STRANGERS by C. L. Taylor
In the overcrowded market of domestic suspense/unreliable narrators/’who can she trust’ books it is nice to occasionally to come across a book like
C. L. Taylor’s Strangers which is original, fresh and highly entertaining.
The story focuses on three strangers, Ursula, Gareth and Alice, whose lives get progressively entangled as the book unfolds. Ursula has hit a low point, homeless and adrift she resorts to shoplifting to add some interest to her life. In desperation she sub-lets a room from a creepy landlord with obsessive tendencies. Alice is trying to find love, but after an internet dating experience goes wrong she finds that she is being stalked. Gareth is a security guard who lives with his mother, who suffers from dementia. When his mother starts getting postcards from his supposedly dead father, Gareth’s world begins to unwind. Over the course of a week and one shocking evening, their lives collide in unexpected ways.
This is a very enjoyable book. Taylor’s use of shifting viewpoints, unadorned writing and shortish chapters keeps the plot moving at a good pace and she inhabits her story with credible characters. She skillfully uses brief, telling episodes to highlight the plights and personalities of the three main characters and to draw the reader into their lives. They are all flawed and make mistakes, but Taylor makes us care about their fates.
There is a lot going on in the story, but Taylor makes it easy to track of what is happening. She also makes clever use of brief twitter exchanges between unidentified people to frequently remind us of a more sinister storyline unfolding in the background. There are plenty of twists and surprises, and nothing quite works out as expected.
The dramatic finale lacks the gunfire and pyrotechnics of an American thriller, but it is still exciting and tense and more credible for it. I also liked the last page twist, which I did not see coming.
In all, Strangers may not be as dark as some of the recent domestic thriller releases, but it is a very enjoyable and engaging thriller that will keep you happily engaged whilst in isolation.
Four stars out of five!
Strangers was released in Australia on 23 March and retails at $29.99. It is also available on Kindle for a very reasonable $6.99. It is due to be released in the United Kingdom on 2 April 2020.
Thanks to Harper Collins and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book for review.