Book Review: The Stranger Diaries

03.05.2019 | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: 5/5 stars


Clare Cassidy is a high school English teacher who specializes in the works of Gothic writer, R.M. Holland, who just happened to reside in the school she now teaches at. When one of Clare’s close friends and colleagues is found murdered with a note containing a verse from Holland’s most famous work, The Stranger, beside her body, Clare starts to worry that she may know the killer. The coincidence of this line and her connections to the victim are too obvious to brush to the wayside.

As the detectives begin to dig deeper into the murder, Clare makes a startling discovery that leads her to believe she might be a target. Someone has written in her diary. Her innermost thoughts are contained within these pages and her fears start to mount when she realizes her sense of security has been violated. Can the detectives solve this case before Clare or someone else close to her falls victim to the killer?

Nothing in the world is hidden forever. — Wilkie Collins, No Name

Elly Griffiths has created an absolute masterpiece in storytelling within the pages of THE STRANGER DIARIES. A mixture of blurbs from The Stranger, alternating narratives, and sections of Clare’s diary come together to form an atmospheric and suspenseful story. Griffiths’ writing echoes an Agatha Christie-esque style that will resonate with fans of the crime fiction genre. There is something so comforting in these classic mysteries. THE STRANGER DIARIES manages to stay fresh, while including these nods to the past, through the use of alternating narratives, which overlap to tell the same story through the eyes of three main characters. This remains one of my favorite writing styles in the genre because of the exposure I am granted to alternative viewpoints, which tend to expose clues to the case at hand.

Griffiths’ decision to launch THE STRANGER DIARIES with a passage from a short story titled, The Stranger, immediately sets the Gothic, moody -vibe that this story needs to make it eery. The connection between the short story and Clare’s situation continues to be explored throughout the novel. I appreciated that it was not a random addition to the book, but instead aided the story greatly. I adore the fact that the entire short story can also be found at the end of this book. I loved getting to end of the main book and being treated to this gift!

It breaks my heart to say so but there are people who are working against you. I have already disposed of one of these creatures. I will fall on the others like a ravening beast.

The plot to this book is richly layered and unraveled in a manner that will keep your attention throughout the entire story. While I’m not sure I would characterize the three narrators as unreliable, I would say that they each have their own objective and are keeping some interesting secrets that could hold the key to the identity of the killer. I appreciated that Griffiths’ didn’t stick to the much used style of making the reader distrust and ultimately dislike these individuals. Instead I found myself able to connect with each of them, while remaining suspicious.

This is the first standalone novel from Elly Griffiths and it makes me want to snag all of her other titles. If she is able to create such a wonderful masterpiece within one book, I am beyond intrigued to find out what she can put together in a series. If you like your crime fiction with an air of Gothic undertones and multiple narrators, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of THE STRANGER DIARIES!

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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