Kirkus Reviews QR Code
STRANGERS AT THE GATE by Catriona McPherson


by Catriona McPherson

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-250-07001-2
Publisher: Minotaur

Sometimes, some things really are too good to be true.

It’s the fulfillment of a dream when Paddy Lamb is offered a full partnership at a law firm in the tidy little Scottish town of Simmerton and Finn, his wife of about a year, scores a full-time deaconship at Simmerton Parish Church. They also get to live rent-free in the two-room gate lodge on the grounds of Widdershins, a crumbling old pile in the middle of a very dark and slightly foreboding pine tree “planting” owned by Tuft Dudgeon and her husband, Lovatt, Paddy’s new law partner, who specializes in the adoption of special needs children, which is perfect, since Paddy is an adoptee himself. Finn gets a bad feeling when she first lays eyes on their new digs, but dinner with the utterly charming Dudgeons goes a long way toward dispelling her worries. Alas, the relief doesn’t last long. After realizing they’ve left important papers at the Dudgeons' place, Finn and Paddy return to Widdershins only to find their recent hosts dead on the kitchen floor in what appears to be a very bloody murder/suicide. Finn and Paddy harbor a few secrets that preclude calling the police, but surely someone else will find the bodies soon. Paddy and Finn start their new jobs and try to act normal, and Finn even makes friends with their eccentric neighbor Shannon Mack. But when Paddy receives a fax supposedly from Lovatt, sent after the deaths, announcing a sudden trip to Brazil, the possibility of a murder/suicide begins to seem unlikely. McPherson (Go to My Grave, 2018, etc.) is a master of atmosphere, delivering a few nifty twists while weaving a creepy slow burner of a mystery that takes full advantage of its isolated setting. Narrator Finn is a pragmatic but quirky delight who will turn most folks’ ideas of what a church deacon should be upside down, and readers will be enthralled as she unearths some shockingly dark deeds.

Another unsettling and cleverly plotted winner from the enormously talented McPherson.