The Secrets of Strangers – Charity Norman

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for a group of strangers whose paths cross in a London café  their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?

Another tense, multi-dimensional drama from the writer of the Richard & Judy bestseller AFTER THE FALL.

About the Author:

Charity is the author of six novels. She was born in Uganda, brought up in draughty vicarages in the North of England and met her husband under a truck in the Sahara desert. She worked for some years as a family and criminal barrister in York Chambers, until, realising that her three children barely knew her, she moved with her family to New Zealand where she began to write.

After the Fall was a Richard & Judy and World Book Night title, The New Woman a BBC Radio 2 Book Club choice. See You in September (2017) was shortlisted for best crime novel in the Ngaio Marsh Awards. Her sixth, The Secrets of Strangers, was released on 7th May 2020 and is also a Radio 2 Book Club choice.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of Charity Norman, she is one of those authors who manages to bring each character to life in your mind with incredible detail and once again she’s created a stunning, thought-provoking and highly emotive story in The Secrets of Strangers.

Set in a cafe in Balham, London “Tuckbox” is a busy coffee shop, packed with commuters, parents on school runs, gym mummies gossiping over a cappuccino and customers getting their caffeine fix before the day begins.  Owned and run by the friendly and loved Robert, a recent widower, the customers are shocked and terrified when a young man armed with a shotgun comes into the Tuckbox and shots the owner dead and then takes hostages.

The story is told by numerous narrators and each character has such an authentic voice that the reader is immediately transported into the cafe and can almost taste the emotion, fear and despair felt by the hostages, the negotiators and the gunmen.

I was taken on an incredibly powerful journey through each character and chapter.  My emotions ranged from shock to sympathy and back again throughout the book.  What starts off as an horrific and violent unprovoked attack on a seemingly innocent victim ended up making me question everything I’ve read and rethink my judgement.

At times it was heart-breaking and then heart-warming, my emotions were all over the place.  The Secret of Strangers may be a work of fiction, but it left me feeling hopeful and positive about the human race and that most people are kind, caring, compassionate and more importantly brave.  5 stars 

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