The Stranger Diaries is a stand-alone novel from Elly Griffiths, author of the award-winning and hugely popular Dr Ruth Galloway series. As you’d expect from such an accomplished writer, it’s a fiendishly clever tale, told with great efficiency and real panache.
The story begins with a teacher called Clare who’s writing a biography of Gothic writer RM Holland, best known for his chilling ghost story The Stranger. The school where Clare teaches English was once Holland’s house. Legend has it that his wife was murdered there.
So far, so creepy. But then Clare’s friend and work colleague Ella is murdered and the police believe the killer is someone close to her. The finger of suspicion even points at Clare herself.
Griffiths keeps the story moving at a page-turning pace and adds intrigue through the use of Clare’s diary entries and multiple narrators.
First we hear from Clare, then from one of the investigating officers, an Asian lesbian who still lives with her parents, then from Clare’s daughter Georgia, who is self-consciously acting like the troubled teenager her divorced mother expects her to be (the diversity of the characters is one of the book’s many strengths).
There’s a knowingness about the Gothic genre that runs throughout, with famous quotations acting as potential clues. This is a writer who really knows her stuff. And there’s a playfulness, too. It’s not often that crime novels raise as many smiles as goosebumps. I read this book in three sittings and finished it with a satisfied grin on my face. Totally addictive and hugely enjoyable.