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Strangers

por C. L. Taylor

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A new C.L. Taylor book is always cause for celebration for me. I've never been disappointed. However, I think Strangers is quite possibly my favourite so far.

It's set around three characters: Alice, Gareth and Ursula. Alice is a divorced clothes shop manager and lives with her daughter, Emily, who encourages her to try dating again. However, events take a rather unusual turn when she meets up with a man. Gareth is a security guard at The Meads shopping centre. He lives with his mum who has dementia and doesn't have much of a life outside of his work and his home commitments. And Ursula is kind of adrift in her life after a terrible thing happened. Shoplifting makes her feel better somehow.

It's a testament to how good a writer Taylor is that she's taken three people with only the most tenuous of connections and written three individual stories about them which, for much of the book, don't cross over that much. And yet at the end of each character's chapter I didn't want to leave them behind, so engrossed was I in what was happening to them. It's particularly interesting when you consider how many strangers you come across in your day to day life and how random it all is.

I honestly didn't know how those three separate strands were going to come together and when they did it was a surprise. It was like being a fly on the wall of all of the lives contained within the pages, watching them as they go about their day to day business, dealing with all that life throws at them. Maybe it's my innate nosiness about what's going on behind closed doors that made this book so appealing.

I love the clever plotting that must have gone into this novel. It's a fast paced and exciting read with characters that I was thrilled by. I could have gone on reading about them but I realise the author needed to wind it up somewhere! Strangers is an absolutely brilliant read in every way and I loved it! ( )
  nicx27 | Apr 18, 2020 |
Strangers is the first book I’ve read by C.L. Taylor, and I’m already looking into getting some of her backstock. This novel was so well crafted with more than three storylines interweaving and then coming to an ending that answers all the questions in regards to the craziness that is going on with three people whose lives barely touch each other. It makes me want to be very nice to everyone I meet, since one never knows when you might need their help.
Strangers is a super fast read filled with lots of secrets, plot twists and POV switches. The short chapters and changing POV really kept me turning the page. Towards the end when Ursula goes to her roommate’s open door and then the chapter changes to another character, I groaned out loud because I was so tense waiting to see what was in his room! And at one point I was absolutely certain as to what was in the basement, but then I laughed out loud when it was finally revealed. The way Taylor wrote the scenes with the loud music and noises coming from the basement is masterful. And for a second, I was like, but what about the murders? And then Taylor gives us a final ending that made me smirk, and it was the perfect ending. ( )
  KimHeniadis | Mar 21, 2020 |
I'd never read any of C.L. Taylor's work before, so I was unsure what to expect beyond what the blurb told me. Here's what I found: suspense. Lots of it.

Oh, and questions. Lots of those, too, most of which aren't answered until the end. From page one, the book grabbed my attention.

C.L. Taylor excelled at keeping the reader off-balance as the multiple moving parts come together. I pictured the people and events as gears fitted together, one turning another, which turned another, and another. But I didn't know how or what or (most importantly) why these things were happening. Just when I thought I knew something definite, Taylor threw a monkey wrench into the works and I saw that I'd fallen for a red herring. Even when I was on the lookout for red herrings (as I usually am), I still didn't guess the truth.

I almost always read the last few pages of a book first. Even knowing the ending, though, didn't help me guess the full truth, nor did it diminish the story's suspense. C.L. Taylor skillfully created a creepy vibe that reverberated even beyond the last pages.

Twitter conversations are interspersed throughout the book. The dialogue felt authentically Twitter-ish and gave me a bit of background about events beyond the characters' immediate world. Plus it related the urban legend/rumor of a serial killer called the Harbourside Murderer, who might or might not exist.

The main characters were mostly well-developed. I enjoyed watching Alice, Ursula, and Gareth grow as people as the book goes along. But somehow I felt a lack of depth to them. I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong, though.

There were a lot of other characters. Whenever I put the book down--realistically, most readers have to do this!--I had to refresh my memory of what had happened in the previous few pages and who the minor characters were. Somehow the plot didn't stick in my mind quite as well as usual. This tends to be a problem for me in the psychological suspense category, though.

The other issue was the number of flashbacks. Sometimes a chapter would open from one character's point of view in present tense. Then it would immediately switch to past tense and recount what had happened recently. For example, one character was in a pub. As he/she sat drinking, she/he remembered the events that led her/him to make the decision to go to the pub. Most of it was significant. But the switch from present to past to present again confused the order of events and felt unnecessary. Why not simply tell the story as the events unfold?

There were multiple places where the location and time jumped to a different place and time. But other than a blank line, I didn't know that the location/time had changed. I didn't grasp the change until a few sentences into that section. Again, unnecessarily confusing.

Sometimes the author used an asterisk to signal the change, which I appreciated. But other times, there was only a blank line. My Kindle app sometimes throws in blank lines randomly; if these blank lines are intentional, the intention is lost in the reading. I hope that makes sense! I also hope that this issue is only a quirk in the ARC and will be corrected in the final version.

Overall, Strangers is a good book. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys psychological suspense. 3 1/2 stars, rounded up to 4. ( )
  MeredithRankin | Mar 2, 2020 |
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