Catriona McPherson’s complicated plot for Strangers at the Gate will make perfect sense as readers near the end of the book, but in such a surprising way that readers will have as much confusion at times as the protagonist, Finn.

When she and her husband, Paddy, move to the small town of Simmerton, it seems to be the perfect chance for the young couple to move their professions forward. Paddy has been offered a partnership in a law firm; Finn’s slot as a deacon at a local church is full time.

The move comes with the rental of the gate house of the wealthy landowner, an almost perfect situation. Lovatt Dudgeon and his wife seem like the perfect neighbors, and as it’s his law firm Paddy will work in, Finn is relieved that she finds she quite likes his wife, Tuft. The older woman’s wit and affability impress Finn and start to dash away the odd feelings she experienced, until a bloody murder changes everything, and Finn and Paddy make choices they soon regret.
Soon the couple find they’ve each kept back information the other should have had; and as their secrets become compounded, things spiral out of control.
Events of the past run together with the present in a stunning climax that stands everything on its head.

McPherson draws fine characters, down to Finn and Paddy’s families and the local neighbors. The dark and gloomy setting only adds to the gothic feel of the novel.
Mix in the plot that twists back on itself, and readers will have no choice but to stay up late to find the resolution. With a strong atmosphere, this rather creepy yet clever mystery is perfect for Rebecca fans, or those who loved Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries.