The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffith

Publication: March 2019 (US)

Format: Library hardcover

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Reason I Chose It: I love Griffith’s Ruth Galloway mystery series, and two bloggers I follow loved it (FictionFan and Cleo.)

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book this engaging. I finished it in two days and felt like I really wanted to write about it while it was fresh. You may have noticed that I’ve been scarce around here for a little bit. I’m trying to figure out just exactly what I want my blog to look like. I feel like I need to shake things up. I’m really burned out on writing reviews. They’re not fun for me anymore, they’re more like homework that I want to avoid. I’ve got three finished books for the Classics Club that I’m going to try and write some mini-reviews for, but other than that I think my reviews are going on the back burner.

img_4034Anyway, back to the book. It’s told from the perspectives of three characters: divorced mom and English teacher Clare Cassidy; DS Harbinder Kaur, a detective of Indian descent who still lives at home with her parents at age 35, and Clare’s teenaged daughter Georgie, who loves books and writing but hides this talent from her mother. The setting is Talgarth High, a British high school with a so-so academic reputation and a haunted past. The novel opens with a story within the story, one that Clare teaches to her students regularly, “The Stranger,” by R.M. Holland, who long ago lived in the building where Clare now teaches. It’s a ghost story, a horror story, and it elicits chills from students year after year. Clare takes a break from discussing the story with some adult creative writing students to receive some awful news: her good friend and English department colleague Ella has been murdered. There’s a chilling detail: a line from the Holland story is found on a post-it note near her body. As the police seek the killer and suspect someone connected to the school, Clare turns to writing in her diary for comfort. Only one day she sees that an unknown person has written a message to her in her diary: “Hallo Clare. You don’t know me.”

I loved the Gothic atmosphere of this contemporary standalone British mystery. The ghost story within the story is genuinely spooky, and R.M. Holland’s life story adds another creepy element (his wife is said to have committed suicide in the building and supposedly haunts it.) The three main characters are strong and fully realized, each with secrets they keep from one another. Clare and Georgie’s mother-daughter relationship is very realistic, fraught with tension but fiercely loving all the same. DS Kaur and Clare at first are very suspicious of one another but grow into a nice mutual admiration. There are red herrings everywhere, especially after another person connected to the school is murdered. I genuinely had no clue who the killer was until very late in the book. An unexpected treat was Clare and Georgie’s sweet dog, Herbert. He plays a crucial role in the story and in their family, providing companionship and protection. This is also a book for book lovers: allusions to Harry Potter, Georgette Heyer, Shakespeare, and Wilkie Collins abound.

This was a smart page-turner, keeping me riveted and guessing until the very end. Great characters, atmosphere, and mystery. I’ve only read two other 5-star books so far this year, so I’m thrilled to add one more to the list. If you’ve never read Elly Griffiths before, this would be a the perfect place to start.


19 thoughts on “The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

  1. Great review, Laila. I love the sound of the mystery including the supernatural elements.

    I hope that you will find direction for your blog soon. I agree about reviews feeling like a chore sometimes and that takes away the fun in blogging but maybe mini-reviews will help provide a break. All the best x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was sceptical about this book. I love the Ruth Galloway novels but haven’t enjoyed the Brighton series. However, I thought this was excellent and very much hope Griffiths will write more about the main characters. I have just read her new children’s novel, A Girl Called Justice, about which I have very mixed views.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d been thinking that it was a while since we’d heard from you! I’m sorry the reviewing is feeling like a chore. Maybe you only want to write reviews for 5-star books you’re excited about, like this one? The others you could sum up with a short paragraph, or even just a sentence, plus the rating. Library Checkout is always a quick and fun post to put together and gives you a chance to showcase what you’re reading. No pressure, but I’m always pleased when others participate 🙂 (Last Monday of every month.)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve missed you! I understand getting bored with writing reviews and trying to find a new direction for your blog. No matter what – I’ll be here reading!

    I’m on an overdrive wait list for this book and can’t wait to read it. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it so much!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I’m so glad you loved this one too, Laila! One of my favourite reads of the year so far, for sure. I thought she got all the Gothic stuff just about right, and oh, how I worried about that little dog! 😀 I also loved the ghost story being doled out bit by bit – it stands up very well as a believable example of a Victorian ghost story. She’s such a talented author!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oohh this does sound good-I vaguely remember it from the other blogs, FFs more specifically. I love a nice gothic atmosphere! And finding more modern books like this that do it well is a real treat (Ruth Ware is pretty good at it!)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m glad you are giving yourself time to figure out what you want to do. Good you had a book that you enjoyed and we’re excited to share. Blogging shouldn’t feel like homework but I understand how you feel. I started last year when zeal but realized I was missing because I was only sharing book reviews. I’m in the process of wrapping up a review for a book that left me thinking but it needs a little more editing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I think it’s only natural that one’s blog takes a few different turns over time. I’m already feeling better about the whole thing. And I’m grateful to this book for inspiring me to write again!


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