A Stranger’s House, Clare Chase
Genre: Women’s fiction, Mystery and Thrillers
I don’t read mystery/thrillers that often but I do like to mix and match my reading – I find it stays fresher for me that way, rather than sticking to just one genre..or maybe its just my butterfly mind! Anyway I saw this was from Choc-lit (and I’ve enjoyed several great stories from them now) and that it was set in England. As a UK reader its always a treat to get a novel that’s set here, US seems to dominate most books in all genres, and there’s not so many UK ones. I feel at home reading them, and this one is set in Cambridge, which is only 60 or so miles from me 😉
So, poor Ruby, her partner of ten years has done the unforgivable, and she’s run..staying in a cheap motel for now but she knows she can’t keep that up. She just can’t face going back and seeing him yet though. Then her long time friend tells Ruby that her cousin Nate, who runs a house sitting business, needs someone ASAP. That would be great for her, and for him. Its a contract that’s come in at short notice and all his usual people are tied up. Ruby moves in and quickly finds that the owner is one strange man, a real control freak from the detailed list of petty instructions he’s given her.
Then odd things start to happen, minor ones but she reports them to Nate and he deals with them. She meets the neighbours, a group of students, and finds out that they really don’t get on with the owner Damien. As the days pass more people who know him pop up, she finds out more and more about him, that he’s really not a nice person, that he’s dangling women on a string, setting them up against each other and taking pleasure it seems from upsetting them and making them dance to his tune. Then – wham, he’s murdered. Ruby’s always been inquisitive, so even though Nate tells her not to, to leave it to the police she can’t resist investigating.
Nate used to be a PI till a tragedy made him change to the house sitting. After the murder and the events that follow it he moves in with Ruby to help with the house, its a kind of limbo while finances and implications of the owner’s death is going through legalities, but the new owner, the man’s brother, wants them to stay on. He’s equally as unpleasant as his brother. Its looking dangerous though and that’s why Nate stays. He knows Ruby wants to stay as she has no-where else, but he can’t just leave her alone when there’s danger. Of course he hadn’t factored in the attraction they’d both feel, when a relationship is the last thing he wants.
There’s a good cast of characters, that all tie in to a neat group of connected people. Life is like that isn’t it? You meet someone, talk about friends, family, workplace and then find you’ve mutual acquaintances or something. Go far away on holiday and find a distant relation or someone from the local town is there. Life is full of oddities, and in this story they all serve to confuse the reader ( well, me anyway!) who is really behind the murder and the other events. I like to try and guess, and as always get it wrong. I’d be a useless PI but it makes for some great reading, where the big reveal comes as a complete surprise. What I like too was that Clare doesn’t leave loose ends, doesn’t leave you wondering “ ok but what about? Where did X go? Why was that done?” I don’t like that kind of frustration.
Its a stand alone read – Hurrah – but I really hope Clare’s got plans to make a series from it based around Nate and Ruby, I think they’re a great duo and would work well together if he returned to the PI business. Clare’s got a very easy to read writing style, doesn’t over sell the events, you know – books that ram a point home with a sledge hammer. she sows a few seeds and lets the reader work out ( or not..) where its going. Its the kind of mystery I enjoy, one where its realistic, and not tech heavy, wordy in a way that I simply lose track of the main plots, or full of events and types of people I’ve no knowledge of.
Stars: Five, a fun mystery and an easy to read story.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers for honest review