I love the latest slow burning psychological thriller by Caroline England. The Stranger Beside Me has everything I love in a suspense novel; character driven, thought provoking with deep, dark secrets. It is also full of twists. Yet nothing prepared me for the brilliant, almighty twist which really makes this captivating novel stand out.
The Stranger Beside Me is the story of an evolving friendship between two women who are vulnerable and emotionally damaged. Enamoured by Sibeal’s confidence and attitude of not caring what people think, Katy finds herself taking more control of her life as her friendship with Sibeal grows. Still grieving the tragic death of her mother five years ago and becoming a young, single mother, Katy has found the past few years a lonely struggle. Especially as she is plagued by anxiety with her body battling an illness that zaps her energy and leaves her bedridden at times.
Accompanying her father to the funeral of one of his old friends, Katy encounters Sibeal for the first time. It is the funeral of Sibeal’s father, who is now without any parents as her mother is also dead. Yet in contrast to Katy, Sibeal never felt loved by her mother. As well as recently burying her father, Sibeal cannot come to terms with the sudden death of her married lover who she was having an illicit affair with. She even stalks her dead lover’s wife and young son.
As Katy and Sibeal’s friendship develops, Katy begins to realise that Sibeal is not as confident as she seems. Rather she appears to have an unhealthy dependency on her older brother Gabriel, as well as on alcohol. As Sibeal’s stalking is revealed and her behaviour becomes more erratic, Katy realises that everything she holds dear is in danger, especially her own five-year old son.
Just like The Sinner, another of Caroline England’s suspense novel, The Stranger Beside Me fully absorbed me. Using powerful, emotional twists, it cleverly explores sociopathic, psychopathic and narcissistic behaviour and the exploitation of vulnerability to control. The dark secrets kept on coming in this novel, pulling me in, emotionally impacting me and really making me think. Long after I finished reading the book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Another aspect of Caroline England that I truly admire is her skill of tying up all the plot threads brilliantly. No aspect of the plot is left unexplained. The Stranger Beside Me is a clear example of this, and I feel this adds to the sinister power of this emotional novel.
The Stranger Beside Me was released on 3 August 2023, so is available to read now. If you are a fan of domestic noir with thought-provoking twisty plots, then I encourage you to grab a copy now.
Thank you Caroline England for inviting me to the blog tour of this intriguing novel. I loved it and the characters you developed.
To follow the blog tour and read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers, please see below.