Tuesday 19 May 2020

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman BLOG TOUR @CharityNorman1 #RandomThingsTours #TheSecretsOfStrangers @AllenAndUnwin

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.

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman was published in paperback on 7 May 2020 by Allen and Unwin.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

I am a huge fan of this author and have reviewed a couple of her earlier novels here on Random Things. I really must get around to reviewing her first three books too.

Lockdown has enabled me to change my reading rituals. No longer do I snatch a chapter or two as I grab a coffee between work chores. Instead, I've put aside one day per weekend to read, and I finished this amazing story in just one day. It's an ironic read for lockdown, but actually puts our situation into a little perspective. We are not prisoners; we may be struggling, but we still have the freedom to walk out of our door, and to speak to, if not actually see, our loved ones. 

What excites me most about Charity Norman's stories is that she is not afraid to delve into some dark and often very emotionally trying issues. She writes with an empathy for character that shines through the stories; her development of each and every person in her stories is beautifully and carefully done. The reader often changing their opinion as more is revealed about each one.

The Secrets of Strangers is the perfect title for this complex and incredibly taut novel. Each of the characters begin as strangers but by the final pages they are as connected to each other as they are to their family and their oldest friends. In fact, they probably reveal far more about themselves during that long day trapped within the walls of Tuckbox; a fairly ordinary cafe on a London street. 

Tuckbox is a busy cafe, populated by regulars and owned by cheerful and friendly Robert. The customers this morning include a street sleeper, a barrister and a carer, among others. Ordinary folk going about their regular business. Meeting family, trying to keep warm or on their way to an important court case. Also visiting Tuckbox that morning is Sam. Sam is an angry, troubled man who isn't there for the coffee; he's there to see Robert, and to get back what is rightfully his.

As Sam and Robert argue and Sam storms out of the cafe, the regulars look on, then settle down again. Just one of those spats, you see them every day, now to get on with their own business. However, Sam returns quickly, with a gun, and the customer's lives will never be the same again.

The customers of Tuckbox are in for the long haul and this very clever author allows her readers to get to know each one of them intimately. There's such a tension that builds throughout the story, as Sam shows how unstable he is; downing pills and veering between hyper active and morose; there is no predictability to his behaviour at all.

By revealing the most personal details of each of the character's lives, the author also deals with some hard hitting and incredibly powerful issues including infertility, addiction, genocide and child neglect and abuse. She makes her readers see all sides of these people, including Sam who does not let go of his shotgun at all throughout the day. 

Once more Charity Norman has produced an outstanding story that had me gripped throughout. The tension is almost unbearable at times, and the absolute heartbreak of some of the character's stories almost broke my heart. 

A novel that looks at perception and belief. A story that is so powerfully moving, from an author who really is at the top of her game.  Highly recommended.

Charity Norman was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. 
After several years' travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law. 
In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. 
THE SECRETS OF STRANGERS is her sixth novel.
Author Page on Facebook

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