Avon | 2020 (2 April) | 352p | Review copy | Buy the book
Alice, Ursula and Gareth are complete strangers to one another and yet they are linked together by crime and mystery. Alice has a new potential boyfriend but they are driven apart by a menacing stalker. Gareth’s elderly mother is receiving strange postcards from her long dead husband. Ursula believes that she is responsible for the death of the love of her life and her life has caused her nothing but torment since. Their worlds collide in unexpected ways and then, as strangers, they must stick together to fight to save the life of one of them. Life will never be the same again.
A new psychological thriller by C.L. Taylor is always a much anticipated event, especially during these strange days when escapist pageturners are a regularly needed tonic. In my opinion, Strangers is the best of C.L. Taylor’s thrillers and I’m grateful to her because I had such a good time reading it.
It’s an unusual crime and psychological thriller in some ways because it tells the separate stories of three characters who don’t know each other at all. Their lives might briefly interconnect at moments, and those moments are such a pleasure in the novel (at those times we know something our characters do not), but this is coincidental. It’s only slowly that their worlds come together but by then we have become invested in the stories of each. It’s an interesting structure and I’m not sure I’ve read anything like it before. It works very well, painting a picture of seemingly random and different lives in a community.
One thing connects our three characters and that is the local shopping centre, making it seem all the more realistic and believable. Much of the novel’s action takes place in places that we are familiar with. The perfect locations for chance encounters, perhaps.
All three characters are enjoyable to get to know but my favourite is Ursula. She is unusual to look at and she’s unusual in other ways, too. I love the way that our opinion of her transforms through the novel as we learn that she is nothing like how she first appears.
All three strangers are fundamentally good people but there are others in the novel who are not. Goodness is under attack. To beat it strangers, communities, society, must unite. In some ways, then, Strangers gives us a positive message, while entertaining us with its thrills. It suggests that we are not alone, even if we think we are. It recognises that there is evil out there but suggests that society can overcome it. I like that.
C.L. Taylor writes very well. She has compassion for her characters and she can tell a good story. If you haven’t read one of these novels before, then I can certainly recommend you start with Strangers.