The Stranger Diaries
by Elly Griffiths
Hardcover, 338 pages
5 March 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Claire, mother to 15-year-old Georgie, teaches English in a seaside town in Sussex, England. The school, Talgarth High, is the former home of famous author R.M. Holland, author of the short story The Stranger, and whose wife, Alice, is believed to haunt the halls after her death on the grounds. Claire is the school’s resident expert on Holland, teaching a course on his short story and researching his life for a biography she is writing. She is horrified when a friend and colleague, Ella, is found murdered in a way similar to a character from the story and with a quote from it left behind. When notes begin to appear in Claire’s personal diary in a strange hand, referencing both the murder and the Stranger, Claire becomes the center of the investigation as the police believe the murderer is someone Claire knows.
This was a great story and I love the “book about a book” premise. The book gives us three somewhat unreliable narrators; not unreliable in the sense that they’re untrustworthy but rather that they have their own secrets, biases, and goals that don’t always align with what’s going on during the investigation. With constantly changing perspectives, I was always reevaluating the characters – whether they could be trusted, whether they were involved in the murder, and just what their intentions were. The plot was complex and layered, with new information being uncovered constantly. Claire’s diary entries and snippets of R.M. Holland’s story, The Stranger, are sprinkled throughout the book, adding additional layers of interest. I absolutely loved that we got The Stranger in full at the end of the book and enjoyed it in its own right. I’ll definitely be picking up more by Griffiths in the future.
(Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)