Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

Psychological Thriller

What an absolutely fantastic book, the perfect autumnal read in, this a creepy psychological thriller, a standalone book by the very talented Elly Griffiths.

I’m a typical book lover so an author who inserts a book inside a book is onto a good thing. Even better if you do as Elly Griffiths has, and insert a fictional Victorian gothic thriller into a modern crime thriller book.

Clare Cassidy is an English Literature teacher at Talgarth High, a modern building annexed onto Holland House the last residence of the famous author R.M. Holland. Even before Clare went to teach at the school she was a fan of R.M. Holland’s writing but having access to his untouched study has only increased her interest and she’s planning to write a biography about him. In her day job, which includes adult creative writing lessons, she uses his text The Stranger to lead and inspire her classes. Then a close friend, another teacher is found murdered and it seems that the murderer is also a fan of our Victorian writer as a quote from The Stranger is found by the body.

I really can’t stress how brilliantly Elly Griffiths has fused the old and the new in this novel because she doesn’t appear to use any novel techniques; the book open s with the start of the gothic thriller with other excerpts appearing throughout the book, but somehow even with references to ghosts and the strangeness of the supernatural, I was so completely immersed in the book that I pretty much unquestionably believed all that I was told for the duration of the read.

The modern investigation is told from multiple viewpoints which include Clare, the detective DS Harbinder Kaur who is an acerbic quirky character who soon became my favourite of all the characters in the book, Clare’s teenage daughter Georgie also gets a stay and decide whether we also disapprove of her older boyfriend or not. And this is the thing, throughout the book the Victorian melodrama of suspicious deaths and references to a missing daughter brush-up not only against the absolute brutality of murder, but the everyday modernity that is life; what do we think of an Indian gay detective? Does it matter that a grown woman lives with her parents? Should a fifteen year old be dating a twenty-one year old? What does that say about him? Her Parents? and on, and on – some aspects of the book appear deliberately inserted to make the reader question the viewpoint that they are prodding at. To add to the cast of interesting characters we have Henry Hamilton a Cambridge scholar who has some of his letters and we have Harbinder Kaur’s work partner Neil and the aspiring Jean Brodie, Bryony Hughes, believe me a more mixed yet fascinating bunch of people your unlikely to meet.

As for the mystery itself? Well I guess it isn’t the hardest to crack but nor is this a book where it’s obvious from the start – there are plenty of red-herrings to keep you on your toes and don’t forget there are also mysteries to be solved in the past too! There is entertainment to be had on every page from the literary references to bonkers behaviour and ghosts haunting the stairways!

When the wind is howling and the nights are dark you’ll have to go a long way to find such a perfect atmospheric read.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Quercus for sending me an arc, and the author Elly Griffiths for a thoroughly entertaining read, this review is my unbiased thanks to you all.

First Published UK: 1 November 2018
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

18 thoughts on “The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

  1. I’m so excited about this one and maybe even more so now. As I recall, you are not a big fan of ghostly tales. And if you think it’s great, I’m certain I will love it. Wonderful! Plus there is a new Ruth book coming in the spring. Life is good. Ha!


    1. Oh yes Kay, I’ll admit I approached this book with a certain amount of trepidation but I was completely won over – the present aspect sorting out any problems the Victorian ghostly bits might have presented – yes the Ruth book is already on the wishlist 😊


  2. Oh, I really want to read this, Cleo! I keep hearing such good things about it, and your excellent post makes me even more keen to get to it. I really do like the way Griffiths writes. She develops her characters so well, doesn’t she?


  3. I enjoyed your review. Here is mine, in case you are interested.

    I have absolutely adored Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway mystery series and hope that she will continue to write many more book about Ruth, her family, colleagues and friends. Ms. Griffiths has also penned the post-war Max Mephisto series. Now, she has written her first standalone novel. I will start by saying that this atmospheric, character driven story does not disappoint.

    Plot: Clare is a teacher at the school where her daughter, Georgia, is a student. Harbinder is a Detective Sergeant whose alma mater is this school. When Clare’s colleagues begin to die, Harbinder is assigned the investigation. The school also has close ties to the author of a very scary story. These threads intertwine to produce a suspenseful, somewhat Gothic tale.

    Most interesting to me in the book were the many characters and their interrelationships. There are Clare and her ex-husband, Clare and her daughter, Clare and her colleagues, Clare and Harbinder. Then there are Georgie and her parents, Georgie and her teachers, Georgie and her boyfriend, Georgie and her writing group, etc.

    Another feature of the novel is the offering of different points of view. The reader sees events through the eyes of Clare, Georgie and Harbinder.

    As in all good mysteries there are some twists. This is a novel that I definitely recommend. My favorite novels by this author are still the Ruth novels but this is worth a read for suspense lovers.

    Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this read by one of my favorite authors!


  4. Great review of a fabulous book! I read it in two sittings last weekend and was totally engrossed all the way through. I loved the horror story sections and some bits were really quite spooky. I started out not too keen on any of the three narrators, but I thought she did a great job in gradually developing them so they grew on you as the book went on. By the edn I loved them all. Great stuff! I really must get around to writing my review (though I’ve spoiled it for you now… 😉 )


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