Drama, Mystery/Thriller, Romance

A Stranger’s House by Clare Chase

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love stories with strong female protagonists. Usually, you find strong characters like this in fantasy novels. Often when I read realistic fiction or mystery/thriller, the women that are the main characters don’t come off as strong, but rather as unlucky enough to get mixed up in some crazy plot. They aren’t women who I think can really hold their own; they are just desperate to survive. There are, of course, exceptions to this but generally, this is what I have observed. This novel intrigued me because the premise indicated that the main character here is a strong and independent woman, who can deal with the challenges that she faces.

When Ruby comes home to discover her partner has committed an unforgivable crime, she decides immediately to move out of the house. Fate gives her a helping hand, when she finds a job house-sitting in Cambridge. But what at first appeared to be an easy job soon reveals itself as something sinister. The absent owner has a penchant for hurting everyone around him, and it is Ruby who is faced with the fallout. As violent repercussions begin to reveal themselves, Ruby decides to investigate; she needs to know what she is up against. But Ruby’s new boss, Nate Bastable, has his eye on her and is determined to keep her away from her investigation. Is he simply worried for her safety, or is there something more sinister at play?

This was quite a nice story. The author wrote it compellingly and I enjoyed the overall flow of events. I liked how all of the characters introduced were different, and how they all played a part in the story and weren’t just there for filler. I found Ruby to be both exasperating and strong, and while that may sound like an insult, it really isn’t. Ruby’s curiosity and her meddlesome nature could be annoying at times and her inability to seek help when it was clearly needed was quite frustrating, but I liked that she had intelligence and smarts and wasn’t just waiting for the pieces of the puzzle to conveniently drop in her lap. There were a lot of references to psychology, which I presume is because of Ruby’s career (which I wasn’t too clear on). I don’t really think that this aspect was researched in as much depth as I would have liked, but I can forgive it because the author does acknowledge that Ruby has no real background knowledge in psychology. For once, the story was secondary to the character; I actually didn’t care as much for the story as I did for Ruby and Nate and everyone else. I was drawn to the thought processes and the interactions between the characters, and I felt that the author did a great job creating convincing and compelling personalities with their own histories and identities. The ending was not my favorite but it was clean and tidy, which is always a good thing. In the version that I read, the character perspective shifts in the middle of the chapter, which made it seem a lot more abrupt and I didn’t really like that; I hope that in the published version, there is a clear demarcation of when the perspective is changing so that it doesn’t catch the readers unaware. Overall, an interesting novel with strong characters!

Happy reading~

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