Judith D Collins
City of Strangers
By: Louise Millar
Publication Date: 11/1/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
From the author of Accidents Happen, The Hidden Girl, and The Playdate—called “a supremely accomplished debut thriller by a writer to watch” (Booklist, starred review)—comes a new, heart-pounding novel about a journalist set on discovering the identity of a stranger who has turned her life upside down.
When Grace and her childhood sweetheart Mac come home from their honeymoon in Thailand, they’re shocked to find a dead body beside their pile of unopened wedding presents. The police are unable to ID the man, so it is assumed that he was a burglar who died from natural causes. Little do they know that evidence for a rather different story is hidden right beneath their apartment…
Three months later, Grace finds a card that, in place of well wishes, bears the message: “That man was Lucian Grabole.” A newspaper reporter fearing for her job, Grace lands on an idea that could answer some questions, and save her career as well. She’ll pitch a story to her boss called “Who was the man in my kitchen?”
Soon Grace is trekking across Europe, talking to strangers and piecing together clues as she tries to unravel the mystery of who Lucian Grabole was, and why he met such a macabre end. Suddenly, with two more deaths linked to the case, it becomes clear that Grabole most certainly did not die a natural death. And the answer to the mystery of who the killer is, and why, lies back in Grace’s apartment...
A special thank you to Atria/Emily Bestler and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Louise Millar returns following Accidents Happen, The Hidden Girl and The Playdate, with CITY OF STRANGERS -a woman’s intense quest to solve a mystery with an ongoing theme of “identity.” From a multi-level complex chilling domestic noir to an enthralling twisty international thriller-keeping you turning pages while globetrotting.
Four months ago, Grace Scott had never seen a dead body. Now she’d seen two. Grace Scott has recently married Mac and they are returning from their two- week honeymoon in Thailand. Grace walks into their flat while her husband goes to the market for some shopping. Shocked she discovers a dead man’s body in their kitchen flat. At first, she thinks it a burglar who was set on stealing their wedding presents. Grace is a freelance photographer and beings photographing the body. She is drawn to this man. Intrigued. She calls 999. They had purchased the flat from John. Who was this dead man and why was he here? What about his family? The intruder was apparently in his forties and had been drinking heavily, and died from a suspected fall. Grace longs to get into cutting-edge news reporting. She is intrigued. Little does she know the man hiding and eavesdropping on her—and on the police—in the space beneath her upstairs flat. The old restlessness that Grace couldn’t name returned. She wanted answers. Her husband Mac does not seem as concerned. He wanted to have a housewarming party and this is the last thing she wants. She would have to face the city again. Since her father had gone it had become nothing but a collection of shadows and echoes.
A city of unfathomable thoughts and an uncharted future. The prospect of her wedding without him had been horror enough. Her father had also died alone. Now this. Three months later she is still going through the wedding presents, she finds an envelope tucked inside its white ribbon. Grace Scott’s name on the front. Odd, it did not have Mr. and Mrs. On the back the writing was fussy and looped. The cryptic words listed sideways and were difficult to read. “I am not that man", Lucian Grabole. She had been so immersed in grief in the months before the wedding, she is baffled by the name. Her husband says he does not this person. DI Robertson was on the case and she continued to ring to inquire the status and update of the case. No match for DNA, fingerprints, or physical markings. No missing person reports. From prisons, hostels, social services, hospitals and immigration. All negative. This man’s death is haunting her. She begins searching Google and calling homeless shelters in Edinburgh. From Glasgow, Stirling, and other towns within an hour of Edinburgh. She has no idea how deep this mystery goes. The evil and web of deceit surrounding the man, and her own life. From clues to her sleuthing, she is traveling around Europe, obsessed with finding the identity of the man found in her apartment. Now it appears someone is following her and knows her every move. The closer she gets the more danger she is in. Someone attacked a journalist she was with in Paris and burned his boat in Amsterdam, and threatened her. While this story unfolds, back home in Scotland, the police find two other bodies that are somehow linked to the dead man in Grace's flat. We also are introduced to Grace’s friend, Ewan who works at the Scotts Today office, assisting ace crime reporter Sula McGregor, who is investigating a story where two men were found dead in a cave to the north of Edinburgh. Grace asks him the best way to go about finding her John Doe when she is unsuccessful. To add plenty of intrigue and mystery, there is also Mr. Singh downstairs. A man holed up in the back room of a corner shop underneath Grace’s flat. She sees missing person’s notices. She wonders about all these families not knowing if their loved ones were alive or dead. Lost in a city of strangers. In the meantime, Mac’s patience with her obsession with the dead man had run out at about the same time as DI Robertson’s. He is concerned she is spending her dad’s money on this foolishness. Ewan is very helpful and facilitates a contact for Grace in Amsterdam with another photojournalist, Nicu, who becomes interested in what she is doing. With Nicu’s help, she comes face to face with answers. With her camera and passion, and now the support of Scotts Today she keeps moving forward, even though Mac is not supportive. Does she really know her husband? Set in Edinburgh – from London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Paris----Little do they know that evidence and answers could be hidden in their apartment building. CITY OF STRANGERS is a gripping story of deception, lies, and corruption with a tenacious heroine you root for. Hope we see more of her in future books. Fans of Mark Edwards, Ruth Rendell, and Heather Gudenkauf will enjoy. If you have read any of Louse Millar’s books, you know she is a "master" at penning suspenseful menacing and intriguing tales which involves complex crime, corruption, deceit, family, villages, home, relationships, and twisty connections—while building chilling, complex scenarios which are emotionally and psychologically compelling. Life changing moments for the characters involved. Millar's psychological crime novels integrate themes of human misunderstandings and the unintended consequences of family secrets and hidden crimes. CITY OF STRANGERS was my favorite of Millar's thus far. It starts slowly; however, the suspense and danger build; be patient and enjoy the mysterious ride.
ONE OF THE BEST THRILLERS OF 2015: "Millar tells the story of Grace Scott, who goes on a chilling hunt to find the man’s killer. A poignant spine-shivering moment occurs when she finds a clue pinned to a wedding gift in her own flat." -Marie Claire (UK))
Brilliantly creepy... identity is at the heart of this clever novel, which shows a woman learning things about herself while ostensibly chasing the story of a lifetime" -The Sunday Times
“Exciting and impossible to put down—this beautifully-written thriller is packed full of danger, surprises and a heroine to root for.” -Mark Edwards, Author of The Magpies
“A twisty heart-stopper of a thriller.”-Red Magazine
“Compelling...original and satisfying.” -The Daily Mail (UK)
“A page-turning thriller.” -The Sunday Times (UK))
“An engrossing, exhilarating ride. Pacy, action-packed, brilliantly written and with THE HOTTEST leading male character *fans self*.”--Tammy Cohen, Author of Dying for Christmas
“It does a really exciting thing, which is to take us from domestic noir to international thriller... fast paced, full of heart and with a central character who is discovering herself as she uncovers a labyrinthine international mystery.” --Julia Crouch, Author of Cuckoo
"A deliciously disturbing read, with paranoia seeping from every page."--Alex Marwood
“Taut, chilling and utterly brilliant- my thriller of the year.”--Lisa Jewell
"As Millar makes truth elusive and builds suspense, she is establishing herself in the top tier of writers of psychological thrillers."--Booklist (starred review))
"Louise Millar’s Accidents Happen is everything I hope for in a suspenseful read – chilling, complex and intense. Millar’s riveting novel,with its frightening premise and twists and turns kept me frantically turning pages late into the night." --Heather Gudenkauf New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence
"This seriously creepy psychological thriller set deep in the Suffolk countryside is Louise Millar's best book yet. With a twist I did not see coming, it will make urbanites dreaming of bucolic bliss think again." --Alex Marwood, bestselling author of The Wicked Girls and The Killer Next Door
“Louise Millar possesses an awesome talent for penning menacing tales. THE HIDDEN GIRL is a tightly penned thriller with fully fleshed out characters, interesting and intelligent dialogue, and stellar plotting.”--Reader to Reader
“[An] intriguing psychological thriller…emotionally compelling.” --Publishers Weekly
“Millar turns the typically cozy village setting into something malevolent, generating considerable suspense in the process and adding a psychological thriller element reminiscent of Ruth Rendell.” --Booklist
“Millar does a great job of building slow, psychological suspense... I highly recommend that you give this one a try,”-Book Hooked Blog
About the Author
Louise Millar is the author of City of Strangers, The Hidden Girl, Accidents Happen and The Playdate, psychological thrillers published by Pan Macmillan in the UK, and Emily Bestler Books/Atria in the USA.
Before turning to fiction, she spent 20 years working in magazines and newspapers, starting as a freelance sub-editor on entertainment titles such as the NME, Kerrang!, Empire and Smash Hits, before crossing over into women’s magazines and becoming a senior commissioning editor at Marie Claire. In 2006, she left Marie Claire to start a business writing ‘ordinary people’s memoirs – appearing on BBC’s The One Show to promote it – while writing freelance features for Psychologies, the Observer, the Guardian, Stella (the Telegraph), Stylist and Marie Claire, and starting work on The Playdate.
She lives in London with her husband and children and is currently writing her fifth psychological thriller.
Louise is a co-founder of the crime-writing group Killer Women. To find out more about events, giveaways, blogs and more, visit killerwomen.org. Read More