Source: Review copy
Publication: 2 April 2020 from Avon
Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.
Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.
None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.
Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.
Cally Taylor’s Strangers is very well named. She has taken three very different characters, Alice, Ursula and Gareth; a trio with seemingly nothing in common. Ursula is a courier; a troubled young woman who has never got over the death of her partner, losing her job as a teacher as a result and now lives a hand to mouth existence delivering parcels.
Gareth is the Manager of a team of security guards in a shopping mall in central Bristol. He lives with his increasingly forgetful mother and worries that her dementia is going to cause her harm as she starts to cook and then forgets. When Gareth finds a postcard addressed to his mother from her long dead husband, he begins to doubt everything he thought he knew.
Alice is a 46 year old single parent. She manages a trendy clothes shop in the Meads Shopping mall. She’d like someone else in her life now that her daughter is dating Adam and often not at home. If only she could find the right partner.
None of these people knows the other, but before the week is out they will be huddled together in fear for their lives.
Cally Taylor builds up an excellent character study for each of her three protagonists who are very well-drawn and completely believable. Ordinary people doing ordinary jobs when, out of the blue, something happens that turns each of their lives upside down.
Told in the third person with each character heading up a chapter, we meet three very different characters each with their own distinctive voice. It’s easy to identify with them and each has their own story line to keep us hooked as we wait to see how Taylor will bring them together, as we know she must.
Alice is the catalyst. Lonely, unfulfilled she is encouraged by her daughter to try internet dating. When she meets Simon, in unexpected circumstances she is quite taken with him, but it isn’t long before things start going really awry for this would-be couple and soon Alice is receiving threatening messages. It’s clear that someone is out to get her. But why?
Taylor paces her book really well, allowing us to get to know her characters and understand their backstories before drawing us in with some unnerving moments and introducing us to some new characters, some of whom are pretty creepy.
Soon we are in the midst of this spider’s web of creepiness as the tension ramps up and the chills begin to seep through and suddenly we don’t know who to trust.
Verdict: This is C.L. Taylor’s best book yet. Well-drawn and believable characters in a completely compelling situation combine to make this a tense and riveting read with a twisty and climactic ending that surprises.
Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She started writing short stories in 2005 and was published widely in literary and women’s magazines. She also won several short story competitions. In 2009 and 2011 her romantic comedy novels (as Cally Taylor) were published by Orion and translated into fourteen languages. Whilst on maternity leave with her son Cally had an idea for a psychological thriller and turned to crime. C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.