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 received a copy of this book from the publisher for review and can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Hannah Willis leaves everything behind after finding out her husband has been cheating on her (and accidentally burning down their house), and moves to Manchester. Job hunting after not working for years doesn’t come easily, and in her desperation she takes a job at ‘The Stranger Times’ an out there newspaper that delves into the weird and wonderful… with an equally quirky staff. They are used to publicising tall tales and out there ideas, that is until someone close to the paper dies in a tragic accident and the staff don’t quite believe the story they’re told. Looking into the death will bring some things to light that the staff simply aren’t prepared for. Monsters exist and there is a whole world of creatures out there that have stayed hidden from the human world. And the worst bit, one has noticed their investigation and is determined to stop it, whatever the cost.
The big selling point of this book has to be the characters. There’s quite a large bunch of them from the staff of the Stranger Times, to the police investigating the case and the otherworldly evil guy. Every character is brilliantly brought to life, and given plenty of page time for you to get a proper insight into them and their motives/plans. Hannah is the main character. She has left the luxury of her London life and is now living in her friends spare room. She is determined to look on the bright side of life, she has a job (strange as it is) and likes most of her co-workers. She is adamant that she want’s to start afresh, she wants nothing from her husband and is ready to make her way on her own. Definitely a little overwhelmed when she first starts at ‘The Stranger Times’ especially since someone was trying to throw themselves off the roof at her interview, but she becomes bizarrely proud of their little newspaper and the staff become almost like family.
Banecroft the managing editor is a bit of a dick to be honest ( I’m putting that politely people). Intent on drinking himself to death, yet also determined to put out the best damn newspaper out there. He is brash and rude and could definitely do with a wash every now and again, but The Stranger Times wouldn’t be the same without him. We also have Ox and Reggie, the editorial Staff, Grace the receptionist and Stella who was caught breaking in and quickly roped into working for the paper. Whether they like it or not the staff are like family to each other, but they all have pasts, some that become more relevant as the story progresses. We also get chapters from Moretti our antagonist and supernatural being. He is determined for his plan to succeed, and is more than willing to ‘get rid of’ a few journalists if that’s what it takes.
I don’t think there could have been a more apt title for this book because it was definitely strange, but in all the best ways. The British and northern humour had me in hysterics in parts and I even had to show my dad some quotes so he could appreciate the northerness of it:
“When he’d finished pouring the drinks, Hannah’s polite request for a tray was met with, ‘We used to have one but somebody borrowed it for Princess Diana’s wedding and never brought it back.'”
Interspersed through were small Newspaper articles from the Stranger Times that ranges from a man in Masham, North Yorkshire asking for UFO’s to please visit his village, apparently the best time to visit would be the sheep festival in September, to a plumber in South Shields who has been taken over by the ghost of David Bowie. Unfortunately Jonathan is more of a techno fan and has no time to be belting out Bowie songs. I loved the fact that it was set in Manchester, it’s such a rarity for British books to be set in the North of England but, being a northerner myself, made it that much more special, and humorous.
This book is your usual battle between good and evil, only good has no idea that evil exists. For the majority of the book we are dealing with a bunch of people who have no idea that there are supernatural beings living alongside them, which when you think what they do for a living is kind of ironic. When things start coming together though, there job makes them almost uniquely sorted to accepting the weird and wonderful and investigating the suspicious deaths. It was quite funny seeing them all come to the realisation that some of what they print is true, but they’re a resilient bunch and went from freaked the fuck out to investigative journalists in a matter of seconds.
I’m so happy that this is the start of a series, and after the cliffhanger ending I need book two asap. I can’t wait to carry on with the series and see what will happen to the staff of The Stranger Times now that they know about the magical world hidden within their own. An easy 4.5 stars and I have no doubt this will be making my favourite books of the year.