The three main characters in CL Taylor’s Strangers have led entirely separate lives up to the moment when fate brings them together at a death scene in a Bristol shopping centre.
Ursula, a courier and occasional shoplifter, is a lonely, but sympathetic character, who has lost the lover of her life Nathan. Despite her light-fingered ways, which see her evicted by her flatmates, there is a kindness in Ursula which comes out strongly at certain points in Strangers and makes her more likeable than she perhaps appears at first sight. She’s impulsive, with a tendency to land herself in sticky situations that sometimes force her to make bad decisions. One such situation is, involves her decision to move in with a creepy landlord who actually gave me nightmares at one point when reading this novel
Gareth, a security guard in the shopping centre and a carer for his elderly mother also plays a key role Strangers, part of the significance of which only emerges towards the end of the novel.
Meanwhile the third character, Alice, recently back on the dating scene, is being stalked in a threatening way that seems to have something to do with her new boyfriend. But who is the stalker and why are they targeting Alice?
What I liked about Strangers is that the characters are individually strong and interesting. I also liked the short chapters, which make Strangers easy to pick up and put down again without losing the thread of the story.
Previously on this blog, I reviewed another CL Taylor novel, The Accident – a psychological thriller about an emotionally unstable mother determined to find out why her daughter deliberately stepped in front of a bus. You can find that review here.
Strangers by CL Taylor is published by Avon, a division of Harper Collins.
[Disclosure: I received an advance proof copy].
Ali Land’s debut novel Good Me Bad Me caught my eye because it’s described as a psychological thriller. It could perhaps equally be a ’young adult’ novel in that it deals with teenagers and bullying themes, although it is very dark — perhaps too dark for some younger readers.
The main character is Annie whose mother — a serial killer of children — is awaiting trial after Annie reported her to the police.
With her mother in jail, Annie gets a new name — Milly — and is sent to live with a foster family. Almost immediately, she is bullied by her foster parents’ daughter Phoebe and Phoebe’s friends. But Milly has skills learned in her past that help her to cope with the pressure.
What is a bit depressing in this novel is that virtually all of the characters are either manipulative or exploitative of others. The possible exceptions are Morgan, with whom Milly forms a friendship, and her
Foster father, Mike, for example, seems kind in his interactions with Milly as he counsels her to help her prepare for her mother’s trial. But even Mike has an ulterior motive as he’s writing a book about Annie.
Milly is an interesting character and Good Me Bad Me is a pacy read. It’s published by Penguin. I read an advance copy courtesy of Netgalley.
This description of The Chalk Man was what first drew me to C.J Tudor’s debut novel.
‘None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning. Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own? Was it the terrible accident? Or when they found the first body?’
C.J. Tudor gets off to a strong start — so much so, I read the first 30 percent of The Chalk Man in a single sitting.
The idea for The Chalk Man is intriguing and slightly scary.
The story opens when a dismembered body is found in the woods. Schoolboy Eddie Adams is the main narrator. He’s an interesting kid who observes a lot of what is going on around him even if he doesn’t always understand what he sees and hears.
Inspired by something a teacher says, Eddie gets the idea of drawing chalk men as a secret code. He and his friends then begin to use the code to leave messages for each other. They use different colours so as to distinguish who drew which message.
The timeline switches between 1986 and 2016. Apart from the discovery of the dismembered body, other troubling events take pace in 1986. Then, as adults, Eddie and his friends each receive a letter containing a chalk stick figure. The letters scare them for different reasons. Each has secrets from the past and reasons to fear discovery.
The more that I read, the more I found myself wondering about the intended audience of The Chalk Man. It may appeal more to the YA market than to adult readers. I felt the characters didn’t really develop as the story progressed. I found this frustrating, particularly in the second half of the book. More frustrating, though, is that when secrets are revealed, they don’t always live up to the promise of The Chalk Man’s strong opening.
That said, this is a fast read and received some great reviews on Goodreads.
[Disclosure: I read an advance copy via Netgalley]