Fans of Elly Griffiths will be delighted to read The Stranger Diaries, the stand-alone that’s an homage to gothic literature of the highest quality.

At once atmospheric and stylish, this is a mystery chock full of literary gems, a very modern mystery with echoes of the past. Clare Cassidy is a literature teacher that her daughter attends, where she teaches a class on Gothic writer RM Holland, whose papers and library are at the school, a gothic marvel of its own.

When one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from relating to an RM Holland story by her body, detectives feel Holland’s works somehow hold the key to the case. Fearful the killer is someone she knows, Clare writes about her terror and suspicions in her journal, as is her routine, until the day she sees new writing in the diary in a different hand from hers. A second point of view is that of Clare’s daughter, Georgia, at once the quintessential teen, embarassed by her mother, but hiding her own secrets.

Both of these are engaging points of view, especially as Clare has the propensity to be rather snarky at times in a delightful way, as when directed toward her ex-husband, whom we loathe and pity at the same time. It keeps her very real.

And the there’s the third point of view. The investigating detective, DS Harbinder Kaur, is one early readers have been clamoring to see more of, and we can only hope that Griffiths will allows us that hope and bring her back in another book. At once highly original, Harbinder and her unlikely background make her an instant character who could support a series of her own, if Griffiths, already writing two popular series (The Ruth Galloway and the Magic Men mysteries) has that inclination.

Holland, the subject of a book Clare keeps intending to write, and his gothic story, “The Stranger,” become part of the plot and bring Clare into the sights of Harbinder. Notice Auntie M keeps calling these characters by their first names, as that is the level of identification readers will have for them.

As the bodies start to pile up, any preconceived notions we have about all of the characters seem to slip away and the suspense becomes tighter and tighter. This is an accomplished storyteller, a lover of literature, at the top of her game. Not to be missed. Highly recommended.