Friday, March 22, 2019

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

First Sentence:  'If you'll permit me,' said the Stranger, 'I'd like to tell you a story.'
Clare Cassidy not only teaches a course on the late Gothic writer R.M. Holland, but has the keys to his study at Cambridge wherein she finds the body of a colleague with a note containing a line from Holland's work, "The Stranger."  Clare usually finds solace writing in her diary.  Finding an entry written by an unknown hand puts Clare in the middle of the investigation.
The beginning of a story within the story, a possibly haunted school, a death, and a diary.  These things set one off into a well-done, atmospheric and captivating book filled with literary references, quotations, and the occasional injection of wry humor—"I can't find St. Jude's and the sat-nav gives up, muttering 'turn around where possible' to itself."—along with lines which may make one smile—"It can be a dangerous thing, reading too much.'—and the occasional small truth—"Nothing in the world is hidden forever."
Well-drawn, dimensional characters make all the difference, as does conflict.  Griffiths creates a relationship which begins with the lesson--one should never make a promise one might not be able to keep and that one should never lie to the police--and allows it to develop in a natural, logical manner. 
Having multiple points of view can be awkward or effective.  Here, it is the latter with the story being told by Clare, her daughter Georgie, and DS Kaur (Harbinder), as well as excerpts from Clare's diary,  both written by Clare and the anonymous stranger.  The different voices permit us to know more about the characters than even each character knows about the others.  However, the interjections of Holland's story can be a bit confusing. 
What works particularly well is Griffiths' ability to make one feel the emotions of the characters, particularly Clare. And there are a lot of characters, many of whom become suspects.  While the plot can keep one guessing, some may identify the killer before the end reveal.
"The Stranger Diaries" has good Gothic overtones with well-done suspense and an excellent epilogue.  It is nice when an author steps out and does something new.

THE STRANGER DIARIES (Susp-Clare Cassidy/DS Harbinder Kaur-England-Contemp) - Good
      Griffiths, Elly (aka Domenica de Rosa) - Standalone
      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – March 2019

1 comment:

  1. I really like Elly Griffiths' work, and I keep hearing great things about this one. I like that idea of a story-within-a-story sort of a plot, too. Glad you enjoyed this.