In Catriona McPherson’s new thriller, Strangers at the Gate, Finn and her husband Paddy Lamb have a helluva week.
Things start out promisingly enough for the couple, who are making multiple life changes all at once. Paddy’s got a new law-partner job, Finn’s going to be a deacon and they’re leaving the city to move into a gatehouse on a sprawling estate owned by Paddy’s employer. Life’s looking up, even though, to Finn, it seems almost too good to be true.
And then, things go horrifically awry: after a lovely dinner with their new benefactors (the fabulously named Lovatt and Tuft Dudgeon), the Lambs discover the Dudgeons’ very, very bloodied bodies—apparent victims of a murder-suicide. Finn and Paddy keep this gruesome discovery to themselves (they’ve got their own reasons for avoiding police scrutiny), and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . . for someone else to come upon and report the crime. In the meantime, they strive for nonchalance as they get to know their new colleagues and neighbors, including well-meaning church folk and the beautiful, enigmatic Shannon.
But as Finn struggles to acclimate to her new and creepy surroundings—such a dark and craggy landscape, so many looming trees—her paranoia grows. And it doesn’t really stop, as McPherson ramps up the tension with ever more creative revelations and twists that will have readers eager to see what on earth is coming next. It’s a fascinating study of what can happen when we suppress our instincts or aren’t sure who to trust, and a delightfully torturous day-by-day recounting of the aftermath of a life-changing lie: everyone seems suspicious, using the proper verb tense is suddenly crucial and eccentricity begins to feel a lot more sinister.
Fans of McPherson’s award-winning work (the Dandy Gilver and Lexy Campbell series, plus numerous standalone novels) will relish whipping right through Strangers at the Gate, guessing and gasping all the way.