The Stranger Times 3 book series, a review by Joanna

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The Stranger Times, published January 2021
This Charming Man, published February 2022
Love Will Tear Us Apart, published February 9, 2023
C.K. McDonnell
Random House UK
Each 320 pages.
The Stranger Times a satirical urban fantasy series about the employees of a little known Manchester newspaper, which specialises in reporting on the occult, the bizarre, and the unbelievable. This author has been on my radar to try for a while, so when I saw that the first two were back on NetGalley, ahead of the release of the third in February, took a gamble and requested them all. These are quick easy reads and I enjoyed the characters and the comedy aspects. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and offer a refreshing take on the genre, featuring wickedly humorous stories about the monsters that hide in plain sight, and the oddball team trying to investigate them. It’s actually quite hard to explain what these books are about without spoilers, as there’s a lot going on and the world McDonnell has created is being slowly revealed one layer at a time. Nothing is as it seems and we’re never quite sure who to trust…
The Stranger Times
Hannah Willis is desperate for a job after walking away from her philandering husband after years as a trophy wife, so desperate that when she meets the motley crew operating out of a deconsecrated church in a run down part of Manchester, led by the acerbic and abusive editor Vincent Banecroft, she takes the job in spite of the interview ending with a house fire and a shooting. The team are used to reporting on stories like haunted toilets and UFO sightings, but when people start dying in suspicious circumstances, they will discover that sometimes the monsters are real…
This Charming Man 
A few months after her eventful first weeks at The Stranger Times, and now divorcing her cheating husband, assistant editor Hannah arrives back at work after a break to discover that a vampire has apparently committed suicide – but sources from within The Folk – as the magical community are known – keep insisting they don’t exist. Her slovenly unscrupulous editor, Vincent Banecroft, is determined to get the story, and when more vampires start appearing, our unlikely heroes must risk their lives to learn the truth – even if no one will believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

Love Will Tear Us Apart

A few months after the events of This Charming Man, the staff are reeling from the sudden departure of amiable Assistant Editor Hannah – who has apparently decided to forgive her cheating husband, and unconvinced by her replacement, bossy Jelly Baby-proffering jolly-hockeysticks Betty. Meanwhile Vincent is behaving oddly – even for him, as his obsession with finding his deceased wife consumes him, and Stella just wants to get on with the job – which means tackling her first Loon Day!
I sometimes struggle to find comedy fiction that is actually funny, but this hit the spot for me – it is very English – despite the author being Irish! Banecroft is very similar to Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb from the Slough House series, with his repulsive habits and withering put-downs, but the other central characters felt more original. There are some brilliant female characters and I enjoyed the evolving dynamics between the different team members, and  the banter between them, with lots of zingy insults and snort-worthy oneliners. While each is a complete story, you do need to read these in order, as there is little recap, much referencing of previous events and arcs that started in the previous books continue to be developed. I’ve read all three within three weeks, and think I would’ve struggled to recall who everyone was if they were much further apart. There’s clearly a lot more to come for our intrepid team, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK for the ARCs.

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