STRANGERS AT THE GATE - Catriona McPherson
A Perfect 10
Minotaur Books
ISBN: 978-1-250-0700-2
October 2019
Contemporary Mystery

Simmerton, Scotland

Life just got magically better for Paddy Lamb and Finnie Doyle. Wed just a year, Paddy comes home one day bristling with news. He's been accepted as a partner in a small law firm in the tiny town of Simmerton, and he's managed to get Finnie a position as a church deacon in the same place. At first, Finnie (who is telling this story) is thrilled, although she has questions about a few things. Still, it's a fantastic opportunity and they pack up their Edinburgh apartment and head to Simmerton.

The couple has been given the gatehouse of a small estate for free, and, despite its minute size, Finnie and Paddy start to settle in. On their first day, an older woman appears at their door. She is Paddy's new boss' wife, Tuft Dudgeon, and she invites them for dinner at the main house that evening. Her husband, Lovatt, has papers for Paddy to sign. On their walk up the road to the house, Finnie sees a ghostly image in the dark woods, but Paddy tells her it's a deer. Finnie was sure she saw a light near the figure but shrugs it off. The evening is interesting, even if the older couple seem a little odd. But Finnie warms up to Tuft and hopes they can be friends as she and Paddy settle into village life. Their walk home is uneventful until Finnie remembers that she left her handbag, along with Paddy's paperwork, in the kitchen of the main house. They return, find the front door open and her bag in the hallway. Curious as to how quiet it is when they just left Tuft and Lovatt, they walk into the kitchen and find a horrible site. 

Life gets very complicated after Finnie and Paddy make a difficult decision. And when the papers Paddy signed are missing from Finnie's bag, and yet are faxed to Paddy's office late that night, and other odd, unexplained issues crop up, Finnie and Paddy realize that there is more going on in Simmerton than they are aware of. Not only that, but the secrets each has kept from one another soon come to the surface.

To explain more would be to give away too many details of this fascinating, and engrossing story. I received the book yesterday and finished it at midnight! Let that sink in. Readers will not be able to put this book down until they find the answers to all of the mysteries popping up throughout the tale. Excellent character development is only one part of this beautifully written novel. The ending is unpredictable and gobsmacking. If readers enjoy Ann Cleeves books, they'll jump on STRANGERS AT THE GATE. It's a Perfect 10 in my eyes.

Jani Brooks