The Stranger Times by C.K. McDonnell

Published by Bantam Press – Random House UK

There are Dark Forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular) and so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them. A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but more often the weird) of modern life, it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable . . .

At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and
-mouthed husk of a man who thinks little (and believes less) of the publication he edits, while his staff are a ragtag group of wastrels and misfits, each with their own secrets to hide and axes to grind. And as for the assistant editor . . . well, that job is a revolving door – and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who’s got her own set of problems.

It’s when tragedy strikes in Hannah’s first week on the job that The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious, proper, actual investigative journalism. What they discover leads them to a shocking realisation: that some of the stories they’d previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly, gruesomely real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker foes than they could ever have imagined. It’s one thing reporting on the unexplained and paranormal but it’s quite another being dragged into the battle between the forces of Good and Evil . . .

I hate it when books are recommended as ‘for fans of Terry Pratchett’ because Pratchett means so many things to so many people that it’s impossible to know if it’ll meet your expectations. Plus it seems unfair to an author to make the comparison in the first place.

On this occasion, the comparison actually hit the mark for me – the wry sense of humour and larger than life characters were bang on.

Set in Manchester between the world as we know it and a the secret world of fae and supernaturals, this book follows the adventures of the staff of the Stranger Times newspaper, a paper that publishes the weird and wonderful stories that no self respecting paper would.

The authors writing style is refreshing and genuinely funny – blending a supernatural mystery with mundane reality in such a way that it’s impossible not to giggle. At the same time, the story has substance to it and the plot is rock solid, laying a strong foundation for what I’m hoping is set to become a series.

The characters are the crowning glory of this story – a mix of diverse personalities, the staff of Stranger Times are strongly written and have distinctive personalities. The found-family dynamic is heartwarming – they spend most of their time screaming at each other but when there are outside threats, they’re loyal to the end.

Another thing that struck me is that though the villain is creepy and villainous, the neutral characters were even more sinister and interesting in their motivations.

I’d love to read more of this series to see how the characters grow and their family develops, so here’s hoping the author has more lined up for us!

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