story provides a cast of colourful teachers and self-involved students. Whilst the cast is not particularly large I was completely fooled by Griffiths sleight of hand and the dramatic unveiling of a killer, perhaps because I was so caught up in the interplay between M.R. Holland’s spooky short story and its modern re-enactment. As a reader who would normally steer clear of a Gothic ghost story I was unsure what to expect and was surprised to find the format so accessible, with the contemporary mystery very much at the fore and making the story and its characters so relatable. My only disappointment is that The Stranger Diaries is a standalone and therefore does not guarantee a repeat appearance by the effortlessly glamorous Clare Cassidy, prickly DS Harbinder Kaur or wise beyond her years teenager, Georgia... not to mention part-poodle, Herbert! Brilliantly done, cleverly understated and thoroughly compelling, The Stranger Diaries, is Elly Griffiths at her majestic best.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Park

    I’m a huge fan of any mystery or thriller that evolves around a book so The Stranger Diaries intrigued me from the start. I love the idea of a book holding clues to a mystery that’s happening in the present so this book was a big hit with me! I wasn’t sure about the main character Claire. On one hand she seemed very sassy and I found some of her observations very amusing. However she seemed like an unreliable narrator as she kept lying to the police which made me question her motives. This book is I’m a huge fan of any mystery or thriller that evolves around a book so The Stranger Diaries intrigued me from the start. I love the idea of a book holding clues to a mystery that’s happening in the present so this book was a big hit with me! I wasn’t sure about the main character Claire. On one hand she seemed very sassy and I found some of her observations very amusing. However she seemed like an unreliable narrator as she kept lying to the police which made me question her motives. This book is fairly fast paced as there is always something happening. That along with a creepy school, an old mystery and a murderer who starts to emulate the plot of a book and things start getting very thrilling very quickly. I soon found myself tearing through the pages and trying to hide from the kids to read a little more. I’ve read quite a few books by Elly and I really enjoy her original thrillers! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Huge thanks to Quercus publishers for my copy of this book via Netgalley and to Olivia from Quercus for inviting me into the blog tour. If you like dark, thrilling mysteries then you’ll love this book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Banks

    I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. An eerie, cleverly written whodunnit - very enjoyable! It's always a pleasure when I dive into a book with no preconceptions and am pleasantly enthralled by what lies within! I had no idea what sort of story would be, but right from the start, became swiftly engrossed in it. Clare Cassidy is an attractive middle-aged woman - working at a school as a teacher, with a teenage daughter called Georgia. The school happens to I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. An eerie, cleverly written whodunnit - very enjoyable! It's always a pleasure when I dive into a book with no preconceptions and am pleasantly enthralled by what lies within! I had no idea what sort of story would be, but right from the start, became swiftly engrossed in it. Clare Cassidy is an attractive middle-aged woman - working at a school as a teacher, with a teenage daughter called Georgia. The school happens to have an interesting history; it was the previous home of a writer - the author of The Stranger, a story that has a lot to do with the forthcoming events... People start being murdered, one by one. Clare is a suspect, as are several other people. The only peculiar thing is... who is leaving notes in Clare's diary, and are they responsible for the sinister goings-on? Right from the start, I felt that Elly Griffiths established herself as a very confident storyteller - the leap from 'Victorian gothic story' to modern day was very skilfully done; it threw me completely, but in a good way. I also liked the multiple perspectives; with the narrative continually shifting from Clare to Harbinder (the detective working the case), then on to Georgia, the daughter. It was quite slow-burning, but I felt that gave the author the golden opportunity to build on the atmosphere and growing sense of dread. The ending was perhaps a little less the glorious reveal-all that I'd hoped for; but it worked - it certainly didn't leave me throwing the book down and declaring that it didn't make sense (which is what usually happens when I read books like this!). Another thing that I think is worthy of note is the author's highly adept way of addressing people's preconceived notions about other people. For example, Clare believes her daughter to be a fairly typical teen; but when we experience Georgia's perspective, we realise she's anything but. We also see Clare through Harbinder's eyes - previously, she'd been quite a sympathetic character, but according to the detective, she was a stuck-up, manipulative, over-privileged woman. Clever! Overall, a beautifully written, skilful book, very good stuff indeed.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Elly Griffiths can do no wrong in my eyes and this fantastic stand alone Gothically atmospheric mystery is every bit as brilliant as I knew it would be. I loved everything about it (but especially Herbert the Dog). Perfect reading for these longer evenings. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    I read this on the strength of Elly Griffiths' name as I love her Ruth Galloway series: this book is entertaining enough but doesn't show off Griffiths' strengths i.e. her ability to create quirky characters like Ruth, Harry, Cathbart etc., and there are only occasional gestures towards her trademark comedy/satire bon mots - in fact, the only time Clare raises interest is when she articulates something Ruth would say. The story itself is a modern Gothic-y serial killer with one of those dubious a I read this on the strength of Elly Griffiths' name as I love her Ruth Galloway series: this book is entertaining enough but doesn't show off Griffiths' strengths i.e. her ability to create quirky characters like Ruth, Harry, Cathbart etc., and there are only occasional gestures towards her trademark comedy/satire bon mots - in fact, the only time Clare raises interest is when she articulates something Ruth would say. The story itself is a modern Gothic-y serial killer with one of those dubious and unconvincing motives that fiction so loves. The whole thing could have been solved very quickly if only the police had used a bit of common sense over the diary ((view spoiler)[surely it's obvious that they just need to find who has access to Clare's diaries? With her daughter discounted, that only leaves one person - dun, dun, dun! (hide spoiler)] ). That said, the female DS adds some energy to the book though I'm not sure I'd be up for more of her if Griffiths turns this into a series. Not everyone will be bothered by this but I was distracted by the implausibilities of the background: that Clare is a secondary school teacher but is somehow teaching an adult education class at half-term, and that she's teaching creative writing with no experience of creative writing herself, apart from a half-written biography of a Gothic writer for which she seems to do no research... The so called 'spookiness' is a red herring - and JK Rowling made a better plot out of the diary trope with Tom Riddle than is the case here. Even the invented short story of The Stranger just sort of fizzles out... This is enjoyable enough as a piece of throwaway Halloween entertainment, but Griffiths is a better writer than this. Thanks to Quercus for ARCs via NetGalley and Amazon Vine.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ophelia Sings

    'Just like in the books, when Poirot suddenly "knows" who the murderer is, but won't tell anyone because there are a hundred pages still to go.' So states a character less than half way through The Stranger Diaries. The irony being that the reader has already worked out who the murderer is, and there's over half the book to go. The blurb promises that Elly Griffiths' new novel will be a darkly gothic affair, but instead we're served up a reasonably chilling but fairly standard killer thriller wi 'Just like in the books, when Poirot suddenly "knows" who the murderer is, but won't tell anyone because there are a hundred pages still to go.' So states a character less than half way through The Stranger Diaries. The irony being that the reader has already worked out who the murderer is, and there's over half the book to go. The blurb promises that Elly Griffiths' new novel will be a darkly gothic affair, but instead we're served up a reasonably chilling but fairly standard killer thriller with the occasional side order of creepy. The majority of the spookiness comes courtesy of RM Holland, the MR James-esque Gothic writer whom our heroine Claire is researching for a biography - the passages attributed to him are wonderfully spine-tingling. English teacher by day, the school Claire works at just happens to be the Holland's former home, replete with resident ghost. There's some teenage dabbling with dried herbs and incantations too, and a benevolent white witch. But at heart, the spookiness in The Stranger Diaries is just Hallowe'en party window dressing, albeit fun, and the tale itself is a pretty straightforward whodunnit. As for who did do it, simple logic means that even the least astute reader will have worked it out by a few pages in. It's a shame really, because the denouement lacks punch and the book sort of slouches to its end. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable, however. DS Harbinder Kaur and her wonderful family are a highlight and I'd love to meet her again in another tale. Clare, and all her associates, are verging on middle class caricature; there's a child called Ocean and everyone has lovely kitchens and cashmere sweaters and skiing holidays. It's unimaginable that anything bad could happen in their Jo Malone scented lives, and yet. The Stranger Diaries is entertaining enough and genuinely fraught in places, but the reader is left feeling a little deflated - particularly if what had piqued the interest in the first place was the promise of dark Gothic doings and mystery. A reasonably diverting read, it doesn't really offer anything new. A book by RM Holland featuring DS Kaur, however, would be a delicious prospect. My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    4cats

    Ellie Griffiths is known for her Ruth Galloway crime series, so The Stranger Diaries is a change of direction for her. This standalone gothic, murder crime novel manages to unnerve, unsettle and keep you reading until the final outcome of the plot. Clare Cassidy is an English teacher working in a school that once was the home of a famous ghost story author. She herself is writing a biography about him when a close friend is murdered. Clare finds herself at the heart of this dark tale. A great co Ellie Griffiths is known for her Ruth Galloway crime series, so The Stranger Diaries is a change of direction for her. This standalone gothic, murder crime novel manages to unnerve, unsettle and keep you reading until the final outcome of the plot. Clare Cassidy is an English teacher working in a school that once was the home of a famous ghost story author. She herself is writing a biography about him when a close friend is murdered. Clare finds herself at the heart of this dark tale. A great combination of crime and classic gothic ghost story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Book reviews on www.snazzybooks.com I am a big Elly Griffiths fan, and love her Ruth Galloway series, so I was intrigued to try a book with different characters in it. The Stranger Diaries definitely feels like a different read, but it was just as entertaining and absorbing as her other novels, and the characters - which Elly Griffiths is always so great at shaping - read like real people I could, on the whole, imagine actually existing. The plot is interesting and kept me intrigued; at some poin Book reviews on www.snazzybooks.com I am a big Elly Griffiths fan, and love her Ruth Galloway series, so I was intrigued to try a book with different characters in it. The Stranger Diaries definitely feels like a different read, but it was just as entertaining and absorbing as her other novels, and the characters - which Elly Griffiths is always so great at shaping - read like real people I could, on the whole, imagine actually existing. The plot is interesting and kept me intrigued; at some points it required some suspension of disbelief (definitely less believable than her Ruth Galloway series - sorry to keep comparing but, hey, I love those books) but it is a fun and engaging story, and has some enjoyable twists and turns. I have to say that Harbinder, the DS, shone in this novel - she's very confident, knows her own mind and rubs people up the wrong way, but she's a unique and interesting character who added something fresh to the story. I did like Clare but felt at times she was a little annoying/ snobby - I really couldn't identify with some of her opinions - however Georgie, though a predictably stuck up/ whiny teenager some of the time, seemed likeable and overall a sweet girl.  This is a well-written story and a good start to a new series, if that is what it will become (I'd read more of DS Kaur for sure) but it doesn't quite measure up to the brilliance of Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway series. Well worth a read, though.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    If you enjoyed the way MAGPIE MURDERS combined a cozy country mystery with a modern one, THE STRANGER DIARIES does something similarly smart with gothic novels. It totally gets the gothic tradition to the point that I got actually creeped out a few times while reading it. While not quite a horror novel, it was really enjoyable. (The short story by the fictional Victorian writer in the book is A+, I loved all the bits of it scattered throughout the book.) This mystery walks a fine line between kee If you enjoyed the way MAGPIE MURDERS combined a cozy country mystery with a modern one, THE STRANGER DIARIES does something similarly smart with gothic novels. It totally gets the gothic tradition to the point that I got actually creeped out a few times while reading it. While not quite a horror novel, it was really enjoyable. (The short story by the fictional Victorian writer in the book is A+, I loved all the bits of it scattered throughout the book.) This mystery walks a fine line between keeping it simple while still providing ghastly flourishes. There's a limited cast of characters (perhaps too limited, if I'd thought about it for five seconds I probably could have figured out the killer, but by the end of the book I was speeding through it so intensely I didn't stop to ponder) that leaves plenty of room for the gothic fun. Our central protagonist, Clare, is an English teacher working on a book about R. M. Holland, a gothic writer whose former home has now been converted into the school where she teaches. We get enough Holland to make him interesting but not so much that it feels academic or boring, just enough to add extra depth to the story, especially when his most famous story is tied into a murder. I'm also a fan of books where we switch points of view and here we get not just Clare's narration but also lesbian Sikh detective (yes!) Harbinder and Clare's teenage daughter Georgie, all of them providing very different points of view and the kind of snide commentary I particularly like in a switching-points-of-view book like this. It's always delightful to spend several chapters with Character A only to have Character B call them out within 5 seconds.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Elly Griffiths is well known for her Ruth Galloway and Mephisto and Stephens series’ but if you’re not familiar with those, fear not, for The Stranger Diaries is a standalone. It starts with a story from long ago, recounted by a stranger on a train at Halloween – this immediately sets the tone for a deliciously creepy and atmospheric tale. Back to the present, teacher Clare Cassidy is writing her own book about a former horror writer called RM Holland – this name, together with some of his work, w Elly Griffiths is well known for her Ruth Galloway and Mephisto and Stephens series’ but if you’re not familiar with those, fear not, for The Stranger Diaries is a standalone. It starts with a story from long ago, recounted by a stranger on a train at Halloween – this immediately sets the tone for a deliciously creepy and atmospheric tale. Back to the present, teacher Clare Cassidy is writing her own book about a former horror writer called RM Holland – this name, together with some of his work, will feature heavily in this story. The school was once his home and his study, now a museum, remains untouched in the attic. There is a mystery surrounding his family and a ghostly apparition that a few people have claimed to have seen. Clare’s life is turned upside down when her colleague and close friend Ella is found murdered. She finds herself in the middle of the investigation for various reasons, and wonders just who she can trust. None of the people surrounding her escape the fallout of Ella’s murder with suspicion falling on almost everyone. Written from the viewpoint of three main characters, Clare, her teenage daughter Georgie and DC Harbinder Kaur, their accounts sometimes overlap, so we the other’s perception of the same events. The Stranger Diaries is a murder mystery with a touch of the Gothic and paranormal. From the beginning, I had the feeling that the murderer was someone close by and if I’d had my wits about me, I might have realised before being told. There were some characters that I took to straight away whilst feeling a little repulsed by others. I felt empathy for Clare even if she was a bit annoying at times and her daughter Georgie was a typical teenager, trying to keep some secrets to herself without her mother knowing everything. And as for DC Kaur – that woman deserves a series of her own. I started off not really liking her – she was ambitious and wanted to prove herself but I felt that this made her come across as quite cold; she had own her prejudices, instantly distrusting and taking a dislike to people for the most odd reasons – like the fact that one person had a suntan in October, however she won me over with her caustic comments and her dedicated determination to find out the truth. I was in a bit of a reading slump when I started the Stranger Diaries however this was the perfect book to get me out of it. I was enthralled from the first page and this well paced and cleverly plotted story kept me turning the pages at all hours. The Halloween setting of the Holland story running alongside made for an atmospheric and chilling read. I loved it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Wendi Lee

    This was such a fun, absorbing Gothic thriller! Clare Cassidy is an English teacher obsessed with a famous gothic short story, "The Stranger." She's trying to write a book about the author's life, and even teaches at the school where he once lived. But her life quickly begins to parallel the events in "The Stranger" with a shocking murder, and DS Harbinder Kaur is pulled into her world. Harbinder has her own feelings about the case and the school, as she was a student there years before. Clare's This was such a fun, absorbing Gothic thriller! Clare Cassidy is an English teacher obsessed with a famous gothic short story, "The Stranger." She's trying to write a book about the author's life, and even teaches at the school where he once lived. But her life quickly begins to parallel the events in "The Stranger" with a shocking murder, and DS Harbinder Kaur is pulled into her world. Harbinder has her own feelings about the case and the school, as she was a student there years before. Clare's teenage daughter, Georgia, is a current student, and she has her own take about what's happening at Talgarth High. I loved the juxtaposition of the current day murder mystery with the "The Stranger," pages of the short story teased out throughout the entirety of the book. I also really enjoyed reading about Clare, Harbinder, and Georgia, three completely different women who find themselves swept into the mystery. I read a lot of gritty, violent, psychological thrillers, and it was nice that this book managed to be creepy without having a lot of overt violence or traumatic scenes. It was my first introduction to Elly Griffiths' writing, and I'm excited to read more of her mysteries. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an arc.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Clare

    With thanks to Netgalley and Quercus for this ARC in exchange for an open and honest review. I have been a fan of Elly Griffiths for years and have read all her Ruth Galloway and Mephisto and Stephen mysteries. I was excited when I found this would be a new mystery. English teacher Clare Cassidy worked at Talgarth High, her 15 year old daughter Georgia was also a pupil at the school. In her spare time Clare was writing a novel about the Famous writer R M Holland who used to own Telgarth. Holland w With thanks to Netgalley and Quercus for this ARC in exchange for an open and honest review. I have been a fan of Elly Griffiths for years and have read all her Ruth Galloway and Mephisto and Stephen mysteries. I was excited when I found this would be a new mystery. English teacher Clare Cassidy worked at Talgarth High, her 15 year old daughter Georgia was also a pupil at the school. In her spare time Clare was writing a novel about the Famous writer R M Holland who used to own Telgarth. Holland was well known for writing The Stranger, it was said his wife Alice Avery fell to her death and now haunted the school. It became a legend that the ghost of Alice foreshadowed a death. During the half term break Clare was told that her best friend and colleague Ella Elphick had been murdered. Bedside her body was a note with a quote from The Stranger `hell is empty`. DS Harbinder Kaur who was a ex pupil at Talgarth High and DS Neil Winston investigated the murder. Harbinder immediately distrusted Clare because she was glamorous and attractive. When Harbinder found that Ella had an affair with Rick Lewis who also worked at Telgarth he became their prime suspect. However days later Clare found Rick`s dead body in the room where RM Holland wrote The Stranger. Like Ella there was a note beside his body with the same quote `he'll is empty`. Clare had written several entries in her diary criticising Ella and her affair with Rick`s. One night she was reading her diary about the days following Ella`s murder, she found someone had written in her diary I have already disposed of one of these creatures. I will fall on the others like a ravening beast. I really enjoyed the two storylines within the book. It was easy reading and I devoured more then half the book in one day. The book was told from the POV of Clare, Georgie and Harbinder. I liked Clare but I enjoyed reading the POV of Georgie and Harbinder. I liked Georgie who liked to pretend she was a typical teenager but like her mother had a love of creative writing and dabbled in white magic. My favourite character was Harbinder who lived at home with her parents, her mother sounded lovely and constantly had a twenty four hour buffet going in the house. There were plenty of twists and turns in the story. Elly provided many suspects for the murder to keep you on your toes. I suspected one person and then another. I was shocked when they killer was revealed because I had not suspected them. The Stranger Diaries was excellent and I hope DS Harbinder Kaur and Neil Winston get their own series.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Evie Braithwaite

    Part murder mystery, part Victorian ghost story, The Stranger Diaries makes for the perfect autumnal read. 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 Part murder mystery, part Victorian ghost story, The Stranger Diaries makes for the perfect autumnal read. 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. Clare keeps a diary and has done ever since high school. Diaries are a source of escape, a place to offload our innermost thoughts and off-limits to everyone but ourselves. However, she is left unsettled when she discovers someone else’s writing beneath her recent entry. She is forced to hand them over to the police, who find them revealing of Clare’s personal life. Gothic horrors have become an instant must-read for me, and after reading the premise I couldn’t wait to see where this story would take me. I found it to be a slow-burning novel, but one in which Griffiths meticulously builds an atmosphere for the old school whodnnit, perfect for those dark autumnal nights. One thing I do wish there was more of; supernatural elements. It was only the menacing echoes of The Stranger found within the murders of the present which brought these spookier elements to life. The ending also fell flat for me, the reveal somewhat underwhelming, especially after the growing sense of dread built up by the author. “I could hear my breathing, jagged and stertorous. It was my only companion as I inched towards the staircase.” This book offers us three alternating female perspectives; Clare, DS Harbinder Kaur and Clare’s daughter, Georgia. Throughout the interweaving P.O.Vs, beneath the surface interestingly lies an exploration of how we often have preconceived notions of others. For instance, we initially perceiving Clare as an innocent, likeable character. Harbinder on the other hand sees her as nothing but a stuck-up, over-privileged woman. The same goes for Clare’s perception of her daughter who chides her for behaving like the typical teenager, but through Georgia’s narration, we learn that she’s anything but. Looks can be deceiving, and this is fitting for the spooky murder mystery. One other thing I enjoyed was the abundance of British allusions which is sure to entertain any fellow Brit: “E often used to come here and they’d drink wine and watch Strictly (the opium of the middle-aged.” Overall, despite the underwhelming ending, this Gothic murder mystery makes for the perfect autumnal read and ideal for anyone who loves an old school whodunit. Thanks to NetGalley and Quercus Books for providing me with an eARC to read this in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    With elements of the best Gothic classics set in the present-day world of conveniences and police work, The Stranger Diaries is an absolute thrill from start to finish. Elly Griffiths, known for her outstanding Ruth Galloway and Magic Men series, has taken her brilliant writing to the creation of a stand-alone that will take your breath away. Wilkie Collins and Dame Daphne du Maurier, you can rest easy. Elly Griffiths has this now, and atmospheric mystery never had a better guardian than she. Th With elements of the best Gothic classics set in the present-day world of conveniences and police work, The Stranger Diaries is an absolute thrill from start to finish. Elly Griffiths, known for her outstanding Ruth Galloway and Magic Men series, has taken her brilliant writing to the creation of a stand-alone that will take your breath away. Wilkie Collins and Dame Daphne du Maurier, you can rest easy. Elly Griffiths has this now, and atmospheric mystery never had a better guardian than she. The suspense is unrelenting, as it should be, and use of setting to drive it is inspiring. Clare Cassidy teaches English at Talgarth High in West Sussex, where she moved to from London after her divorce five years ago with her now teen daughter Georgie. Clare is also writing a book about her classic author obsession, R.M. Holland, who happened to live in the house still used for some classes on the Talgarth campus. In fact, Holland’s third floor study is preserved as it was when he lived in the house, an unexpected bonus for Clare when she came to teach there. R.M. Holland’s most famous work was a short story entitled “The Stranger,” and Clare is currently teaching it in an adult education creative writing course during a Talgarth school break. Griffiths’ book begins with an excerpt from “The Stranger,” as Clare is reading it to her class. It is as Gothic and atmospheric a tale as one can imagine, and reading it on a late October afternoon, with the sky darkening, creates the perfect storm of a setting, an ominous setting that turns out to be a harbinger of what follows. During the class coffee break, Clare receives a call from the head English teacher that another Talgarth English teacher, a close friend of Clare’s, has been found murdered. What shakes up Clare even more is when the police later tell her that a note bearing the words “Hell is empty,” was found by her friend Ella’s body. Clare knows that quote. It’s from R.M. Holland’s ghost story “The Stranger.” Of further concern is that the stigmata symbol cut into Ella’s hands after her death is another item from Holland’s story. Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur is the lead investigator into Ella Elphick’s death, and she doesn’t waste anytime zeroing in on Clare Cassidy’s connection to Ella, their friendship and the R.M. Holland tie-ins. Harbinder takes an instant dislike to Clare, who is tall and beautiful and polished, but Harbinder is a crack detective and doesn’t let personal feelings enter into her dogged pursuit of the truth. She is capable of letting the facts lead her to a fair opinion. When a second murder occurs, this time the head English teacher at Hagarth, Rick Lewis, DS Kaur probes further into the relationships between Ella, Rick, and Clare. Kaur is herself a former student of Talgarth and had a supernatural experience in the old Holland house she has never discussed with anyone. Clare in the meantime has made a chilling discovery of her own in her diary she regularly keeps. Looking back in her diary at the time she, Ella, and Rick attended a conference together, she is terrified to see that someone else has written in her diary at that time with “Hallo, Clare. You don’t know me.” It won’t be the last time she finds such an entry. Notifying DS Kaur of the unknown contributor to her diary, Clare ends up giving all her diaries she’s kept to Harbinder to review. And, daughter Georgie is keeping secrets from her mother as she writes in an online diary site for teens. Georgie’s writings and some of her friendships are something she wants to keep private from both her mother and her father Simon, who is in London. These friendships are a result of a creative writing course the students are taking together, and one of those students sent an inappropriate Valentine to Ella in the last year. What isn’t secret is Georgie’s 21-year-old boyfriend Ty, who is six years older than she is. Although Clare doesn’t approve of the age difference, she’s trying hard to be open-minded about it. And, Georgie does give comfort to Clare, along with their white-ball-of-fur dog named Herbert, yet another link to the R.M Holland story. The setting in this book is completely in tune with the plot, as all great Gothic style stories are. The house where H.M. Holland lived and wrote, where his wife mysteriously fell down stairs to her death, and where the legend persists that it is haunted—that part of the setting is the strongest presence of Gothic. The isolation of the school and where Clare lives, near an abandoned cement factory from which an occasional light is seen, lends added suspense and mystery. The time of year is the icing on the setting cake, with it being October when the winds are blustery, and the skies get dark by late afternoon. The chill in the air is a tangible, pervading element and contributes to the chilling effect of the story. As Griffiths does so many things well, in this book and all her others, it’s impossible to single out one aspect of her talent that is the most commanding, but one aspect of her stories that keeps readers returning for each book she writes is the undeniable genius of creating unforgettable characters. Ruth Galloway, Cathbad, DI Edgar Stephens are three of my favorites from her series. The Stranger Diaries too has an excellent cast of characters, with Clare and DS Harbinder Kaur being at the forefront. They are both independent women who have had to make their own way on their own terms. Clare has established herself as a serious academic despite her ex-husband’s lack of confidence in her and the responsibility of being a single mother. Harbinder is a smart, capable policewoman who has had all the challenges of advancing as a female, and then some. Although distrustful of one another at first, a respect for each other develops over the course of the investigation. And, there is the looming presence of the long-dead H.M. Holland and his tragic wife, characters still affecting the living. Minor characters are also a Griffiths’ forte, including Clare’s daughter Georgia and Byrony Hughes, as a practicing witch with a sinister sway over her writing group of teens, and Henry Hamilton, a Cambridge professor offering some interesting H.M. Holland materials to Clare. The way in which Elly Griffiths chooses to tell this tale is perfection itself. Beginning with the brief reading of part of H.M. Holland’s “The Stranger,” the book is then divided into parts labeled Clare, Harbinder, Georgia, and further excerpts from “The Stranger.” This arrangement allows the reader to get different characters’ points of view and different clues to the who-done-it question. The Georgia parts are much shorter than the Clare and Harbinder ones, but they allow the reader to fill in some blanks that otherwise would make an incomplete story. As the killings mimic the ones in Holland’s story, its inclusion is both helpful and wonderfully atmospheric. The complete story at the end of the book is quite the satisfactory finishing touch. I anticipated that The Stranger Diaries would be a great read, as Elly Griffiths is one of the best writers/storytellers writing today, but I was still blown away by its extraordinary accomplishment. Threading Gothic elements into a tale of police procedural and psychological thriller makes for some of the best reading I’ve had, ever. The stand-alone is yet another area in which this exceptional author excels. I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this book from the author, and my review is an honest, unbiased one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    This is a slow burner, a story that takes its time to suck you in but then turns into an absolute page turner. It's an atmospheric read, a bit creepy, perfect for a wintry evening. The story centres on Clare, single mum of teenage Georgia and an English teacher at a high school near Brighton. She is also researching the life of a Victorian Gothic writer called RM Holland whose home is now the school that she works at. When the book opens, her friend and colleague Ella has just been murdered and t This is a slow burner, a story that takes its time to suck you in but then turns into an absolute page turner. It's an atmospheric read, a bit creepy, perfect for a wintry evening. The story centres on Clare, single mum of teenage Georgia and an English teacher at a high school near Brighton. She is also researching the life of a Victorian Gothic writer called RM Holland whose home is now the school that she works at. When the book opens, her friend and colleague Ella has just been murdered and the evidence suggests that it was by someone she knew. Gradually it becomes apparent that Clare is at the centre of the crime's motivation and that Ella will not be the first victim. The real star of this book is one of the two investigating detectives, Harbinder Kaur, an Indian policeman who attended the school growing up and who is a terrific character. I hope that she will make an appearance again in subsequent novels.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    The Ruth Galloway series is my favorite series. I wait each year for the next book to be published. So I was thrilled when I saw that Elly Griffiths had published a new stand alone book called The Stranger Diaries. I ordered it from England as I didn't want to wait for it to be published here. I read it cold. What I mean by that is, I didn't read any reviews that gave the plot lines and didn't read the synopsis of the book. I really enjoy doing this. You never know where the book is going and it The Ruth Galloway series is my favorite series. I wait each year for the next book to be published. So I was thrilled when I saw that Elly Griffiths had published a new stand alone book called The Stranger Diaries. I ordered it from England as I didn't want to wait for it to be published here. I read it cold. What I mean by that is, I didn't read any reviews that gave the plot lines and didn't read the synopsis of the book. I really enjoy doing this. You never know where the book is going and it is an adventure. So I am not going to give any plot lines. I will say the Elly Griffiths is very good with character building and the characters were the strength of this book. She is always very good at building atmosphere and this book was quite atmospheric. It felt good to be reading an Elly Griffith book again. The mystery was good and a real puzzle. There was tension. I enjoyed this book very much.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joelle Egan

    A teacher of creative writing at a British middle school begins experiencing disturbing events that mirror those from a short story in Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries. Clare is a respected and well-established instructor and researcher at Talgarth, hired during a restructuring effort after the school had experienced a downturn. She lives with her teenage daughter, Georgie, and her beloved dog Herbert. The novel opens as Clare is teaching her adult ed course, using as an example a ghost stor A teacher of creative writing at a British middle school begins experiencing disturbing events that mirror those from a short story in Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries. Clare is a respected and well-established instructor and researcher at Talgarth, hired during a restructuring effort after the school had experienced a downturn. She lives with her teenage daughter, Georgie, and her beloved dog Herbert. The novel opens as Clare is teaching her adult ed course, using as an example a ghost story that was written by the man whose house they are using for their class. She is interrupted by her department head with the news that Clare’s close friend and colleague has been found murdered on the grounds. Griffiths interposes sections from the short story within her narrative, along with alternating points-of-view between three women: Clare, Georgie, and Harbinder, the lead detective assigned to investigate the homicide. When more murders occur, it becomes increasingly apparent that Clare is at the center of the mystery. Someone close to her must be responsible, leaving her messages and quotes in her personal diary- or could it be Clare herself committing the crimes? The book contains many unexpected twists and turns, some of which are a bit contrived. There are also some plot elements that are also somewhat far-fetched and very convenient in retrospect. Some of Griffiths’ references and allusions may not be familiar to audiences outside of Great Britain, but nothing pivotal is lost in terms of the story. The Stranger Diaries provides a decent mystery, and the character of Harbinder is especially well-drawn and provides a unique perspective. If this standalone novel were to be developed into a series, her character would be one that would be interesting to follow. Thanks to Edelweiss and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an Early Review copy of this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beth (bibliobeth)

    First of all, thank you so much to the lovely people at Quercus Books, not only for hosting a fabulous Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening which I was delighted to attend with my blogger bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages but for kindly providing me with a copy of Elly Griffiths new stand-alone novel to check out and review prior to its publication this month. Elly Griffiths is probably best known for her archaeologist Ruth Galloway series of books that began with The Crossing Places back in 2009 First of all, thank you so much to the lovely people at Quercus Books, not only for hosting a fabulous Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening which I was delighted to attend with my blogger bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages but for kindly providing me with a copy of Elly Griffiths new stand-alone novel to check out and review prior to its publication this month. Elly Griffiths is probably best known for her archaeologist Ruth Galloway series of books that began with The Crossing Places back in 2009 and currently boasts ten books, the most recent, The Dark Angel published earlier this year and the eleventh in the series, The Stone Circle due to be released in 2019. For some reason, she's always been on the edge of my radar, particularly this series which I know is well loved with Val McDermid herself calling it "my favourite series." However, I just haven't managed to get round to reading anything - occasionally when I know I already have so many books to catch up on in a crime series, it can be a little daunting and slightly intimidating! Now I have FINALLY experienced what a great writer Elly Griffiths is, I have immediately put the first Galloway book on my wish list with a view to reading it in the very near future. The Stranger Diaries has everything you might want from a thriller, including great characterisation, an exciting and unique plot and an ending you just don't see coming. I was instantly entranced by the mystery, delighted by the thought of a story within a story and although there were plenty of red herrings thrown in the readers way, never guessed what was really going on which came as a very welcome surprise when I reached the tantalising finale. The Stranger Diaries follows our female protagonist, teacher Claire Cassidy who teaches English at a local school and a creative writing course on the side. Currently, she is also hard at work on a biography of the famed Gothic author R.M. Holland who also shares a strong connection with the school, having a study in the uppermost parts of one of the buildings. Holland was perhaps most famous for his short story The Stranger and his tragic life when his wife fell down the very steps that lead to his study within the school, her ghost still reported to haunt the building. The tension and terror increases exponentially when a teacher's body is found murdered with a quote from Holland's famous story beside her and it's not long before the suspicious deaths start to pile up, revealing strange parallels and comparisons to The Stranger. DC Harbinder Kaur is tasked with investigating and cracking the case however her job becomes infinitely more difficult when Claire starts to find messages in her diary that she hasn't written. More importantly, these are messages written in the same hand that wrote the notes at the crime scenes of Claire's murdered acquaintances. When I first picked up this book at the Quercus event I was instantly intrigued by that fascinating synopsis. Notes in a diary written by a stranger? Chilling! I was overjoyed to discover once I began reading that this teaser of the situation our main character finds herself was a mere prelude to a wonderfully Gothic and nail-biting story. The inclusion of The Stranger short story that Claire teaches in her course and how it ties in with the contemporary narrative was magical to read and brought a beautiful sense of atmosphere and drama to the proceedings. The novel is told by three different characters - Claire herself, her teenage daughter Georgie and Detective Harbinder Kaur who were all written perfectly with their own separate personalities and completely believable. I didn't particularly warm to any of them on the initial meeting but what's wonderful about Elly Griffiths writing is that you really feel you get to know them on a deeper level as the story continues and they become more "real." I'm definitely not going to be fearful any more of finally starting this talented author's other series of books, namely the Galloway and Mephisto series! Furthermore, I'm hugely grateful to Quercus for giving me the opportunity to experience Griffiths' gripping writing in a stand-alone novel. It's easy to see why she has such a legion of fans and I'm so pleased to call myself one of them. For my full review and many more, please visit my blog at http://www.bibliobeth.com

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    I was really looking forward to The Stranger Diaries, a standalone novel by Elly Griffiths. I've heard only good things about the author but haven't yet managed to read any of her acclaimed Dr Ruth Galloway or Stephens and Mephisto series despite having a couple on my bookshelves (I promise to read them soon). The Stranger Diaries introduces schoolteacher Clare, who is writing a book about Gothic author RM Holland. Her life begins to imitate fiction when a colleague is brutally murdered and a lin I was really looking forward to The Stranger Diaries, a standalone novel by Elly Griffiths. I've heard only good things about the author but haven't yet managed to read any of her acclaimed Dr Ruth Galloway or Stephens and Mephisto series despite having a couple on my bookshelves (I promise to read them soon). The Stranger Diaries introduces schoolteacher Clare, who is writing a book about Gothic author RM Holland. Her life begins to imitate fiction when a colleague is brutally murdered and a line from one of RM Holland's short stories is found beside the body. When Clare writes about the tragedy in her private diary, she's shocked to find someone else has written in there too. Not recognising the handwriting, she realisies the murderer must be someone close to her. Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur believes Clare's family is now in imminent danger. This book grabbed me from the get-go with its creepy Gothic undertones. I loved the contemporary setting with references to the past through RM Holland's storytelling. I thought the plot was highly original, with plenty of threads adding to the excitement. It's told from multiple viewpoints, which isn't something I'm overly fond of, but in this case I thought it worked well. It was an enjoyable, if somewhat implausible, read. Startling errors by the police - their lack of basic research - seemed to prolong the investigation for the sake of the story. I really hope they're a little more thorough in real life! Overall, it was entertaining and very well written. Yes, I did guess who the murderer was quite early on (I've been watching too many episodes of Vera on television) but the motive had me completely baffled. My thanks to Elly Griffiths, Quercus Books and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book. Read my review on my blog: https://bit.ly/2z34HBk

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