The Second Stranger – Martin Griffin

Published By: Little Brown
Pages: 304
Released On: 19/01/2023

Remie Yorke has one shift left at the Mackinnon Hotel in the remote Scottish Highlands before she leaves for good. Then Storm Ezra hits.

As temperatures plummet and phone lines go down, an injured man stumbles inside. PC Don Gaines was in a terrible accident on the mountain road. The only other survivor: the prisoner his team was transporting.

When a second stranger arrives, Remie reluctantly lets him in from the blizzard. He, too, is hurt. He claims to be a police officer. His name is also Don Gaines.

Someone is lying and, with no means of escape, Remie must work out who. If the cold doesn’t kill her, one of these men will get there first . .

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

“The book everyone’s going to be talking about” – Karen Dionne.

Well, she was right about that. This had me hooked almost instantly, and it pained me to have to keep putting it down – it’s definitely a book for a day you have nothing else planned, because believe me, once you start, you won’t want to stop.

It’s not your classic whodunnit mystery but it does take on some theme of one: the isolation of the location, the horrendous weather, the lies and the distrust, the small, seemingly trustworthy cast. And speaking of the weather, it really gives an atmospheric feeling to the book. Snow is dangerous, and yet we generally see it as a fun thing, but this book really makes the weather a character of its own, helping and hindering our cast.

I wasn’t that keen on Remie as a main character at first, I felt she was a bit naïve, a bit too trusting, seemingly willing to go along with any plan, and I couldn’t see how she would ever get to the bottom of it. But she quickly won me round and became the hero the story needed.

I think a lot of the genius comes from the small cast of characters. At most there’s half a dozen, and at times there’s only one or two. It heightens the panic, the claustrophobia and the feeling of helplessness. My only quibble here is I think I would have liked more about the background of the other characters, not just Remie. Find out more about Jai, the police and the criminal. I would say the joy of having such a small cast is that you have the time to fully develop them all. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they were undeveloped, I didn’t feel short changed at all, but from my point of view, I’d like to have known even more about them.

The fun for me was reading the two ‘PC Don Gaines’ and how they played off each other. You’re journeying along at the same time as the characters, trying to decipher clues at the same time, which adds to the rapid, tense, frenzied feel of it. It is a proper locked-in mystery thriller.

There’s so many good twists and turns, stories merging into others, and so many layers. You’re never completely sure who or what to trust. It’s heart-racing and heart-stopping, it’s fast paced and never slows down. Even the waiting feels frenzied and tense.

If this is his debut, I can’t wait to see what else he’s got to offer. I would most definitely recommend this as a thrilling, fast-paced, heart-racing mystery, perfect for those long cold winter nights.

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