Strangers by C.L. Taylor #BookReview #BlogTour

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.

The million-copy bestseller returns with a gripping new novel that will keep you guessing until the end.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Strangers today. Many thanks to C.L. Taylor and Avon Books for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

Strangers opens with a dead body and three shocked people but who the victim is and why Alice, Ursula and Gareth were present or what role they played in his death isn't revealed at this point. What is evident, however, is that some sort of violent confrontation occurred here and with such a gripping beginning, I couldn't fail to be immediately hooked by C.L.Taylor's latest thriller.
The narrative switches between Alice, Ursula and Gareth's stories, gradually and tantalisingly dropping hints about what brings them to the point where we meet them at the start of the novel. What does become obvious more quickly is that although the three don't know one another, they are all people struggling in their own ways with loneliness and their need to form meaningful connections with somebody.
Alice's controlling husband left her for another woman and she has decided the time is right to look for a new relationship and to become more assertive. Her first date with a man she met online doesn't go well and ends with a disturbing scene which will be sadly familiar to many women who have encountered men that assume buying somebody a drink means they're entitled to something. Things begin to look up for her after this but is her new man all he seems? When Alice starts receiving threatening messages, she has to decide who she can trust. Her dilemma is understandable; she is desperate to move on from her marriage and wants to prove to herself that she won't be bullied by anybody else but the seeds of doubt that are cast ensured I was as confused as she is as to what the truth could really be.
Gareth is a security officer in a mall in Bristol where Alice manages a clothes shop, so it's not surprising that their paths should cross occasionally. His story is really quite poignant - he is a middle-aged man still living at home with his mother who has dementia and though he loves her dearly, it is sadly unavoidable that her condition means he is trapped. When strange postcards start arriving at his house, he begins to hope that they may bring news of a figure from his past but the emotional toll brings further turmoil to both his personal and professional life.
Ursula sometimes visits Alice's shop but she isn't a welcome customer  - and it soon transpires isn't wanted as a flatmate either. I think of all the characters, I found her story to perhaps be the most intriguing; her actions strongly indicate that she is a damaged soul but it's only as the novel progresses that we learn more about the reason behind her self-destructive behaviour. It's notable that despite their personal issues, all three characters are caring individuals who try to help others but knowing that something terrible is going to happen suggests that somebody in at least one of their lives can't be trusted.
It's this which makes Strangers so compelling - I knew something awful is going to happen and I knew that somehow Alice, Ursula and Gareth are involved but what kept me guessing and guaranteed I couldn't put the book down were the clever red herrings and teasing hints about the terrifying situation they will soon find themselves in. There are a few characters who are decidedly dodgy one way or another and I was quite prepared to believe that any of them were capable of being dangerously violent. As the sense of apprehension grows, the three storylines eventually combine in a way which doesn't feel contrived at all - it makes perfect sense why these strangers ultimately find themselves together.
Engrossing, tense and actually really quite heart-warming, Strangers is a fast-paced and exciting read, with a conclusion which underlines C.L. Taylor's gift for understanding the humanity of her characters. Highly recommended.

Strangers is published by Avon Books, purchasing links can be found here but please try to support our wonderful independent bookstores and buy through one of them if possible, particularly during these uncertain times.

Don't forget to check out what some of my fellow bloggers are saying during this mammoth blog tour - see the slideshow of blogs and dates below.

About the Author

C.L. Taylor is an award winning Sunday Times bestselling author of seven gripping psychological thrillers including SLEEP, a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for autumn 2019.

She has also written two Young Adult thrillers, THE TREATMENT, which was published by HarperCollins HQ and THE ISLAND, which will be published in January 2021.

C.L. Taylor’s books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 25 languages and optioned for TV.

SLEEP won the ‘best ebook’ award in the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards. THE ESCAPE won the Dead Good Books ‘Hidden Depths’ award for the Most Unreliable Narrator. THE FEAR was shortlisted in the Hearst Big Book Awards in the ‘Pageturner’ category.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and son.
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