Clare Cassidy is no stranger to tales of murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer R.M. Holland, she teaches a short course on them every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an R.M. Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.
Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…
The novel starts off with with an excerpt which had me hooked me right away. I was actually ready to read a whole story told by the man on the train and was grumbling when the storyline jumped quite abruptly to Clare but soon enough I was invested in both stories and I didn’t mind switching between them. I enjoyed how Ms. Griffiths wrote this book into a book and not only that but the Victorian tale and the gothic elements also bled right into the other storyline. I liked how she incorporated these elements of the Victorian tale also in a present day setting and the cross-references unified the whole story. It’s only at the end of the novel that the police procedural work really takes over and it lost its gothic feeling a bit but I didn’t mind at all. Even though I really should have known, I obviously didn’t think it through enough – probably too caught up into the story or that’s what I’m telling myself – and missed the clue about who the killer was completely.
I believe this is my first read of a gothic novel and I quite liked the literary elements of the genre. There are some sightings of a ghost but it was all left very mysterious and in uncertainty so she certainly got away with that on my part, there’s the mysterious family history of R.M. Holland, there are abandoned and dark buildings for extra eerie and spooky atmosphere, oh and Clare’s cute little dog also happens to be mentioned in the story The Stranger.
The present story is told by Clare, Clare’s daughter Georgia and DS Harbinder. Three very different and distinctive characters. I enjoyed and sympathised with Clare the most although I also liked how she and Harbinder seemed to connect over time. If it weren’t for Clare’s new love interest I would have thought she was actually interested romantically. I didn’t really understand at first why daughter Georgia was involved as a POV or what she could contribute to the story but I soon realised that she opened up lots of possibilities and suspects with her interest in the supernatural, her ties to a woman known as a white witch and her dodgy classmates.
I don’t know if this is a novel for everyone to enjoy, it is quite special and it wasn’t even easy for me to rate this but the more I think back on it, the more I appreciate it. Overall I found this an interesting and puzzling read and the author definitely showed her love for the gothic genre. The mix of a past and a present gothic story was really well done, and she kept me guessing till the end about the mysterious messages appearing in Clare’s diary.
I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for my honest opinion.