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Review of 'The Stranger's Companion' - Mary Horlock

The stunning cover for this book immediately harks back to the golden era of crime fiction. However, this is far from being the gentle read one might expect. Sark might be the place where nothing happens, but there is plenty of action packed in the pages of this novel. Phyll has returned from England with secrets to hide, but it is the secrets that are still waiting for her at home which begin to unravel the seemingly idyllic life of the islanders. Events from her childhood cast long shadows and seeing them through the lens of adulthood doesn't necessarily make them any clearer, until the people concerned start being honest with each other. Once this happens, the drama unfolds to reveal the truth of what happened between her and Everard Hyde.

However, this is not the only mystery to absorb the attentions of the islanders. Clothes found on the beach suggest foul play, or at the very least, a tragic accident. As the search begins for the unfortunate couple, it brings to the fore memories of previous tragic deaths on Sark. The role of the island's women in every aspect of the island's history begins to be told and events become clearer as the links are forged together.

The two stories are revealed in parallel and it becomes clear that far from being two separate strands, they are in fact as closely intertwined as it is possible to be.

Part crime novel, part ghost story, every aspect of human nature and social interaction is explored. Relationships mature and develop, past sins are uncovered and misunderstandings explained. This is a wonderful examination of the intricacies of life in a small community, all wrapped up in an intriguing package with a mystery right at its core. The fact this is inspired by a real life event just makes it all the more attractive as a concept.

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