The Stranger by Chris Martin

The Stranger by Chris MartinThis psychological thriller manages to believably pack several twists into under 100 pages. Had I not opened the book five minutes before I needed to go out to check it had downloaded properly and just read a little I would have read it in a single sitting.

Eight years ago six high-school girls were murdered in Seal Bay. A local, Lance Pluckett, was convicted of the murders and is awaiting execution. The residents have managed to put the events behind them and life seems normal again. However the arrival of a man closely resembling Pluckett reveals not everyone has come to terms with the killings. Over the course of a day Dillon Bledsoe is forced to learn that the killer is not what he seems and that more than one person may be complicit in the killings.

I found the characterisation to be very strong: I had a strong picture of the protagonist within a few paragraphs. Each of the other major characters is similarly swiftly painted.

Set in a sleepy American coastal town with a protagonist scarred by his past this story invites comparison with Stephen King; and the author’s voice does bear some similarity. Martin even uses one of King’s favourite techniques of having characters refer obliquely to past events to build the feeling of tension; however – unlike King – he does not alienate me by holding back revelation of those events for page after page.

The only jarring note came after a friend of the protagonist unexpectedly appeared at an obscure location just as the protagonist needed someone. Rather than let the explanation emerge naturally Martin describes actions the protagonist performed during a previous scene that the reader was not allowed to notice; while inserting a detailed description earlier would have reduced tension, a hint at the actions I would have satisfied me more than the sudden revelation.

Overall I enjoyed this work. I would recommend it to fans of psychological horror and those who enjoy the works of Stephen King but feel they would be better if they got to the point in under 500 pages.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review

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