The Stranger Times by CK McDonnell

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Please, I would like more

The strangertimesI had a ridiculously good time reading this book, it made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion, I just really enjoyed the humour and was hooked.  In fact, I can admit that I turned into that annoying reader who keeps reading snippets out to the other half – even though it’s completely out of context and they’re not amused at your incessant ramblings.

So, in fairness, I’m not going to try and say that The Stranger Times brings anything particularly new to the urban fantasy genre, but, regardless of that it won me over with ease, it had characters that I enjoyed, I really liked the setting with the small office dynamic and the slightly eccentric style of news reporting.  Also, I can’t deny that a book being set in Manchester, where I worked for a few years, also appealed greatly and I thought really lent itself to the nature of the story.

As the book begins we meet Hannah Willis.  Hannah has recently split from her husband and is slowly discovering that the rich lifestyle she had become accustomed to is now a thing of the past and standing on her own two feet, having spent a number of years honing absolutely no skills whatsoever at all to perfection, means that her employment prospects don’t look too promising and when her first interview turns into a disaster Hannah realises that standing on her own two feet might be easier said than done.

However, against the odds, her second interview – which doesn’t resemble an interview in any shape or form, leaves her as the new assistant editor to the Stranger Times.  Now, before you become all flabbergasted at this piece of luck two things must you know.  Firstly, Hannah was the only interviewee and secondly, as a result of a very grumpy editor, most new people leave before their colleagues have even had a chance to remember their name. Hence, Hannah becomes known as the ‘new Tina’,  the only person to have stayed in post long enough to make an impression.

The plot, is something of a murder mystery.  We are immediately made aware that somebody evil is prowling the streets and after a couple of deaths, The Stranger Times employees find themselves drawn into the investigation and actually doing some real journalism.  I’m actually not going to say anything more about what takes place because I think it would involve spoilers and I really loved the rather chaotic style of the story and think it best left for readers to discover it all for themselves.

What particularly worked for me was threefold.  Firstly, the setting – as I mentioned ‘Manchester’ – but more than that, the humour, the author seems to have really captured the essence of the place in terms of banter, dialogue and sarcasm.  Secondly, the characters.  This feels like a cast that I could become attached too – on top of this the author has left a lot yet to explore with all of them.  Thirdly, the quirky eccentricity of it all combined.  A group of misfits working for a publication that writes about the weird and wonderful and pretty soon discover there’s more to all this ‘hocus pocus’ than they ever imagined.

To be honest, it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly why this worked for me at the time I picked it up. Perhaps it’s the nature of the strange times in which we live that makes such escapism a fun distraction but I can say without doubt that I would love to read more from this eclectic bunch of characters. I would love for certain friendships to develop further and I, well, I just want more.  Pretty please.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.