The Stranger Diaries

The Stranger Diaries

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...

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Title:The Stranger Diaries
Author:Elly Griffiths
Rating:

The Stranger Diaries Reviews

  • NZLisaM

    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

    , was once home to Victorian Horror writer

    , best remembered for his horror-themed, scary short story,

    . The t

    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

    , was once home to Victorian Horror writer

    , best remembered for his horror-themed, scary short story,

    . The top floor still houses his study, out-of-bounds to students, and eerily preserved just as he left it. The ghost of

    wife,

    , 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;

    – An English teacher at

    , single mum to Georgie, friend and fellow co-worker of Ella, currently working on a biography of

    .

    – 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

    as a student.

    – Clare’s teenage daughter, current student at

    .

    The POV’s were split into parts, with Clare voicing

    , Harbinder

    , you get the picture. Excerpts from

    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

    .

    I alternated between the book and the audio version, and have to mention that

    over-the-top, dramatic reading of the gothic tale,

    , is a must listen.

    I was thrilled to bits when Claire’s dog, Herbert, was described as a white

    , the first in a series of children’s picture books penned by New Zealand author,

    .

    Ta-Dah! This is what he looks like, except white.

    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!

  • 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..........”

  • 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.

  • 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

    '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

    'hell is empty'. The quote also happens to have links to Holland's best-known story,

    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,

    about 7 years ago, and found it enjoyable, but not interesting enough for me to persist further.

    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

    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.

    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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Holly  B

    Some elements I loved~

    1. There is a gothic Victorian book placed inside the main story. 

    Some elements I loved~

    1. There is a gothic Victorian book placed inside the main story. 

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