Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Patron)
I picked up The Stranger Diaries not knowing what to expect. I haven’t read author Elly Griffiths’ mystery series, the Ruth Galloway mysteries and the Magic Men mysteries, but I was intrigued by the blurb on The Stranger Diaries and decided to give it a try. And now I have to add all 14 of Griffiths’ other novels to my reading list.
The Stranger Diaries involves a modern-day murder that appears to be entwined with the life and work of a Victorian gothic writer. (A similar premise snagged my interest in Laura Andersen’s excellent novel The Darkling Bride. If we can’t unearth any more Victorian gothic stories, let’s just invent some!) Clare Cassidy is a high-school teacher who is also writing a book on the (fictional) author R.M. Holland. The action begins when one of her colleagues is found murdered, with a quotation from Holland’s most famous story, “The Stranger,” left beside her body.
The reader follows the investigation through the viewpoints of three characters: Clare herself, her daughter Georgia, and one of the detectives working on the case. This division of narrative duties is my only quibble with the book; I see why the author chose to do so, because it allows her to reveal key pieces of evidence to the reader without disclosing everything to the other characters, but I still would have preferred that we stick with Clare the whole way. She is an interesting and very realistic character. The same cannot be said of the other two narrators, who aren’t as well fleshed-out.
Griffiths does a great job of creating a spooky, foggy gothic atmosphere, and she keeps the reader guessing about not just the modern murder mystery but also the outcome of “The Stranger,” which comes in installments throughout the book. I am a fan of short horror stories, and “The Stranger” certainly fits the bill, even if it’s only pseudo-Victorian. And I wouldn’t have guessed the outcome of the modern mystery at all, if I weren’t such an inveterate cheater when it comes to peeking ahead!
Located in Adult Fiction (FIC GRIFFITHS)