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.