Hannah recently separated from her rich husband and is on the hunt for a job. She has no qualifications, no experience and no hope. That is until she walks into an interview at The Stranger Times, a newspaper that reports on odd phenomenon across the UK. Desperate, she takes up the role and enters a world of weird.
Thanks to Tom Hill at Bantam/Transworld for sending me this advanced review copy! I have to say, I am definitely "judges a book by its cover" person and this cover showed me immediately I was in for a treat! This publishes 14th January 2021!
Straight away, this was weird. I say "weird" but what I mean is, intriguing. The world we enter with Hannah is already established and so slipping into it is a little difficult but McDonnell explains what we need to know as we think "what is that about?" but doesn't bombard us with so much to overwhelm us. I really enjoyed this approach because it connects the reader to our main character, Hannah, discovering this oddity of a place along with her. She was as curious as I was and seeing her come out of her shell a bit more throughout the novel was something to celebrate, she became a strong-willed and argumentative woman which is a stark contrast to how we first see her. I love this kind of development, alongside the main story it's always comforting to see those we are rooting for become their true selves.
Urban fantasy is sometimes a little tedious as it is usually aimed at YA (young adult) audiences, however, this is perfect antidote for adults looking for a more developed version of fantasy. It dealt with adult themes without scuttling around the outskirts of it's implications, the story immediately dives into some quiet serious triggers (suicide, murder, violence, alcohol abuse to name a few) and manages to address them without casting a shadow on them, showing them in their full light.
Alongside Hannah we find a cast of characters that are all wonderful, in an odd way. Banecroft, an abrasive and troubled editor, adds comic relief to the seriousness of nearly all situations, his assistant, Grace, was to perfect contrast to him bringing an air of composed maternal care. 'The Stranger Times' on a whole was, for me at least, all about the connection between the colleagues at the press and McDonnell puts together the seemingly uninteresting characters and moulds them into an outstanding collection of heroes, refining their finer points until you want nothing other than more background on them all.
Luckily for us, this ended as a set up for hopefully another book! Here's hoping! This was easily one of my favourite books of the year, it was easy and fun to read but serious and touching at the same time, I really do hope there is a sequel.