I took a break from my normal fantasy churn and picked up The Stranger Times by C.K. McDonnell. It came highly recommended by a friend, and it’s the only reason this quirky tale would have crossed my path. The book is a charming paranormal mystery filled with humor and wackiness and it was delightful from beginning to end.
Hannah is getting divorced and has decided to leave her pampered life behind. She’s acquired some temporary housing but is in need of a job. With little experience and desperation mounting, Hannah applies for a position at a local publication called The Stranger Times. The newspaper reports on everything from UFOs to ghosts and is in need of an assistant editor. When Hannah arrives at the interview it becomes immediately clear that every person in the role has fled screaming into the night. Not because of any paranormal happenings, but because the paper’s editor Vincent Banecroft is an absolute bastard. Hannah is quickly swept up into the publication’s strangeness and joins the staff as a terrifying mystery starts to unfold in Manchester.
I was not prepared for how enjoyable The Stranger Times was. I typically like to read things on the sad side, so it’s rare that I pick up a story just for laughs. While this book has mystery and horror elements, much of it is punctuated by levity that brought on genuine laughter. Sprinkle in some paranormal activity and you’ve got my full attention. It’s a great story that doesn’t require a lot of investment, but you still feel fulfilled by having read something well-written and worthwhile.
Hannah is not the strongest lead, but her demure nature serves her role as narrator well. It gives the reader space to step into Hannah’s shoes and experience the strangeness firsthand while allowing the wacky characters to carry the story. The events flow through Hannah, and her one role is to be a witness and at times, circus wrangler.
While I am not the biggest fan of adaptations, the characters in this story make me wish they were taken off the page and brought to life. They are a lot of fun and I cannot pick a favorite because they each bring unexpected flavor and pure enjoyment to each situation. We don’t spend a lot of time exploring anyone too deeply because it’s not that type of story. McDonnell sets the scene and lets the characters run wild and it’s much more fun that way. I want you to meet the paper’s staff and discover who they are for yourself so I won’t go into details here. But no matter what combination of characters is brought together, chaos is guaranteed to erupt and it’s a great time.
The Stranger Times is an entertaining read and a great way to disrupt your reading slump or break up your current book series binge. I can’t think of any reason why a person wouldn’t enjoy this tale so give it a go and try to keep up with the staff and their batty leads.
Rating: The Stranger Times – 8.5/10