Mystery May | Book Review|The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt · March 2019 · 338 pgs


Dear Reader,

I have mentioned before that one thing I look at in mystery books is how hard or easy is it to figure out who did it.  If it is too hard, that typically means there just wasn’t enough clues, and if it is too easy, then there are too many clues or not enough red herrings.  A good mystery is a challenging puzzle – it requires some mental acuity and some dexterity but when the picture forms, it instills the satisfaction of a job well done.  Elly Griffiths’ new novel is just such a book.

What I like about this book

The ending was not apparent, but it made sense.  I came up with two possible conclusions by the novel’s mid-point – a logical one and a twist.  By the end, I discovered that one of my possible endings was the actual conclusion.  This made me happy as a reader because it meant that there were enough clues hidden throughout the book but not too many.

The novel contained a mystery within a mystery within a mystery.  The book included a mystery short story written by a long-dead author whom the main character was researching several mysteries regarding, as well as two mysterious deaths in the main character’s, Clare Cassidy, story.  This sounds like it could be vastly confusing, but Griffiths wrote it so well that you are never once questioning which account you are following.  As a reader who can relate to Clare’s profession, I appreciated the little bit of complexity that added.  It is the very thing that makes this novel stand out among other books in its genre.

Griffiths maintains suspense throughout the entire novel.  Through the use of just the right number of clues and red herrings as well as having a three-layered mystery, the suspense starts at page one and goes all the way through to the very last page.  There is not the lull that you often find in a mystery, and I love that as a reader.  You will find yourself shocked by the ending because you grow used to the dips, and turns, and constant movement of the story.

What I wish

Clare Cassidy narrated exclusively. I don’t like multiple narrators; I never have and have yet to be swayed from that opinion.  This novel has three narrators: Clare Cassidy, the main character, Georgie, Clare’s daughter, and Harbinder Kaur, the detective investigating the murders.  Griffith makes multiple narrators less of a challenge by having whole sections for each and by writing each part in a clear distinctive voice.  I am just not convinced that having three different narrators added anything to the story and I want it to somehow do that.

Griffith provided more description of the characters and the setting. This is really a minor wish because the book was so good, BUT I could have been pulled in even more by a little more description.  Getting a mental visual of the people and places was a challenge; as you just get bits and pieces randomly throughout the novel, which is a shame because what you did glean seemed worthy of more detail.

To Read or not to Read

Definitely read this book!!! If you love mysteries and you love books in general, you will be happy that you did.