What I’m Reading: The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

There are things I want to tell you about this book. Juicy moments of spine tingling fun.

But I don’t want to spoil it.

Suffice to say, if you’re a fan of my Sophie books, you’ll enjoy Elly GriffithsThe Stranger Diaries.

Griffiths begins with an excerpt from a short story by gothic writer R. M. Holland titled The Stranger. We soon come to understand that Clare Cassidy, a high school teacher in a small English town, is writing a book on Holland. She is in fact an expert on the subject. In a seminar she details Holland’s writing techniques and devices: the way he used pets as a way of keeping readers on edge (“Animals are expendable….authors often kill them to create tension. It’s not significant as killing a human bit it can be surprisingly upsetting”) and how, in The Stranger, he has the mysterious, ethereal villain leave a cryptic note after the people connected to the protagonist die, one by one.

It’s good stuff…until the people around Clare start to die. One. By. One. And in ways that are very similar to the murders in the story. Plus, someone is leaving Clare notes…in her diary no less, which means they have access to her and her most intimate thoughts.

And of course Clare just happens to have an adorable small dog named after the pet in the story.

So yes, if you read my book, Sex, Murder & A Double Latte, you’ll see the connective tissue. But this book is wholly original. The characters; Clare, her daughter Georgie, the detective Harbinder Kaur, are all unique, nuanced, flawed, relatable and engaging. The story has tons of surprising twists and turns with perfectly placed genuinely spooky moments.

And of course you’re going to be worried about her dog from the very beginning.

Throughout the book, Griffiths inserts excerpts from The Stranger until you’re able to read the whole ghostly story in its entirety at the end. I liked the story so much I began to wonder how I had missed this Holland fellow in my reading.

Well I missed him because he doesn’t exist. He and the story is a creation of Elly Griffiths imagination. The fact that she was able to so effectively embody the tone and style of a writer of a completely different era is a tribute to her genius and makes The Stranger Diaries all the more fun.

So pour yourself a glass, find a spot by the fireplace and treat yourself to this exceptionally well executed novel. You’re going to love it.

And you’re going to want to get a lock for your diary.

August 27, 2021