The Stranger Diaries
by Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date : March 5, 2019
Pages : 352
Synopsis From Publisher :
Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. A high school English teacher specializing in the Gothic writer R. M. Holland, she teaches a course on it every year. But when one of Clare’s colleagues and closest friends is found dead, with a line from R. M. Holland’s most famous story, “The Stranger,” left by her body, Clare is horrified to see her life collide with the storylines of her favourite literature.
To make matters worse, the police suspect the killer is someone Clare knows. Unsure whom to trust, she turns to her closest confidant, her diary, the only outlet she has for her darkest suspicions and fears about the case. Then one day she notices something odd. Writing that isn't hers, left on the page of an old diary: "Hallo, Clare. You don’t know me."
Clare becomes more certain than ever: “The Stranger” has come to terrifying life. But can the ending be rewritten in time?
I have recently noticed a trend in crime fiction. The trend has been coined Gothic Suspense. These stories often feature an old or abandoned building with mystic elements and of course a murder. I have read quite a few stories of Gothic Suspense, so far Griffiths has done it best. In The Stranger Diaries Griffiths takes an interlude from the much loved Ruth Galloway series ; and makes her mark on the sub-genre of Gothic Suspense.
When Ella, Clare Cassidy’s best friend and colleague is brutally murdered, Clare is shocked and devastated. Ella was a beloved and admired teacher at the high school where she and Clare both taught English Literature. Even more disturbing is what was found alongside Ella’s body ; a quote from an author Clare admires immensely. As the police scramble to find the murderer and mysterious entries appear in Clare’s diary, Clare begins to fear that fiction has become reality.
For Clare Cassidy her diary is her safe place. A place where she can unload all her fears and insecurities without judgement. Writing in her diary is a part of her routine, just as much as going to work or walking her dog. After the death of her close friend Ella, Clare finds entries in her diary which are not her own. The idea of a person reading someone else’s diary is atrocious in my opinion. I have never kept a diary for fear that someone may read it. The thought of someone knowing my deepest thoughts and emotions (without my permission) terrifies me. There is nothing creepier. This is what makes The Stranger Diaries so inthralling. In addition to Clare’s home and security being violated, Griffiths also shows how Clare’s sense of self has been violated; a violation far more damaging than ransacking a home. Whenever Clare discovered a new passage from her intruder, I literally felt chills. Griffiths uses a very small object to project a huge amount of unease.
The Stranger Diaries is told from three perspectives Clare, her teenage daughter Georgia, and the Detective Sergeant investigating Ella’s murder, Harbinder Kaur. I thoroughly enjoyed each character, so much that I could not pick a favorite. They are all intelligent and share of a love of literature each with very strong personalities. Clare, the capable and independent single mother, Georgia the moody yet incredibly insightful fifteen year old. Lastly Harbinder, the tough no nonsense detective battling with her own insecurities. Griffiths displays the strengths of each woman as well as their weaknesses. I relished reading about these strong yet flawed women. It was wonderful to read how their personalities complemented each other and how the plot became even more thrilling once they realized they were allies not enemies.
In addition to teaching high school English Literature, Clare also teaches a Creative Writing course for adults. In the Creative Writing course Clare uses fictional writer R.M. Holland as a point of reference. Holland’s most famous work The Stranger features heavily in Clare’s adult classes. I absolutely loved The Stranger and I found it hard to believe R.M. Holland is a fictional writer. The Stranger is mentioned throughout the book but the entire story can be found at the end of the book. The Stranger is twisted and chilling, adding an extra layer of creepy to The Stranger Diaries.
With a wonderfully eerie setting in the world of academia, three strong-willed female lead characters, and tons of suspense; The Stranger Diaries is the kind of book you want to binge yet savor. Fans of Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway and Michael Malone’s House Of Spines should add The Stranger Diaries to their list of must reads.
*Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for my free review copy of The Stranger Diaries*
Murder and Moore Rating :
5 out of 5 Stars