As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Quercus, 1 November 2018. ISBN: 978-1-78648-739-1(HB)
A new Elly Griffiths novel is always a treat; the possibility of a new
Elly Griffiths series is something to be relished. The Stranger Diaries appears
to be a standalone – but with a sparky detective sergeant and a potential lay
sidekick at the centre of things, who knows what may follow?
This dark tale has plenty in
common with Griffiths's two established series; great writing, characters who
live and breathe and locations you can see and touch are all a given, of
course.Like the Ruth Galloway series
it's contemporary, though it does nod towards Victorian Gothic fiction; and
like the Edgar and Mephisto books it's set on the south coast, though not
actually in Brighton. But in most other respects it's completely different.
Clare Cassidy is a teacher,
and a devotee of R M Holland, the Victorian author of dark and ghostly tales,
whose biography she is in the process of writing. The school she worked at used
to be his home, and his study is kept as a museum piece.
And then there's a murder, on
Hallowe'en, no less, and the killer leaves a Holland-related clue!
The second viewpoint
character is Harbinder Kaur, an ambitious young detective sergeant tasked with
investigating the murder. There are plenty of suspects: Clare's head of
department, with whom the victim was having an affair; a pupil with a crush on
her; even Clare herself for a while – especially when her diary reveals more
than she would like.
The diary moves even closer
to the centre of the action when... but no, that would be giving too much away.
In true Elly Griffiths style,
the narrative is well populated with interesting characters. There's Georgia,
Clare's teenage daughter; Simon, her ex; Rick, the faithless head of
department; Tony, the trendy head teacher; Mrs Hughes, a creative writing tutor
and self-confessed white witch; not to mention Harbinder's entire boisterous
Sikh family. And that's just for starters. The wonderful Griffiths sense of
place is also very much in evidence; Clare's house, a spooky old factory and a
Cambridge college are just a few of the vibrant locations which zing off the
As murder follows murder, it
soon becomes plain that Clare is somehow a focus for the killer, though even
she is completely mystified. And when the truth is revealed, we find that the
evidence has stared everyone in the face all along.
The loose ends are all tied
up in a way which implies that a standalone was all that Griffiths intended –
but Harbinder Kaur is surely too intriguing a character not to follow up. Clare
Cassidy could make a useful ally for her; theirs is a double act waiting to
happen. But even if it doesn't, The Stranger Diaries is still a great
addition to the Elly Griffiths canon.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Elly Griffiths is the author of a series of
crime novels set in England’s Norfolk county and featuring forensic
archaeologist Ruth Galloway. The first in the series, Crossing Places,
earned a good deal of praise both in Griffiths’ native country, England, and in
the U.S. The Literary Review termed it “a cleverly plotted and extremely
interesting first novel, highly recommended.Since then Elly has written ten further novels featuring forensic
archaeologist Ruth Galloway.The most
recent is The Dark Angel. Recently she has
written a second series set in the 1950’s featuring magician Max Mephisto and
DI Stevens. There are four books in the
new series. Click on the title to read a review of Elly’s latest Max Mephisto
Book. The Vanishing Box .
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.