The Stranger Diaries
First Mariner Books, March 2019
Clare Cassidy is an English Literature teacher at Talgarth High in the town of Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex. The school itself has some history connected to a writer R.M.Holland, well known for his short story “The Stranger” and for residing in the school back in the early 1900’s, long before it became a school. There is also a haunting tale about his wife who’d died in mysterious circumstances, and even now her ghostly presence wanders the rooms where she lived with her husband.
Ella Elphick, a teacher at Talgarth High well-liked by colleagues and students, has been murdered. The novel is told through three of the characters, Clare, her teenage daughter Georgia, and DS Harbinder Kaur, the detective assigned to the case. Clare is writing a book about R.M. Holland, and has been keeping a diary for years.
The reader comes to know these three woman through their everyday lives and their thoughts on the murder. DS Kaur, who once attended Talgarth High, is thirty-five and still lives with her parents. Georgia aspires to be a writer and is meantime dealing with her over- protective mother and her own self confidence. And Clare, unsettled by the murder of her friend, and worried about her teenage daughter’s budding romance.
Another body is discovered throwing light on the possibility that Clare may be in danger.
I wasn’t particularly fond of the way this mystery unfolded. Moving back and forth between the three main characters tended to duplicate some of the information and there was little urgency in unmasking the perpetrator, even after a second victim appeared. Scattered throughout the novel was the short story “The Stranger” which I also found distracting. The final outcome didn’t work, at least, for me…
However, as I write this, I’m aware that this novel has been awarded the 2020 Edgar award for Best Novel. Not my cup of tea I guess.
Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2020.
You are not alone. I am a big fan of the author, but quit about sixty pages in because of the issues you note and I was bored. I remain a bit surprised by the Edgar nomination.
Good review. I find a number of books who others rave over, are just not for me. Lately, I’ve steered clear of literary books – too heavy for my mood or something else. Not sure.