Elly Griffiths, who is probably best known as the author of the popular Ruth Galloway mystery series, has written an eerie stand-alone Gothic murder mystery, The Stranger Diaries, set in a haunted British boarding school. I had high hopes for this book and was not disappointed!
Claire Cassidy teaches English and creative writing at Talgarth Academy on the Sussex Coast of England and is also writing a book about a local horror writer R. M. Holland, whose former home now houses faculty offices for Talgarth. Holland’s best-known Gothic story entitled The Stranger is still taught by some of the teachers, and his now unused office remains locked and off-limits to most. According to legend, his young wife is supposed to have fallen down the stairs to her death and her ghost is said to haunt halls of the school.
When Claire’s best friend and colleague is brutally murdered and a quote from The Stranger left by her body, she is devastated. Before she has time to recover from that loss, the English Department head is also murdered in R. M. Holland’s office. Because of Claire’s connections to both victims and to Holland, the police begin to consider Claire a suspect. As the police investigate the murders, they confiscate Claire’s personal diaries in which they discover that an unknown person has been writing cryptic messages to Claire, starting with “HALLO, CLARE. YOU DON’T KNOW ME.” Now Claire is frightened for both herself and her teenage daughter, who is a student at Talgarth.
Ghosts, old dark secrets and a modern murder investigation are deftly woven together with memorable characters and made this reader happy as I snuggled under the covers and ignored the nasty weather outside and devoured Griffith’s first stand-alone novel. This book will appeal to fans of The Thirteenth Tale by Setterfield, The Word is Murder by Horowitz, and The Witch Elm by French. It’s atmospheric and creepy without being gory. Highly recommended!