The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Genre: thriller. ⭐️Stars from Goodreads: 4.2 . ⭐️Stars from me: 3.5

I’m starting to suspect that some level of implausibility is expected in thrillers in the same way as dragons and elves are expected in fantasy.

The Stranger Diaries is not a bad thriller. It’s gripping, fast-paced and it’s a very easy read. It took me just a few hours to finish the book. My eyes were gliding through the book. I wasn’t bored once and I even managed to like a couple of characters and to chuckle a couple of times. That alone means that the book is a proper read for a few hours to kill.

The story is about students, teachers and their families. Someone of them is a murderer.

I found it hard to believe, though, that two main characters managed to miss major spheres of each other’s lives. Their friends and even random strangers who accidentally walked into their rooms discovered the secrets within minutes and yet these two family members living under the same roof did never notice such things.

The Stranger Diary is described as “contemporary gothic” and it’s not really untrue. It’s just that contemporary in this book goes one way while the gothic part goes the other. The gothic floats in contemporary like oil in water. They do not mix or match. There’s a modern family story, there’s a gothic family story. They do not cross. If you try really hard you can find a few threads to bind them together just for the sake of justifying the existence of the gothic part in the plot. If you pull them apart you will have two fully formed unconnected stories. Up to the shocking point that one of them is squeezed whole at a very unexpected moment of the other.

My other, very likely overly subjective, reason to be confused with the story is that its characters’ names often start with the same letter. Try to distinguish between them when you have a dozen of others to keep an eye on: Holland, Henry Hamilton, Herbert. One of them is a dog. At one point the protagonist talked about two of them. It took me some time to remember who of them was the dog.

A few other implausible moments happen when a character contradicts his own behaviour. At first he protects something and just a few pages later launches to destroy it with no reason for the change. One mystery is solved because apparently nobody has ever looked at a historical artefact close enough, but now a teenager did so and the answer is suddenly found. A character gets shocked at an “unacademic” word “creepy” but then says something as unacademic as “soonish”. (That “soonish” made my Kindle come too close to be disposed through the window).

Thus, although The Stranger Diary is entertaining, fast-paced and gratifyingly easy to read, these details soured my experience. I’m giving the book 3.5 stars, but I can imagine that many people will like it more than that. 

I’m thanking the publishers for the copy that I received in exchanged for my honest and unbiased opinion.

14 thoughts on “The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

  1. Really good review! I love your analysis, and as you say, thrillers do sometimes stretch plausibility.
    Have you read Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough? Now THAT is a prime example!!

    1. That got posted faster than I wanted. I wanted to add a smilie there and say that I reviewed it too. 😄 What did you think of it? Did you review it? Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad to know you liked my review.

  2. It’s a major reason why I tend avoid the genre. I get sucked into the story and once I have surfaced and thought about the whole experience, I end up feeling grumpy and tad cheated. Not what I like to feel about reading! Thank you – it’s refreshing and comforting to read someone else have such a similar experience:))

    1. I understand exactly what you mean! And I also thought on several occasions that I should just ignore the genre. It’s too popular, so it’s hard to find something good. And yet I still went and requested a few more thrillers to review. Thus, my quest for a good thriller continues 😁

        1. Oh yes, I do! In fact, I’m afraid to be that hopeful but… I’m almost half way through the ARC of The Songbird by Richard Parker, and it’s very very promising. I still can’t judge of course, everything can get ruined by the ending, but the writing is ok, the story is gripping and I actually find myself just reading not tripping and hopping over plot holes and horrible phrasing. Speaking of which, tomorrow there will be another review of a popular thriller I haven’t quite enjoyed. What are you reading right now?

    1. THANK YOU! 😁 I’m happy to know I’m not alone with my opinion about “soonish”. I would be very interested to know what you thought of the book!

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