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The Stranger House
By Reginald Hill

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The Stranger House

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The Stranger House
By Reginald Hill
Charnwood Large Print, 2006
ISBN: 978-1-8461-7193-2
Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Reviewed by Boris Segel - June 17, 2013

Reginald Hill is perhaps best known for his Dalziel & Pascoe mystery series, and to a lesser extent for his eccentric PI detective series featuring Joe Sixsmith. In addition to these two best-selling series, Hill also wrote several stand-along novels, The Stranger House is one of these stand-alone novels.

As events unfold, Sam Flood and Miguel "Mig" Madero have more in common than one would think at first glance. For instance, Sam (short for Samantha), is a young woman from Australia who is a trained mathematician, and she is bent upon digging up some information on her grandmother, who immigrated from England to Australia in the 1960s. Miguel is a highly religious ex-seminarian from Spain who is blessed, or cursed depending upon the view you take, with the stigmata. He also has visions and occasionally sees ghosts. The two happen to cross paths at a layby on an English highway, and then, shortly thereafter they both find themselves in the village of Illthwaite, staying at The Stranger House. Once part of the nearby priory, the Stranger House started its existence as a guest house, and is now run as a small hotel by the affable Mrs. Appledore and her husband.

This story is set in the Cumbrian area of England, and the characters in this story spend a decent amount of time exploring the county. In this way, Hill is able to provide the readers with a real sense of the area, its people, and its history. Sam has come to England seeking information about her grandmother's past. A past that the locals would prefer remained uncovered, because it is intertwined with the forced migration of a sizable number of young people who were rounded up and shipped to various locations in the empire. Miguel is also on a quest to uncover information on the plight of Catholics during the Reformation, and to uncover the fate of one of his relatives that 'disappeared' during the reign of Elizabeth I. Although the history he is digging into is much older than that which Sam is investigating, the local residents are just as reluctant about sharing any information they might have with Miguel, as they are with Sam.

Why are the locals so intent upon keeping the two researchers from finding the information that they seek? How far are they willing to go to keep that information from them? The answers to these questions, and more will keep you on the edge of your seat as you follow Sam and Miguel as they struggle to find the truths that they are looking for.

Rich in detail and ingeniously plotted, The Stranger House is a well crafted and engrossing story that, while categorized as a mystery, also contains elements of gothic novels, as well as elements of both historical and suspense fiction. Sam and Miguel are emotionally charged characters that happen to take an instant dislike to each other, but find that despite themselves, they have to work together. The clash of personalities between the two main characters, combined with the intense story line, results in a powerful, and tension-filled story. Hill takes you on a journey not only into the present, but also into the past. Be forewarned, this is a nail-biter of a story that will keep you up late into the night trying to finish in one sitting! In addition, this book is unlike any other book that I ever read by Hill. If you a looking for a traditional mystery, look elsewhere. However, if you don't mind the mixing of genres and enjoy a novel with a complicated plot - you'll enjoy The Stranger House!

The Stranger House can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of Charnwood Large Print.

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