Read Dates: March 4, 2019 – March 7, 2019
Publication date: March 5, 2019
Source: Netgalley ARC via the publisher
‘”If you’ll permit me,” said the Stranger, “I’d like to tell you a story.”’
Clare Cassidy is a creative writing teacher at Talgarth High, a school that was once the Victorian home of horror author R. M. Holland and his wife. The stories say that Holland’s wife died one night after taking a nasty fall down the stairs of the home. Legend has it that when you see her ghost, it means someone has been slated for death and their death is coming soon.
Clare loves Holland’s stories and is obsessed with one story in particular, The Stranger. It’s the story of a stranger on a train who tells a young boy the story of his friends and school colleagues… and how they all died. Clare’s favorite work of fiction is brought to life when her best friend turns up dead, killed in the same manner as the first victim in The Stranger. With the body count rising, Clare scrambles to keep her daughter, Georgia, safe and to try and understand why her colleagues and friends are being murdered. It isn’t until the killer writes a line in her diary that she realizes she may be the link to all the murders.
If you’ve never read a “bookception” book, it’s a book within a book. I LOVED this aspect of the book. I loved reading the snippets of Clare’s favorite short horror story, The Stranger. So much so that I was thinking, “Is this book real? If so, I need to find it and read it. But guess what, guys!? The entire story is at the end of the book! Bless you, Elly, bless you.
I will admit, the first few chapters were a bit slow for me as we get to know our characters but those first few chapters were SO worth the wait. This book managed to excite me and send a horrible feeling of dread through me simultaneously. AND I LOVED IT.
The story is told from three different character perspectives and then we get those snippets of the short story, The Stranger, as I mentioned before, in between.
The first perspective we’re given is Clare. A divorcee creative writing teacher who cares deeply for her daughter and her dog. Yes, her dog. Her dog is also named after the dog from the book, The Stranger. That doesn’t really add anything to the mystery of the story, I just thought it was really cool. What DOES add to the mystery of the story is the fact that Clare keeps a diary…
Next up is DS Harbinder, (my favorite) the detective heading up the investigation of the murders. She’s a hard-ass, gay woman who lives at home with her mom and dad. She’s smart, witty, and she doesn’t take crap from anybody. Throughout the book she’s always willing to go the extra mile for the case. Though she has the hard outer shell… deep down… I think she really does have feelings.
Lastly, we have Clare’s 15 year old daughter, Georgia (Georgie “for short”). Georgia is one of my favorite characters in the book. She’s mature for her age. She’s intelligent and has a good head on her shoulders. She also has a small group of friends with whom she tells everything and has a sort of “pact” if you will…
All of these narrations had me reeling. I was going back and forth with who I suspected was behind the killings. Each time we switched to a different narrator, I was given bits of information that swayed me into suspecting someone else. I can’t even tell you how many times I was sitting and reading this book and had to stop for a second to collect myself because I HAD BEEN SHOOK. Right when I thought I had everything figured out, I was thrown a curve ball and had to rethink my entire interpretation of what was really going on.
This book was a joy to read. It was all the things I love in a book. It was dark. It was twisty. It was creepy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and every aspect of it. Between Griffith’s writing style and the way she builds tension throughout this book and the fact that this book gave me actual chills, I would highly recommend reading this one. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
A final thank you to this book as it left me with my new favorite quote taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest:
Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.