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The Stranger Diaries

The Stranger Diaries

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The Stranger Diaries

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Mar 5, 2019

Nota del editor

Edgar Award winner…

“The Stranger Diaries” won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. It’s a delightfully chilling take on Gothic mysteries featuring an English teacher who loves Gothic writer R.M. Holland and finds herself at the center of a real-life murder case, inspired by the fictional ones she loves.


International Bestseller

Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel

"This lively whodunit keeps you guessing until the end."

Death lies between the lines when the events of a dark story start coming true in this haunting modern Gothic mystery, perfect for fans of Magpie Murders and The Lake House.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. A high school teacher specializing in the Gothic writer R. M. Holland, she even teaches a course on him. But when one of Clare’s colleagues is found dead, with a line from Holland’s iconic story “The Stranger” left by her body, Clare is horrified to see her life collide with her favorite literature.

The police suspect the killer is someone Clare knows. Unsure whom to trust, she turns to her diary, the only outlet for her suspicions and fears. Then one day she notices something odd. Writing that isn't hers, left on the page of an old diary:

Hallo Clare. You don’t know me.

Clare becomes more certain than ever: “The Stranger” has come to terrifying life. But can the ending be rewritten in time?
Mar 5, 2019

Sobre el autor

Elly Griffiths nació en Londres y trabajó en el mundo editorial durante varios años. Decidió dedicarse a la escritura cuando su esposo comenzó a estudiar Arqueología. Para su exitosa serie, con la arqueóloga Ruth Galloway como protagonista,  también contó con la inspiración de su tía, que le contaba leyendas y mitos de Norfolk. Los ecos del pantano, la primera novela de la serie, se ha publicado con gran éxito en nuestro país.

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The Stranger Diaries - Elly Griffiths


Title Page





Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8


Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15


Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19


Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23


Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33


Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36


Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39


Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42


Chapter 43


Chapter 44


Chapter 45


Chapter 46

Harbinder and Clare

Chapter 47


The Stranger, by R.M. Holland

Discussion Guide

Abandoned Estates, Empty Hotels, and Isolated Schools: Exploring the Civic Landscapes of Gothic Fiction Through the Ages

Read More from Elly Griffiths

About the Author

Connect with HMH

First Mariner Books edition 2019

Copyright © 2018 by Elly Griffiths

Reading Group Guide copyright © 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Abandoned Estates, Empty Hotels, and Isolated Schools copyright © 2019 by Elly Griffiths, reprinted with the permission of Crime Reads

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to trade.permissions@hmhco.com or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.


First published in Great Britain in 2018 by Quercus

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Griffiths, Elly, author.

Title: The stranger diaries / Elly Griffiths.

Description: First U.S. edition. | Boston ; New York : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. Identifiers: LCCN 2018035768| ISBN 9781328577856 (hardcover) | ISBN 9781328576088 (ebook)

Subjects: | BISAC: FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Women Sleuths. | FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Police Procedural. | FICTION / Romance / Gothic. | GSAFD: Mystery fiction. | Gothic fiction.

Classification: LCC PR6107.R534 S77 2019 | DDC 823/.92—dc23LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018035768

Cover design by Martha Kennedy

Cover photograph © Nikki Smith/Arcangel Images

Author photograph © Sara Reeve


For Alex and Juliet.

And for Gus, my companion animal.

Part the First


Chapter 1

‘If you’ll permit me,’ said the Stranger, ‘I’d like to tell you a story. After all, it’s a long journey and, by the look of those skies, we’re not going to be leaving this carriage for some time. So, why not pass the hours with some story-telling? The perfect thing for a late October evening.

‘Are you quite comfortable there? Don’t worry about Herbert. He won’t hurt you. It’s just this weather that makes him nervous. Now, where was I? What about some brandy to keep the chill out? You don’t mind a hip flask, do you?

‘Well, this is a story that actually happened. Those are the best kind, don’t you think? Better still, it happened to me when I was a young man. About your age.

‘I was a student at Cambridge. Studying Divinity, of course. There’s no other subject, in my opinion, except possibly English Literature. We are such stuff as dreams are made on. I’d been there for almost a term. I was a shy boy from the country and I suppose I was lonely. I wasn’t one of the swells, those young men in white bow ties who sauntered across the court as if they had letters patent from God. I kept myself to myself, went to lectures, wrote my essays and started up a friendship with another scholarship boy in my year, a timid soul called Gudgeon, of all things. I wrote home to my mother every week. I went to chapel. Yes, I believed in those days. I was even rather pious—pi, we used to say. That was why I was surprised to be invited to join the Hell Club. Surprised and pleased. I’d heard about it, of course. Stories of midnight orgies, of bedders coming in to clean rooms and fainting dead away at what they discovered there, of arcane chants from the Book of the Dead, of buried bones and gaping graves. But there were other stories too. Many successful men had their start at the Hell Club: politicians—even a cabinet member or two—writers, lawyers, scientists, business tycoons. You always knew them because of the badge, a discreet skull worn on the left lapel. Yes, like this one here.

‘So I was happy to be invited to the initiation ceremony. It was held on October 31st. Halloween, of course. All Hallows’ Eve. Yes, of course. It’s Halloween today. If one believed in coincidence one might think that was slightly sinister.

‘To return to my story. The ceremony was simple and took place at midnight. Naturally. The three initiates were required to go to a ruined house just outside the college grounds. In turn, we would be blindfolded and given a candle. We had to walk to the house, climb the stairs and light our candle in the window on the first floor landing. Then we had to shout, as loudly as we could, Hell is empty! After all three had completed the task, we could take off our blindfolds and re-join our fellows. Feasting and revelry would follow. Gudgeon . . . did I tell you that poor Gudgeon was one of the three? Gudgeon was worried because, without his glasses, he was almost blind. But, as I told him, we were all blindfolded anyway. A man may see how the world goes with no eyes.’

‘So,’ I say, ‘what’s happening here?’

‘Something bad,’ says Peter.

‘You’re quite right,’ I say, counting to ten silently. ‘What makes you think that?’

‘Well,’ says Una, ‘the setting, for one thing. Midnight on Halloween.’

‘That’s a bit of a cliché,’ says Ted.

‘It’s a cliché because it works,’ says Una. ‘It’s really spooky, with the weather and everything. What’s the betting they get snowed in on the train?’

‘That’s a rip-off of Murder on the Orient Express,’ says Peter.

The Stranger pre-dates Agatha Christie,’ I say. ‘What else tells you what sort of story this is?’

‘The narrator is so creepy,’ says Sharon, ‘all that have a drink from my hip flask and don’t mind Herbert. Who is Herbert anyway?’

‘A good question,’ I say. ‘What does everyone think?’

‘A deaf mute.’

‘His servant.’

‘His son. Has to be restrained because he’s a dangerous lunatic.’

‘His dog.’


‘Actually,’ I say, ‘Ted is right, Herbert is a dog. The companion animal is an important trope in the ghost story genre because an animal can sense things that are beyond human comprehension. What can be scarier than a dog staring at something that isn’t there? Cats are famously spooky, of course. Think of Edgar Allan Poe. And animals were often thought to be witches’ familiars, helping them perform black magic. But Animal characters can be useful for another reason. Can anyone guess what it is?’

No one can. It’s mid-afternoon, nearly break time, and they are thinking of coffee and biscuits rather than fictional archetypes. I look out of the window. The trees by the graveyard are dark even though it’s only four o’clock. I should have saved the short story for the twilight session really, but it’s so difficult to cover everything on a short course. Time to wrap things up.

‘Animals are expendable,’ I say. ‘Authors often kill them to create tension. It’s not as significant as killing a human but it can be surprisingly upsetting.’

The members of the creative writing group go clattering down the stairs in search of caffeine but I stay in the classroom for a bit. It’s very strange being in this part of the school. Only adult education classes get taught here; the rooms are too small and too odd for lessons. This one has a fireplace and a rather disturbing oil painting of a child holding what looks like a dead ferret. I can just imagine the Year 7s trying to disappear up the fireplace like twenty-first-century chimney sweeps. Most school life at Talgarth High happens in the New Building, a 1970s monstrosity of plate glass and coloured bricks. This building, the Old Building, which was once called Holland House, is really just an annex. It has the dining hall, the kitchens and the chapel, as well as the head teacher’s office. The first floor has rooms which are sometimes used for music practice or drama. The old library is there too, now only frequented by teachers because the students have a modern version in the New Building, with computers and armchairs and paperbacks in carousels. The top floor, which is out-of-bounds to students, is where R.M. Holland’s study is, preserved just as he left it. The creative writing students are always excited to learn that the author of The Stranger actually lived in this house. In fact, he hardly ever left it. He was a recluse, the old-fashioned sort with a housekeeper and a full staff. I’m not sure I would leave the house myself if I had someone to cook and clean for me, to iron the Times and place it on a tray with my morning infusion. But I have a daughter, so I would have to rouse myself eventually. Georgie would probably never get out of bed without me to shout the time up the stairs, a problem R.M. Holland certainly never had, although he may, in fact, have had a daughter. Opinion is divided on this point.

It’s October half-term and, with no pupils around, and spending all my time in the Old Building, it’s easy to imagine that I’m teaching at a university, somewhere ancient and hallowed. There are parts of Holland House that look almost like an Oxford college, if you ignore the New Building and the smell of the gymnasium. I like having this time to myself. Georgie is with Simon and Herbert is in kennels. There’s nothing for me to worry about and, when I get home, there’s nothing to stop me writing all night. I’m working on a biography of R.M. Holland. He’s always interested me, ever since I read The Stranger in a ghost story anthology as a teenager. I didn’t know about his connection to the school when I first applied here. It wasn’t mentioned in the advertisement and the interview was in the New Building. When I found out, it seemed like a sign. I would teach English by day and, in the evenings, inspired by my surroundings, I would write about Holland; about his strange, reclusive life, the mysterious death of his wife, his missing daughter. I made a good start; I was even interviewed for a news item on local TV, walking awkwardly through the Old Building and talking about its previous occupant. But, recently—I don’t know why—the words have dried up. Write every day, that’s what I tell my students. Don’t wait for inspiration, that might not come until the end. The muse always finds you working. Look into your heart and write. But, like most teachers, I’m not brilliant at taking my own advice. I write in my diary every day, but that doesn’t count because no one else is ever going to read it.

I suppose I should go downstairs and get a coffee while I still can. As I get up I look out of the window. It’s getting dark and the trees are blowing in a sudden squall of wind. Leaves gust across the car park and, following their progress, I see what I should have noticed earlier: a strange car with two people sitting inside it. There’s nothing particularly odd about this. This is a school, after all, despite it being half-term. Visitors are not entirely unexpected. They could even be staff members, coming in to prepare their classrooms and complete their planning for next week. But there’s something about the car, and the people inside it, that makes me feel uneasy. It’s an unremarkable grey vehicle—I’m useless at cars but Simon would know the make—something solid and workmanlike, the sort of thing a mini-cab driver would use. But why are its occupants just sitting there? I can’t see their faces but they are both dressed in dark clothes and look, like the car itself, somehow both prosaic and menacing.

It’s almost as if I am expecting a summons of some kind, so I’m not really surprised when my phone buzzes. I see it’s Rick Lewis, my head of department.

‘Clare,’ he says, ‘I’ve got some terrible news.’

Clare’s Diary

Monday 23rd October 2017

Ella is dead. I didn’t believe it when Rick told me. And, as the words began to sink in, I thought: a car crash, an accident, even an overdose of some kind. But when Rick said ‘murdered’, it was as if he was talking a different language.

‘Murdered?’ I repeated the word stupidly.

‘The police said that someone broke into her house last night,’ said Rick. ‘They turned up on my doorstep this morning. Daisy thought I was about to be arrested.’

I still couldn’t put the pieces together. Ella. My friend. My colleague. My ally in the English department. Murdered. Rick said that Tony already knew. He was going to write to all the parents tonight.

‘It’ll be in the papers,’ said Rick. ‘Thank God it’s half-term.’

I’d thought the same thing. Thank God it’s half-term, thank God Georgie’s with Simon. But then I felt guilty. Rick must have realised that he’d got the tone wrong because he said, ‘I’m sorry, Clare’, as if he meant it.

He’s sorry. Jesus.

And then I had to go back to my class and teach them about ghost stories. It wasn’t one of my best teaching sessions. But The Stranger always does its bit, especially as it was dark by the time I’d finished. Una actually screamed at the end. I set them a writing task for the last hour: ‘write about receiving bad news’. I looked at their bent heads as they scribbled their masterpieces (‘The telegram arrived at half-past two . . .’) and thought: if only they knew.

As soon as I got home, I rang Debra. She’d been out with the family and hadn’t heard. She cried, said she didn’t believe it, etc., etc. To think that the three of us had only been together on Friday night. Rick said that Ella was killed some time on Sunday. I remember I’d texted her about the Strictly results and hadn’t had an answer. Was she already dead by then?

It wasn’t so bad when I was teaching or talking to Debra, but now I’m alone, I feel such a sense of . . . well, dread . . . that I’m almost rigid with fear. I’m sitting here with my diary on the bed and I don’t want to turn the light off. Where is Ella? Have they taken her body away? Have her parents had to identify her? Rick didn’t give me any of these details and, right now, they seem incredibly important.

I just can’t believe that I’ll never see her again.

Chapter 2

I’m at school early. I didn’t really sleep. Horrible dreams, not actually about Ella, but searching for Georgie in war-ravaged cities, Herbert going missing, my dead grandfather calling from a room just out of sight. Herbert was at Doggy Day Care for the night—which was probably part of the reason for the anxiety dreams—but I didn’t need him to wake me up demanding food, walkies and dancing girls. I was up at six and at Talgarth by eight. There were already a few people here, drinking coffee in the dining hall and attempting to start conversations. They always run a few courses here at half-term and I like to try to identify the participants: women with unusual jewellery tend to be doing tapestry or pottery, men with sandals and long fingernails are usually making stringed musical instruments. My students are always the hardest to spot. That’s one of the nice things about teaching creative writing—you get retired teachers and solicitors, women who have brought up their families and now fancy doing something for themselves, twenty-somethings convinced that they are the next J.K. Rowling. My favourites are often the people who have done all the other courses and just take mine because it’s next on the list after Candle Making. Those students always surprise you—and themselves.

I get a black coffee from the machine and take it to the very end of one of the tables. It feels strange to be eating and drinking, going through the usual routine, thinking about the day’s teaching. I still can’t get used to the thought that I’m living in a world without Ella. Although I’d probably describe Jen and Cathy from university as my best friends, there’s no doubt that I saw Ella more than I saw either of them—I saw her every day during term time. We shared our frustrations about Rick and Tony, the students, our occasional triumphs, juicy gossip about the pastoral leader and one of the lab technicians. Even now, ridiculously, I want to text her. ‘You’ll never believe what’s happened.’

‘Can I sit here?’

It’s Ted, from my creative writing class.

‘Of course.’ I arrange my face into a welcoming shape.

Ted’s a good example of creative writing students being hard to classify. He’s shaven-headed and tattooed and looks more like a potential ‘Woodcarving: An Introduction’ or even an ‘Exploring Japanese Pottery’. But he had a few good insights yesterday and, thank God, doesn’t seem to want to talk about his work in progress.

‘I enjoyed yesterday,’ he says, unwrapping a packet of biscuits, the sort they have in hotel bedrooms.

‘Good,’ I say.

‘That ghost story. I kept thinking about it all night.’

‘It’s quite effective, isn’t it? R.M. Holland wasn’t the greatest writer but he certainly knew how to scare people.’

‘And is it true that he actually lived here? In this house?’

‘Yes. He lived here until 1902. The bedrooms were on the floor where we were yesterday. His study is in the attic.’

‘This is a school now, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, a secondary school, Talgarth High. When Holland died, the building became a boarding school, then a grammar. It went comprehensive in the 1970s.’

‘And this is where you teach?’


‘Do you tell your students that story? The Stranger?’

‘No. Holland isn’t on the curriculum. It’s still all Of Mice and Men and Remains of the Day. I used to run a creative writing group for the GCSE students and sometimes I read them The Stranger.

‘Must have given them nightmares.’

‘No, they loved it. Teenagers always love ghost stories.’

‘I do too.’ He grins at me, showing two gold teeth. ‘There’s a funny feeling about this place. I bet it’s haunted.’

‘There are a few stories. A woman was meant to have fallen from the top floor. Some people say it was Holland’s wife. Or his daughter. I’ve had students say that they’ve seen a woman in a white nightdress floating down the stairs. Or sometimes you can see a falling figure out of the corner of your eye. Apparently the bloodstain is still visible; it’s outside the head teacher’s study.’

‘Very appropriate.’

‘Oh, he’s the young and trendy type. Not Dickensian at all.’

‘That’s a shame.’

Ted dunks his biscuit but it’s the wrong sort and half of it falls into his tea. ‘What’s the topic this morning?’ he says. ‘I left my timetable in the room yesterday.’

‘Creating memorable characters,’ I say. ‘Time and place in the afternoon. Then home. Excuse me, I’d better go and prepare.’

I go up to the classroom to make sure everything is in place for the day but, when I get there, I just sit at the desk with my head in my hands. How the hell am I going to get through this day?

I first met Ella when we interviewed for jobs at Talgarth High five years ago. We were greeted by Rick, who was trying to pretend that a third of the English department hadn’t resigned at the end of the Easter term, leaving him with a few short months to find two experienced English teachers. A little while ago I looked in my diary to find my first impressions of Rick but they were disappointingly banal. Tall, thin, rumpled-looking. Rick is the sort of person whose charms—such as they are—dawn on you gradually.

‘It’s a really vibrant department,’ he told us as he gave us the tour. ‘And the school’s great, very diverse, lots of energy.’

By then we had worked out that there were two posts available and that we weren’t in competition. We exchanged a look. We both knew what ‘vibrant’ meant. The school was on the edge of anarchy. It had just received a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating from its latest inspection. The old head, Megan Williams, was still clinging on, but she was ousted two years later by Tony Sweetman, who had been helicoptered in from another school with only ten years’ teaching experience. The school is rated Good now.

Afterwards Ella and I compared notes in the staffroom, a cheerless place in the New Building with passive-aggressive Post-its on the appliances—‘Please help empty the dishwasher. It can’t always be my turn!!’ We’d been left alone with coffee and a plate of biscuits while ‘the panel’ made their decision. We both knew that we’d be offered jobs. The prospect was made a lot less bleak by the woman sitting opposite me: long blonde hair, bony nose, not beautiful but extremely attractive. I learned later that Ella, a Jane Austen enthusiast, identified with Elizabeth Bennet. But, to me, she was always Emma.

‘Why do you want to come here?’ Ella had asked, stirring her tea with a pen.

‘I’ve just got divorced,’ I said. ‘I want to move out of London. I’ve got a ten-year-old daughter. I thought it might be nice for her to live in the countryside. And be near the sea.’

The school was in West Sussex. Shoreham-by-Sea was only fifteen minutes away, Chichester half an hour on a good day. Both Rick and Tony had made a lot of this. I was trying to focus on the drive through the lush countryside and not the art rooms with the broken windows and the cheerless quad where the plants had all been killed by the salt winds.

‘I’m escaping too,’ Ella had said. ‘I was teaching in Wales but I had an affair with my head of department. Not a good idea.’

I remember being touched, and slightly shocked, that she had confided in me so early in our acquaintance.

‘I can’t imagine having an affair with that Rick,’ I said. ‘He looks like a scarecrow.’

‘If I only had a brain,’ Ella sang in a surprisingly good imitation of the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz.

But she had a brain, and a good one, which is why she should have known about Rick. She should have listened to me.

Too late for that now.

In the morning, I talk to the students about The Stranger.

‘You often get archetypal characters in ghost stories,’ I say. ‘The innocent young man, the helper, the hinderer, the loathly lady.’

‘I know a few of those,’ says Ted with a slightly uncouth guffaw.

‘I don’t know what that means,’ says Una. ‘What is a loathly lady?’ I recognise her as the type who makes heavy work of these things.

‘She’s a common character in gothic ghost stories,’ I say. ‘Think of The Woman in Black or Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre. She descends from legends like the one in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, where a beautiful woman becomes a hideous hag, or vice versa.’

‘I’ve definitely met her,’ says Ted.

I’m not going to be diverted. We have had enough about Ted’s love life over the last two days. ‘Of course,’ I say, ‘you have legends like the one in Keats’ Lamia where a snake actually turns into a woman.’

‘But there’s no snake woman in The Stranger,’ says Una.

‘No,’ I say. ‘R.M. Holland tends to avoid women in his fiction altogether.’

‘But you said that his wife haunts this house,’ says Ted and I curse myself for our jolly chat over the biscuits.

‘Tell us,’ say several people. The more sensitive types shiver pleasurably but, with the autumn sun streaming in through the windows, it’s hard to believe in ghosts.

‘R.M. Holland married a woman called Alice Avery,’ I say. ‘They lived here, in this house, and Alice died, possibly from a fall down the stairs. Her ghost is meant to walk the place. You see her gliding along the corridors on the first floor or even floating down the stairs. Some people say that if you see her, it’s a sign that a death is imminent.’

‘Have you ever seen her?’ asks someone.

‘No,’ I say, turning to the whiteboard. ‘Now let’s do an exercise on creating characters. Imagine that you’re at a train station . . .’

I glance surreptitiously at my watch. Only six hours to go.

The day seems to go on for ever, for centuries, for millennia. But, at last, I’m saying goodbye to the students and promising to look out for their books in the Sunday Times culture section. I collect my papers and lock the classroom. Then I’m almost sprinting across the gravel towards my car. It’s five o’clock but it feels like midnight. There are only a few lights left on in the school and the wind is blowing through the trees. I can’t wait to get home, to have a glass of wine, to think about Ella and, most of all, to see Herbert.

If you would have told me five years ago that I would become this dependent on a dog, I would have laughed. I was never one of those children who adored animals. I was brought up in North London, my parents were both academics and the only animal we owned was a cat called Medusa who was rudely uninterested in anyone but my mother. But, when I got divorced and moved to Sussex, I decided that Georgie needed a dog. A dog would be motivation to get out into the countryside, to go for walks and cut down on the hours spent staring at her phone. She could pour out her teenage angst into its uncomplaining canine ear. I’d benefit too, I thought vaguely; a dog would keep me fit and allow me to meet other dog-walkers. Much better than a book club where there was always the danger that someone would suggest The Girl on the Train.

So we went to a rescue place and we chose Herbert. Or he chose us, because that’s how it works, isn’t it? I wanted a dog that was small enough to pick up in emergencies but not so small that it somehow ceased to be a dog. Herbert’s origins are murky but the rescue place thought that he might be a cross between a cairn terrier and a poodle. He looked, in fact, just like an illustration in a child’s picture book. A white Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, a creature made by blobbing white paint on the page and adding legs.

And, of course, it was me that fell in love with Herbert. Oh, Georgie loves him. She takes him for walks and endows him with all sorts of anthropomorphic emotions. ‘Herbert feels shy around other dogs. It’s because he’s an only child.’ But I’m the one who dotes on him, who tells him my troubles and lets him sleep on—and often in—my bed. I love him so much that sometimes, when I look at him, I’m quite surprised to see that he’s covered in hair.

Andy, the owner of Doggy Day Care (I know, don’t judge me), is pleased to see me. He’s a genial man who loves a chat. But, at the first sight of Herbert, with his cheerful, understanding woolly face, I find myself wanting to cry. I gather him into my arms, pay Andy and almost run back to the car. I just want to get home with my animal familiar. I stop off at the shops to buy wine and chocolate biscuits, Herbert panting in my ear.

I live in a town house, a terraced two up, two down with a black front door and wrought iron railings. It’s just that this row of town houses is in the middle of the countryside, sheltered by a chalk cliff at the back. They were built to house workers at a cement factory but that’s now derelict (sightless windows, rusting machinery, wind howling through the iron rooftops at night). The houses stay on though, pretty and gentrified, facing a meadow with grazing cows and resolutely ignoring the nightmare edifice behind them. We’re used to the house now; it’s quite convenient for school and not far from Steyning, where there are some nice cafes and a great bookshop. But once in a while I catch sight of the factory and all those gaping windows and think: why would anyone choose to live here?

The slip-road leads only to the houses so it’s a surprise to see a car parked outside mine. Or is it? A feeling of foreboding has been following me all

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  • (5/5)
    Well written with many twists and turns a joy to read
  • (4/5)
    The text in spoiler tags really are spoilers for this book. Just a warning. I read this book as a buddy read with Hilary. We ran out of the Ruth Galloway series books and decided to try the standalone next. I’m glad I read it. I liked it. I will read book 12 of the Ruth series as soon as it’s available to me, and I’d like to try this author’s other series too. I’m glad I read this as a buddy read because for a short time that obligation is what kept me reading.3-1/2 stars for this book. Most of the time as I read it was a 3 star book for me. Early on only it was at times only a 2 star book for me. By the end I’m thinking it is kind of brilliant and is probably worth 4 stars. I might change from 3 or 4 stars and back a few times before I decide my rating. For now it's a 4 because I'm glad I read it and these days I'm glad only when my read books are 5 or 4 star worthy.I enjoyed the different POV narrators: Clare, Harbinder, and Georgia.I wasn’t overly fond of anyone the way I am in the Ruth Galloway series books but at least they were interesting characters, and my opinions of people changed the more I learned about them. By the end I did like most of the characters. I ended up liking all three of the female narrators. It took me a bit of time to get into the book but I ended up liking it. Due to the references of Wilkie Collins and other books, I thought too hard, especially regarding which characters were reliable and which unreliable, and having a hard time trusting any of them. I’m a fan of only a relatively few gothic genre books. I’d been afraid this book would get darker (more scary, more violent) than the Ruth Galloway books. It was okay for me though. I was greatly relieved that what I’d feared all along and at one point toward the end in particular did not happen. The dog was not killed. The dog was a hero dog and I ended up really liking him. I guessed throughout about the culprit and about a lot, and I made mostly wrong guesses. As I read I thought it was impossible to guess but the author left great hints about the identity of the culprit. It wouldn’t have been that hard of a mystery to solve. The dog didn’t like the murderer, and that should have told me everything. As I read I liked the main story but didn’t much like the story within the story but after the story proper the short story within the story is at the end in its entirety, all together. I was dreading reading it and had wondered why was it so revered by an English teacher or so well liked by so many readers. When I read it all at once though I did like it and did think it was a good short story. It’s funny how even though authors write different sorts of books, readers can often recognize them from book to book. From reading the first eleven books of the Ruth Galloway series, I “recognize” this author. A companion dog, a child (teen here), single parenting, a vegan café shows up and a person “threatening”/”aspiring” to be a vegetarian, mention of a school where are girls with eating disorders. Body image issues. Etc. etc. etc. And veg*n mistakes or at least behaviors that don’t match intent.
  • (4/5)
    It´s clear who the killer is early one, but nionetheless an enjoyable read. The 15-year old´s narration didn´t ring true, & I almost wished that the entire book had been narrated by the detective.
  • (3/5)
    Just good enough to captivate you into reading more so
  • (5/5)
    I've been a passionate Elly Griffiths fan since her first Dr. Ruth Galloway mystery, The Crossing Roads. I also have a long-lived fondness for Gothic novels with their creepy old houses and stalwart heroines defying the odds to uncover old secrets. When I discovered that Griffiths had written a Gothic novel, there was practically singing and dancing in the street. Once I'd turned the last page of The Stranger Diaries, I almost went outside for an encore jig.The story is told in three distinct and compelling voices: the voice of Clare herself, the voice of her teenage daughter Georgie, and the voice of Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur. Woven throughout the chapters are portions of Holland's short story, "The Stranger" and passages from Clare's diaries. The differing viewpoints work together extremely well, due in part to the fact that you get to see what each one thinks of the other. For example, Georgie is much more aware than her mother Clare realizes, and Harbinder is packed to the gunnels with pre-conceived notions... and anger.In fact, Harbinder could be considered the most fascinating character in the book; she certainly received the strongest reaction from me. Her prejudice and her anger made me want to slap her a time or two, but it also made me want to know what had happened to make her so bitter. Yes, Harbinder's evolution throughout The Stranger Diaries is one of its greatest pleasures. Although there is often humor due to the differing viewpoints, Griffiths skillfully keeps building the suspense. There is more than one mystery to The Stranger Diaries. Yes, we have a murderer on the loose, but there is also the century-old mystery of the identity of R.M. Holland's Mariana. Holland keeps mentioning her in his letters, but... who is she? The solutions to both mysteries are excellent. I didn't deduce the identity of the killer until mere nanoseconds before the official reveal, and the unveiling of the mysterious Mariana made me laugh and smile.If you're in the mood to spend a few hours thoroughly enjoying yourself, I know just what you can do-- pick up a copy of Elly Griffiths' The Stranger Diaries. I sincerely hope there's another Gothic novel in this talented writer's future.
  • (5/5)
    I would like to thank the publisher, Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt and NetGalley for a free copy of this book for an honest review.Clare Cassidy is a high school English teacher at Talgarth High School which used to be the Holland House. R.M. Holland was a Gothic writer and Clare teaches a course from his famous story, "The Stranger." When Clare's fellow teacher, Ella, is found dead with a quote from "The Stranger" Clare realizes the killer is using the story as a guide to murder. Another colleague, Rick Lewis, is next found murdered similar to a character in Holland's story also with the same quote from "The Stranger" nearby. Since Clare's divorce she has written daily in her diary. She notices one day that the killer has left her a message in her dairy. DS Harbinder Kaur requests to read Clare's diaries and comes to the conclusion that Clare is the one that connects to the victims and that Clare and her daughter, Georgia, may be in danger. In the past, I have read Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series and her Stephens & Mephisto Mystery series. This new standalone Gothic mystery is one that will not disappoint. The first-person narration switches between three characters, Clare, DS Kaur, and Georgia, Clare's daughter. I found the characters, especially DS Kaur, to be very interesting. The plot was one that kept the pages turning until the very end. Hopefully, Griffiths will turn this standalone into another series. I would highly recommend this book to those who love Gothic Mysteries and I look forward to reading more of Griffiths' books in the future.
  • (5/5)
    The narration in this story is from several different voices:Clare Cassidy herself;Harbinder, a former student at the school and is the detective sergeant carrying out the investigation into the death of Clare's friend and colleague Ella;Georgia (Georgie), Clare's daughter and a student at the school;The short story The Stranger written decades before by R.M. Holland in whose house the school is established;Excerpts from the story are featured throughout the main story and the narrators change often.This is a story about obsession. The murder victims appear to be linked by the fact they are teachers in the English faculty at the school.This I think is the first stand-alone that I have read by Elly Griffiths who in 2016 was the recipient of the CWA Dagger in the Library for services to crime fiction.Very readable.
  • (4/5)
    "The Stranger Diaries," a stand-alone mystery by Elly Griffiths, is set in the English countryside. Clare Cassidy, a divorced English teacher, lives in West Sussex with her fifteen-year-old daughter, Georgie, and their cherished dog, Herbert. When one of Clare's colleagues is found stabbed to death, the staff and students at Talgarth Comprehensive School are stunned. Who would want to harm this popular educator? Adding to the atmosphere of gloom is a subplot involving the long-deceased R. M. Holland. He was a Gothic writer who wrote a horror story, "The Stranger,” excerpts of which appear in italicized passages throughout the book. The perpetrator of the current crimes (yes, the killer strikes again) appears to be imitating aspects of Holland's chilling tale.

    One of the book's most interesting characters is DS Harbinder Kaur, a tough and astute homicide detective who is unrelenting in her search for the culprit. This feisty and independent woman chooses to live at home with her Indian parents, who have no idea that their daughter is gay. Kaur and her partner, DS Neil Winston, interview staff and students who were acquainted with the victims, but even after the investigators unearth tantalizing bits of evidence, they are slow to figure out who targeted these particular victims and why.

    Griffiths shifts between Clare, Georgie, and DS Kaur, who take turns commenting on events as they unfold. In addition, there are plentiful red herrings that point to various men, women, and teens as possible suspects. The author amuses us with comic and satirical dialogue, and charms us with tender scenes that demonstrate the strong bond between Clare, Georgie, and their spoiled pooch. "The Stranger Diaries" is a treat for enthusiasts of classic plays, poems, and works of fiction, who will enjoy the literary allusions that are sprinkled throughout the narrative. The implausible solution to the puzzle comes out of left field and is not particularly satisfying. Still, this novel is an engrossing and entertaining blend of humor, romance, madness, and a touch of the supernatural.
  • (4/5)
    Griffiths brings her skill with characters and crimes to bear in this standalone “book-within-a-book” that is not associated with any of her ongoing series.The main protagonist (although narration alters in the book) is Clare Cassidy, 45, who teaches English at Talgarth High in West Sussex, England. One of the buildings of the school is the very same Gothic mansion where, in the upstairs rooms, R. M. Holland, a (fictional) horror writer, once lived. This fact is especially meaningful to Clare because she is working on a biography of Holland. The story about Clare and her life as she navigates the tricky shoals of being a divorced mother of a 15-year-old teen is interspersed with excerpts from Holland’s most famous work, a chilling ghost story called “The Stranger.” As the novel opens, Clare’s close colleague has just been gruesomely murdered. Furthermore, a note left by the corpse ties the murder to Holland’s tale. This potentially could implicate Clare, the resident expert on Holland and his work. She is more worried however that she herself may be in danger, since she recently found a stranger's writing addressed to her in one of her private diaries.DS Harbinder Kaur, a member of the Sussez Murder Squad, is in charge of investigating the case. Harbinder still lives at home with her Punjabi parents, where she tries to maintain a balance between her mom’s worries about her daughter's dangerous job with her own need to be out at all hours investigating. Harbinder is peppery, witty, and very clever, although she likes to hide the latter fact from others; it serves her better for them to underestimate her.Another body soon appears, again tied to “The Stranger,” along with another ominous note. It is clear the killer knows the victims, and vice versa, and there is a great deal of panic as additional attacks occur. Harbinder in particular understands she doesn’t have much time to prevent the conclusion of Holland’s story from being reenacted in “real life” [that is, in the story about the story] and she struggles frantically to connect the dots before it is too late.Discussion: Griffiths does an excellent job replicating a Gothic tone for the ghost story she crafts for this book. In addition, despite writing in the crime genre, Griffiths’s main protagonists always manage to come across as wryly funny and even adorable. As spooky as this story often was, I also found myself laughing out loud.
  • (4/5)
    An English teacher at a British high school is murdered, and her murder mimics some details from a Victorian Gothic short story written by a man who used to live at the school. One of the teacher's close friends and co-workers keeps a diary, and mysterious writing starts to appear in her diary. This is an engaging murder mystery, spiced up with lots of details from Gothic literature. Interspersed throughout the book is the Victorian short story that inspires the murders. The school is haunted by ghosts, and the supernatural element deepens the mystery. The book is narrated from multiple points of view: the diary-keeping English teacher, her daughter, and the detective investigating the case. It's an unusual twist to see the same scenes from different characters' perspectives. This is a very engaging and satisfying mystery.
  • (4/5)
    Murders are happening in the small town of Sussex all related to the old home of R.M. Holland long turned Talgarth High School. Detective Sergent Harbinder Kaur is called in to solve the case revolving around Clare Cassidy.

    In The Stranger Diaries, we meet a whole cast of students, teachers and others who enrich this masterful telling of a murder tale fit for a fireside ghost story. The characters are well fleshed out, the communication is effortless and the not knowing who could be hanging around the corner of the wall was an anticipatory chilling feeling. I found the story of The Stranger by R.M. Holland told within The Stranger Diaries as a genius move by Ms. Griffiths. You never really knew if the story being told was prevalent to the book or not. You will have to read it to find out.

    I couldn't put this book down. I found it swerving and curving on who the murderer could be and never suspected who it turned out to be at the end. That is the sign of a good book.

    A who-done-it story within a twisted thriller how could you not like The Stranger Diaries written by Elly Griffiths?

    I give Stranger Diaries 5 stars for just a good old fashioned murder mystery. :)
  • (3/5)
    A teacher of creative writing at a British middle school begins experiencing disturbing events that mirror those from a short story in Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries. Clare is a respected and well-established instructor and researcher at Talgarth, hired during a restructuring effort after the school had experienced a downturn. She lives with her teenage daughter, Georgie, and her beloved dog Herbert. The novel opens as Clare is teaching her adult ed course, using as an example a ghost story that was written by the man whose house they are using for their class. She is interrupted by her department head with the news that Clare’s close friend and colleague has been found murdered on the grounds. Griffiths interposes sections from the short story within her narrative, along with alternating points-of-view between three women: Clare, Georgie, and Harbinder, the lead detective assigned to investigate the homicide. When more murders occur, it becomes increasingly apparent that Clare is at the center of the mystery. Someone close to her must be responsible, leaving her messages and quotes in her personal diary- or could it be Clare herself committing the crimes? The book contains many unexpected twists and turns, some of which are a bit contrived. There are also some plot elements that are also somewhat far-fetched and very convenient in retrospect. Some of Griffiths’ references and allusions may not be familiar to audiences outside of Great Britain, but nothing pivotal is lost in terms of the story. The Stranger Diaries provides a decent mystery, and the character of Harbinder is especially well-drawn and provides a unique perspective. If this standalone novel were to be developed into a series, her character would be one that would be interesting to follow.Thanks to Edelweiss and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an Early Review copy of this book.
  • (5/5)
    As a huge fan of the author's Ruth Galloway series, I was delighted to get the opportunity to read an advance copy of The Stranger Diaries. This standalone book did not disappoint; I loved it. The style of the book is completely different than the RG series; I think she did a masterful job having the story told from 3 points of view, probably better than I've seen in other books with the same technique. I think it enhanced the telling of the tale. As with her other books, she had great characters who are brought to life. I would be happy to have the book turn into the beginning of a series. Unlike her other books, this one had creepiness added to the suspense, but it wasn't more than I could tolerate. Once I started the book, I hated to put it down wanting to see what happens. It was very atmospheric and very cleverly written. I highly recommend the book and look forward to the next.
  • (5/5)
    Stranger DiariesByElly GriffithsWhat it's all about...Clare teaches at a high school in the UK. A fellow teacher and good friend of Clare’s is murdered. It just so happens that this school is the former home of a mysterious author...R.M. Holland. This story is shaded by bits and pieces of the writings and rumors of R.M. Holland...his study is still intact within the school.. Clare also hopes to write a book about R. M. Holland...someday. Clare has a daughter attending school at Clare’s school...with typical teen secrets and issues. However...once the murder...the first murder occurs...strange things begin to happen. My thoughts after reading this book...So...there is more than one murder within this book and Clare seems to be at the fringes of these murders and attacks. Clare develops an interesting relationship with the DI on this case. Clare’s daughter is involved, too, and even her beloved dog Herbert is a part of this mystery. What I loved best...The book is fascinating and relatively fast paced. Chapters focused on the lives of different characters. There are entries about R.M. Holland’s life, too. Clare keeps extensive diaries and these play an important part in this book. What potential readers might want to know...This is my first Elly Griffiths book but I already know that I want to read more. I loved the pace and the writing and the characters. Readers who love mysteries with interesting characters should enjoy this book. I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley. It was my choice to read and review it.
  • (5/5)
    I thought this was excellent. I'm not a huge "Gothic novel" fan, but this was realistic enough to suit me. It was told from the perspectives of teacher Clare, her daughter Georgie and Harbinder, the investigating DS, and the three voices were very clearly differentiated. The tone was dryly humorous in places and the identity of the murderer satisfactory. My only quibbles would be that at the point where the narrative switched perspectives sometimes events were repeated unnecessarily, and also I don't understand what Venetia and Patrick were unto at the end.
  • (3/5)
    The Stranger Diaries is a good enough story, though it's not one I'll remember a month from now.The atmosphere is fun. I enjoyed the literary aspect, with the teachers and the ghostly presence of R.M. Holland. That being said, I didn't find it at all spooky, largely because I was never sold on the possibility of the dead writer haunting the school.The characters do their job moving the story around, though I never connected well with any of them.The pace is slow. We have three narrating characters, and too often we relive scenes from each of their perspectives. This is interesting, in moderation, as we get varying viewpoints of the same event. But, for me, there was too much repetition. I figured out the whodunit it early on. I thought it was kind of obvious. The tone feels oddly historical, despite this being a modern story. I actually liked that weird aspect. That and the setting kept me moderately entertained throughout.*I received a review copy from the publisher, via Amazon Vine.*
  • (2/5)
    The story had potential, but its execution was poor. The novel, told through multiple voices, relates a Gothic story from the past and murders from the present, all linked to a building which now houses a school where Clare teaches English but where the author R. M. Holland once lived. The narrative centers on his story The Stranger which seems to be linked to the present-day murders. The book's biggest failure may be in the narration. I only connected with the detective's narration. The other parts and the diary entries failed to command my attention. The Gothic element failed as well. Others enjoyed this book, but I struggled to keep reading it. I will forget most of its non-memorable text in a week.
  • (3/5)
    This story - billed as the author’s first stand-alone novel - caught my eye earlier this year as a number of Librarything members were reading and commenting on it. Having never read any of Griffiths previous works, I was happy when I finally got my hands on a copy and settled in for what I was hoping would be an atmospheric Gothic read. What I discovered instead was a modern day police procedural, more along the lines of Tana French’s The Secret Place, the weakest book in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, IMO, and not just because of the school setting similarities. With three narrators – Clare, her 15 year-old daughter “Georgie” and D.S. (Detective Sergeant) Harbindar Kaur – Griffiths manages to juggle the varying perspectives, with some success. The end result is a mixed bag of tidbits for readers to analyze, red herrings and all. Griffiths does a decent job ramping up the suspense but suspense only carries a story so far. This one tends to falter, largely in part to my reaction to the characters. I like D.S. Kaur, but I found Clare to be a bit of a cold fish and even Georgie came across a bit “off” for me. I am also not a fan of the added white witch stuff, either. As for the ending, that was pushing things a bit for me on the believe-ability scale. Thankfully, Griffiths did provide a wonderfully atmospheric Gothic horror story, but in the form of “the Stranger”, a short story revealed as excepts throughout the book (and repeated in its entirety at the end of the book). Now that was fabulous writing! Everything I expect in a first rate Gothic horror story. Too bad the whole story wasn’t written in that vein. *sighs* Overall, I get the feeling from reading some other reviews that this book is very different from Griffiths Ruth Galloway series, which is good to know. For rating this one, I would give the Gothic horror short story full marks (or at least 4.5 stars) but I struggle to give the main story more than a 3.2 stars.
  • (5/5)
    The Stranger Diaries – Wonderfully DarkPopular crime writer, Elly Griffths has written a stand alone thriller that is different to the other series that she writes but is still good enough to be recommended by BBC Radio 2 Book Club, The Sunday Times Crime Club and the Times Crime Book of the Year. So highly recommended from others who have considerable credit in the book recommendation game.What is clear from the beginning is that we are in for a treat, that nothing is as it seems. Clare Cassidy, an English teacher, an adult educator mother and divorcee, is researching and writing a biography of fictional author RM Holland. A man who could inspire many conspiracy theories in his own right, a writer of The Stranger and other fictional stories. Clare also happens to teach in what was RM Holland’s house.During half-term, her friend and departmental colleague, Ella is found murdered and the beginning of where her work life starts to clash with her personal interests. Brings her in to contact with the police and in particular Harbinder Kaur, a detective on a mission. Kaur suspects that Clare knows the killer, whereas she does not have a clue. Even if she does have her suspicions. My favourite character in the book is Herbert, and how he got his name, but then I am a big softie where dogs are concerned. What I do like is how Griffths manages to overlap the various perspectives, different narrators and the timeline. So yes, you do have to stop and think, and make sure you remember who the narrator is at the time. While this is a dark thriller it produces dark humour, so it does not become heavy going.Elly Griffths is a skilled story teller who can weave many threads together to make a truly engrossing thriller that grips you from beginning to end.
  • (5/5)
    My thanks to the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for providing a review copy of this eBook. The comments written below are my own.The story arises from the murder of a popular English teacher at a public secondary school in present day England. It's told by several narrators: a female colleague of the victim, her daughter, and a thirty-something female police detective investigating the murder. Each of these narrators brings a unique point of view to each other and the events of the investigation. Noteworthy is that any males are relegated to supporting roles, not always in a favourable light.The police detective, who comes from a Sikh family, lives at home with her parents. She is gay, out to almost everyone but her family. Her parents keep hoping she'll find a husband and settle down to have a family. At the beginning she is antagonistic toward the victim's colleague, but as the story develops this falls away. Their interaction is an interesting highlight of the story.It's a suspenseful story, with numerous red herrings to make the story-telling more interesting without being distracting. There's an exciting chase scene at the end of the story before the surprise identity of the killer is revealed.A good read, an excellent blend of mystery, suspense and characterization.
  • (5/5)
    A goose-bump raising...sleep with all the lights on story. Clare Cassidy is a high school English teacher and aspiring biographer whose life is thrown into turmoil when her colleague and friend, Ella, is stabbed to death. The police are investigating but have no clear idea of who did this. Everyone at the school is suspect. The creep factor is further escalated by the knowledge that Ella’s killing appears to mirror elements of “The Stranger,” a favorite ghost story written by Victorian author R. M. Holland who is also Clare’s biographical subject To make matters more complicated he and his wife and daughter once resided in the building that is now the school where she teaches. It is said to be haunted by either the wife or the daughter. There is a side mystery told by a character that isn't really seen but leaves notes saying "Hell is empty...all the devils are here." The characters had some flaws. Clare's daughter is 15 years old but no one seems to think there is anything wrong with her boyfriend being a 21 year old bartender. Part of the police team that is investigating seems to have taken an instant dislike to Clare...but the dog is cute and we know he is innocent. I love Elly Griffiths writings and have have read all of her Ruth Galloway series thus far. This little standalone is equally as inciting. I highly recommend it.
  • (4/5)
    Well, she's three for three, or I should say that this author, Elly Griffiths has not ever let me down. Her Ruth Galloway series is in my top ten, her newer Magic Men series is growing on me more and more, now this a standalone. All are in my view, terrific. She just is a master of atmosphere, but I think characters too. She makes the reader care.In this outing an English teacher Clair, who also teaches a writing class, is involved in a mystery. One of the books she uses as an example in her class, is a gothic, and very strange tale. The school where she teaches has been rebuilt, though the original place this mysterious author wrote, still remains. A ghost is said to inhabit this section, so that sets the outwordly tone. Then the bodies begin to pile up, and everyone seems to be a suspect. The truth though may be closer than she thinks. The chapters alternate between Clair, her teenage daughter and a young police detective Harbinger, who once attended the school. In between there are chapters written by we know not who, but they had to the suspense. Scene builds upon scene, and as we read, are privy to the latest revelations, the suspense grows. A terrific read, just scary enough, without much blood and gore. My perfect kind of mystery.
  • (5/5)
    I absolutely adore Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series. The eleventh book is due out next month. But! Griffiths has penned a stand alone that is an absolutely wonderful read! The Stranger Diaries.....think modern Gothic......Clare teaches English at Talgarth High. Talgarth is also where Gothic author R.M. Holland wrote his most famous story - The Stranger. Past and present collide when a school colleague is found dead - with a line from The Stranger by the body.Griffiths opens the book with an excerpt from The Stranger - and I was hooked. Initially Clare is the lead character, but the narrative switches to DS Harbinder Kaur who is in charge of the case. And I was surprised when the narrative switched again to a character I hadn't considered playing a larger part. These switches happen numerous times, giving the reader numerous viewpoints to draw on. We are also given many suspects to choose from. (I must admit, I was surprised by the final whodunit) And then there's the option of there being something more, shall we say, otherworldly, involved.Excerpts of The Stranger continue throughout the book in addition to excerpts from Clare's diary, giving the reader more fuel for speculation.Every character is well drawn and fleshed out. DS Kaur was my favourite - I hope she might make an appearance in a future novel."It can be a dangerous thing, reading too much." Griffiths' writing makes for addictive reading. The only danger is staying up too late reading 'just one more chapter'.
  • (4/5)
    Clare Cassidy and her daughter Georgia move to West Sussex after her divorve. Clare is a teacher at Talgarth High which used to be the home of R M Holland, writer of ghost stories. The wife of Holland is supposed to haunt the building. That however is not Clare's biggest problem right now, her colleagues are been murdered.This is the first book that I have read by Elly Griffiths and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The story has lots of elements that I enjoy in a book. It's a ghost story, a murder mystery, richly gothic at times and has a hint of witchcraft. What more really could I ask for.The story is told from the point of views of Clare, Georgia and the detective Harbinder. All accounts are very chatty, easy and very engrossing. The story for me was entertaining and I was invested right up to the end. At no point did I get bored. I didn't work out or guess who was doing the crimes but for that was just a small part in the story. What I enjoyed were the character's and their narrative. I loved the gothic undertones and the ghost stories. I really enjoyed this book and would read more by Elly Griffiths in the future. I liked her writing, the chatty down to earth narrative and the gothic themes.
  • (5/5)
    A wonderful atmospheric, gothic tale about literature and murder! What more could you want?Clare Cassidy is a high school English teacher and she is writing a book about a gothic writer, R.M. Holland. The school where Clare teaches was once the home of R.M. Holland. One day, Clare gets a call about her colleague and friend that has been murdered. The strange thing is there was a note with lines from “The Stranger,” a story by R.M. Holland, left next to the body. Full of small twists and turns, this book will leave you surprised at the end. Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for allowing me to read an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    I was so excited that The Stranger Diaries did indeed have a Victorian gothic feel to it, as promised. I definitely liked the use of a book within a book, especially when similarities are drawn between the gothic story and the main plot. Very interesting. While the pacing of the story is rather on the slower end, it still packs its punches with the creepy factor. There was a great mystery to be unpacked that, at times, had a very haunted feel where I found myself considering if there was a paranormal element. Also, using a diary as a means of communication from the antagonist was rather chilling. The story itself is told from three different female view points and surprisingly the one character who rubbed me wrong at the start turned out to become one of my favorite characters. I wish I could say that I enjoyed all the voices but there was one that I just didn’t really care for. If you are looking for more from your mystery, there was also a nice dose of police procedural as well as psychological thriller woven throughout. I know that there were a few times that I felt that I was at the edge of my seat in suspense and I found it rather exciting. Overall, The Stranger Diaries was a light read that had plenty of twists and turns.This review is based on a complimentary book I received from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
  • (4/5)
    Elly Griffiths takes a break from her popular series to bring us a spooky stand alone. And you get 2 stories for the price of one.Clare Cassidy is a recently divorced english teacher who moved to the Sussex coast with her daughter for a fresh start. She’s working on a book about author R.M. Holland whose chilling story “The Stranger” was a one hit wonder. Teaching at Talgarth Academy is a big plus as it was once Holland’s home & his study has been perfectly preserved. Daughter Georgie has settled in & Clare quickly found a kindred spirit in Ella, a colleague at the academy. Another bonus is she doesn’t have to worry about bumping into her ex-husband & wife 2.0. Good times, right? Well….it was. Right up until Ella was murdered. What follows is a spooky story with a decidedly gothic feel. This is partly due to alternate chapters where we listen in as a stranger tells an unsettling story to a fellow traveller as their train hurtles through the night. In the present, things are equally creepy as Clare’s quiet life begins to unravel. Another body with connections to the academy is found. Frightened for herself & Georgie, Clare seeks refuge in the diary she’s been keeping for years. But it’s not long before even her private thoughts are invaded. She opens her journal one night to find someone has left her a message. “Hallo, Clare. You don’t know me.”Just so you know, at this point I’d be packing bags & making tracks as I’d be officially freaked waaay the hell out. Clare doesn’t have that luxury & soon finds herself the focus of an investigation led by local cops DS Harbinder Kaur & partner Neil Winston. As it all unfolds we get versions of events through multiple narrators. This didn’t always work for me as in some cases we get the same scene twice & having it retold by a different character didn’t necessarily impart any new information. However it was very effective when each character told their own story. As they reveal personal thoughts & secrets, we begin to realize some of them have hidden depths. I particularly enjoyed spending time with Georgie. She’s a smart, intuitive young woman with more on her mind than typical teenage concerns.I enjoyed the book-within-a-book format. The stranger’s story becomes more disturbing with every chapter & this is nicely mirrored by mounting tension in Clare’s situation in the present. As you try to suss out who’s responsible, you’ll first have to decide if the killer is of the flesh & bones variety or someone a little more spectral. Happy haunting…er…hunting.
  • (4/5)
    This is a great read for a dark and stormy night! Elly Griffiths newest novel has all the elements of a creepy gothic mystery.Set on an old school campus, the story at times reminded me of Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. The story wasn’t the same, but the author managed to capture that same atmosphere of the school and the secrets to be uncovered.Clare Cassidy, the main character, is obsessed with the life of Gothic writer RM Holland, who just happened to have a study on the top floor of one of the school buildings. Clare also teaches English with a focus on Gothic literature and is in the process of writing a book about RM Holland.Strangely enough, about the time Clare hits a roadblock in completing the book, her good friend and colleague is murdered. Harbinder Kaur, a former student turned detective, is called in to investigate. As the investigation proceeds, things escalate to a frightening level.Clare, her daughter Georgia and their faithful dog Herbert seem to be unwittingly holding the clues to the murderer. This was an engaging “whodunnit” and one that I think mystery readers will enjoy.Many thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
  • (5/5)
    I have only read one of the author's previous works and felt very neutral about it. Didn't love it. Didn't hate it. So when I went into this one I didn't have particularly high expectations but was excited because of the great reviews. I was not disappointed. This is a really, really enjoyable book. Although I will say I didn't find it to be a modern day Gothic story as many readers are. When I hear Gothic I think I am expecting a very creepy read that is a bit of a slow building burn. This one was decidedly creepy - it was set in the UK, fall/winter, many parts set in the home of a Gothic writer subsequently turned into a school, and there is a ghost. But this is not a slow burn. It starts out strong and continues that pace throughout the book with murders, police investigations, gossip, affairs, and plenty of misdirection. In my mind this made the read very modern for me. But regardless, if you like a good mystery with lots of creepy goodness, read this book!! Many thanks to the publisher for allowing me to read an advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
  • (2/5)
    I know I'm in the minority opinion here, but this was just an ok read for me. There wasn't anything especially memorable or remarkable about the writing or story. The only character that I actually liked was Harbinder and it took a long while for her to grow on me. I think what bothered me most was that the gothic elements (i.e. the mysteries surrounding R.M. Holland, The Stranger story, the white witch Mrs. Hughes & the summoning of ghosts) had nothing to do with the actual killer. I kept waiting for all of the many sub-plots to come together in some brilliantly woven, mind-blowing way and then nothing. No connection. I was very disappointed.I received a free copy from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.