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The Stranger House    by Reginald Hill order for
Stranger House
by Reginald Hill
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio
* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Two people arrive in Illthwaite, a small village in Cumbria, seeking information. They meet at The Stranger House, the boardinghouse and general meeting place of Illthwaite.

Samantha Flood has traveled from Australia on her way to attend school in England. Sam is looking for her roots, having learned that her grandmother might have come from the village as part of a child migrant scandal in the 1960s. Miguel Madero, a failed priest, has come in search of academic information about a priest who might have lived in the area years before. It quickly becomes clear that the residents of the village are not as forthcoming with information as either Miguel or Sam had hoped. Secrets pile upon other secrets. People don't talk to them or tell half truths - both to protect themselves and to protect people long dead. Is it possible for Sam and Miguel to uncover the answers they are looking for, or will the villagers guard their secrets at all costs?

This is a deeply engrossing novel, filled with intrigue. Sam and Miguel are the perfect central characters. At first, they don't have a great deal in common other than they are both looking for information. As they grow closer, even that relationship is not the typical romance the reader might expect. The unusual characteristics of their friendship and the fact that their quests end up converging makes for a unique, complementary pairing.

The mystery is so multi-faceted that it takes a bit of thinking and puzzling through the layers to get to the heart of the matter. But the road to get to that conclusion and the ultimate resolution make it worth the journey. Some confusing side plots divert the reader's attention and make the book a little longer than it probably should be. All in all, The Stranger House is an engrossing, suspenseful story, and worth the effort. Its plot and characters will stay with the reader for a long time.

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