Lead Review

  • Book: Strangers
  • Location: Bristol
  • Author: C L Taylor

Review Author: Tina Hartas



Three random people are introduced to the reader and it is inevitable that their fates will combine at some point down the road. But quite how is, of course, at the heart of the mystery. Three such different people too!

Gareth lives with his dementing mother and works as a security guard at the local shopping centre. He cares for her as best he can and is perplexed when his mother starts receiving postcards, purportedly from his father, who disappeared many years ago whilst on a walking holiday.

Ursula is a parcel delivery driver, with the stress of earning 70p for every parcel delivered. She feels she was responsible for the death of her boyfriend and since his untimely passing, she has soothed her troubled mind by shop-lifting and stealing from all kinds of people. It is an urge she struggles to control. She is banned from Mirage, a dress shop in the shopping centre, for shop lifting. The shop is run by the third character, Alice, who has split from the father of her daughter and is actively looking for someone new in her life. After a misjudged meet-up in a local bar, where she has an unfortunate encounter, Simon comes to her rescue and he certainly catches her eye. But he is evasive and she can’t quite pin him down. He is clearly hiding a secret.

In the background it appears that men are falling into the river and dying. Could there be a serial killer on the loose to add to everyone’s woes?

I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator (Clare Corbett) – with whom the author chats at the end about narration – has quite a few voices (often with a Bristolian accent) to juggle. I listened to the equivalent of c.350 pages on my Coronavirus walks and I found the story engaging. Alice, as a character, was at times simpering and needed a good shake. Ursula’s heart was in the right place but really needed some help on several fronts and Gareth plodded along, struggling to cope with his domestic situation. The ending was a little over-enthusiastic and melodramatic for my taste and perhaps overall there were just too many threads – which of course prove to be a mêlée of red herrings for the most part!

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021