The Secrets Of Strangers by Charity Norman
Published : 7th May 2020
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
Format : Kindle, Paperback, Audio
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
When a gunshot rings out during morning rush hour at a busy London cafe, the lives of a group of strangers will never be the same again.
But there is more to the situation than meets the eye. And as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur.
Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?
When I first saw the email offering this one to be reviewed I was a little unsure but once I had read the synopsis I thought it sounded catchy enough so put my name in for a copy.
I still didn't think much more then it looks like a bit of a catchy read until I actually started and then woah did this book grip me entirely.
The story is told over various narratives throughout. Mainly they were Abi, the tough young criminal lawyer, Mutsei the grandmother, Neil the homeless man, Eliza the negotiator and Sam, the guy holding them hostage with the gun.
Over the first couple of chapters you follow the characters making their way to the café, either on their way to work grabbing a coffee or stopping for breakfast, then there is shouting, an angry young man is screaming at Robert, the cafe owner before storming out, only to re emerge with a shotgun in his hands which he uses on Robert twice, sending him flying back against the fridge.
Everyone cowers and panics and the man, Sam tells them all to get down whilst he barracades the doors and lowers the blinds. They are going no where and are locked in a room with a man who is pacing like a caged lion.
As the story progresses you slowly gather a picture to what has led Sam to the cafe and why he is there, at first I felt nothing for him, he was a man with a gun holding up innocent people but as the story unfolds you read his story from childhood and understand exactly what has led him to that point and I have to say my heart done a complete 360 and I felt myself feeling sorry for him and the life he has had because of Robert the cafe owner, his step father.
Many of the customers are allowed to leave apart from the three I mentioned above, for the most part they attempt taking him down and planning how to escape but then at some point they start to listen to the story Sam is gradually telling to Ericka the negotiator and soon realise that he doesn't actually want to hurt anyone, he is just caught up in an impossible position of his own doing.
Whilst all this is happening you also read about the lives of Abi, Mutesi and Neil and I found myself eagerly wanting to know more about their lives leading up to this day.
The last couple of chapters I had such a lump in my throat knowing I was coming to the end of this heartbreaking story, how the author explains everything that has happened to Sam from the age of eight up until this point is in such an emotional way that you really connect with him and what he went through and wish he had led a different life.
Mutesi is a mystery, she is a grandmother who is fearless and takes control trying to keep everyone calm, because she has seen and experienced far worse back in her own country and it is not until the very last couple of chapters does she tell her story. This I found the most harrowing to read, what happened to the people in her country and what she lived through is described in such gripping detail that you are literally tense with every word that is on the page in front of you.
Why I Loved It
I love how the story came to an end, I was hoping and expected a different ending but emotionally by that point I could see there was only one way it was going to go.
This was a tightly woven tense, emotional, extremely gripping read that I have had to put down and spill my thoughts out straight away with as it has left such a lasting impression.
Most definitely one for your TBR
Meet the author
Charity Norman was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years' travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law in the northeast of England.
Also a mediator and telephone crisis line listener, she's passionate about the power of communication to slice through the knots. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. Her first novel,Freeing Grace, was published in 2010.After the Fallwas a Richard and Judy Book Club choice and World Book Night title.See You in September, her last book, was shortlisted for Best Crime Novel in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Crime Fiction.The Secrets of Strangersis her sixth book.
Connect with Charity
Books by this author
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