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The Stranger House

by Reginald Hill

      I canít believe that I have never read a book by Reginald Hill before and I inhaled this one, anxiously turning every page in one sitting! I love the BBC Series, Dalziel and Pascoe, and usually the TV would be enough to lead me to the author, but apparently I was thinking elsewhere. My introduction to Hill is not part of the police series and does not feature the same characters. The Stranger House is filled with gothic elements: spirits, sinister murders, sexual violence, incest, dungeons, strange encounters, and is about settling ominous feelings originating in past events.

Miguel Madero seeks an ancestor missing since the invasion of the Spanish Armada over 400 years ago and his trail has stopped in Illthwaite, a village in Cumbria. The path to Samantha Floodís orphaned grandma is only about 40 years long back to the same village, but it is artfully cobbled by a landscape of misconception, lies and violence.

One of the most intriguing parts of the book for me was interweaving of the multiple dialects. The main characters, Sam and Mig are from Australia and Spain, respectively, and they meet at a Cumbrian inn. Samís rowdy idiom set against Migís stiff grammar balances with the tenor of the native English language and countryside. All of the characters seem to be defined by their voice; Samís fatherís economy of words, Mrs. Appledoreís sly questions, Noddyís ravings. It will be an interesting work to listen to as well.

Each person discovers many things about their ancestor, but what they donít discover left me staring at the final page. Wow! What an ending!

The Book

Reprint edition August 29, 2006
Mass Market Paperback
British Mystery
More at
NOTE: Religious persecution, torture

The Reviewer

Beth E. McKenzie
Reviewed 2006
© 2006