The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

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Some years ago I wrote about three of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series. This fall I’ve listened to three or four more of them, and though I enjoyed them, I wasn’t inclined to write about them. Then, having run through most of the library’s Elly Griffith books, I listened to this one.

It begins with part of a Gothic short story, “The Stranger,” ostensibly written by a Victorian mystery writer named R.M. Holland. It shifts then to the story wrapped around that short story, a current day murder mystery told in the first person by three characters: ¬†Clare Cassidy, a high school English teacher who is writing a biography of R.M. Holland, police detective Harbinder Kaur, and Clare’s 15-year-old daughter Georgie. This book is set in Britain, so I should say “comprehensive” school which I learned ends after year 11. After seeing many mentions of the Sixth Form College, I looked it up and learned that refers to years 12 and 13.

Clare learns that one of her colleagues who was a good friend has been murdered in a manner similar to one of the deaths in “The Stranger.” The police detective Harbinder takes up the story with her rather critical view of Clare. We learn that Harbinder lives at home–her mother loves to cook great food and she is fond of her parents–she is a Sikh, is gay and out to everyone except her parents. Georgie tells us how she manages her mother, “take a chill pill, Mom!” her view of the murders, the teachers, her friends. I found each of the voices appealing.

Though I do not consider myself good at untangling murder mysteries, still, I was impressed with the plot of this one. Though I wasn’t close to guessing the guilty party, I wasn’t put off by the outcome.

There is a second book featuring Harbinder Kaur that came out two years after this one and I’m excited to listen to it too.

Elly Griffiths, The Stranger Diaries, Mariner Books, 2019, 349 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available in the public library.

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