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Harbinder Kaur Books In Order

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Publication Order of Harbinder Kaur Books

The Stranger Diaries (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Postscript Murders (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon
Bleeding Heart Yard (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Last Word (2024)Description / Buy at Amazon

Detective Harbinder Kaur is the main character in a series of mystery/gothic novels by Elly Griffins. The Stranger Diaries is the first book in Harbinder Kaur Series by Elly Griffiths, written by British crime author Domenica de Rosa under the pseudonym Elly Griffiths. The novel was first published in the UK in 2018 by Quercus Publishing and republished in 2019 by Houghton Mifflin. It is narrated through multiple viewpoints of Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur, an English teacher Clare Cassidy and her daughter Georgia, popularly known as Georgie.

Elly Griffiths utilizes a story within a story stylistic device by adding a short story dubbed “The Stranger” authored by a fictional writer R.M. Holland, a long-deceased writer that Clare is researching.

The Stranger Diaries was a recipient of the Edgar Awards for Best Novel in 2020. Griffiths decided on an ordinary school as a setting for her novel because she thought it was a perfect setting that could bridge the everyday. Additionally, the author drew upon her twin kids when crafting the character of Clare’s daughter, Georgie, as well as her experiences of diary writing, something she’s practiced since the age of 11. Griffith also stated that The Stranger Diaries was initially supposed to be a standalone novel, but in 2020, she published a second novel in what came to be known as Harbinder Kaur Series.

Seattle Times and The Guardian reviewed The Stranger Diaries, both praising the book’s characters and the Seattle Times comparing the book to Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

The protagonist of the book is Clare Cassidy, a single parent whose life is shattered when her coworker and best friend, Ella, is killed with a knife by an unknown killer. The fact that Ella’s murder appears to mimic elements of “The Stranger,” a popular ghost story penned by Victorian writer R. M. Holland, who previously lived in the same house where she now teaches, creeps her out.

DS Harbinder Kaur, together with her partner Neil Winston is requested to help with solving the murder crime. Harbinder is a bad cop to his nice cop, and she enjoys confrontation. Such aggressive tendencies could be a reflection of an inherent need to continually prove her worth to others. After all, it’s understandable, as she is a minority on all three counts. First, she is a female, gay and Indian, and she lives in the same home as her traditional parents.

Clare’s 15-year-old daughter, Georgie, wraps up the story’s main characters. She has secrets, but her connection with Ty, who is 21 years old, is not one of them; despite their worries, both Clare and her ex-boyfriend accept the relationship for fear of the implications. Georgie has literary goals of her own, and she and a small number of her classmates have been studying the craft under the supervision of Bryony Hughes, popularly known as “white witch”, who apparently fell out with Ella.

These three first-person views alternate with brief snippets from “The Stranger” (which is presented in its full at the end of the book) as well as snippets from Clare’s journals as the story unfolds. It is a highly effective technique because it reveals the characters’ inner selves/vulnerabilities, which are commonly at odds with how they present themselves from the outside; it also enables events to be viewed from multiple perspectives, providing readers with information known to one character but withheld from other characters. As a result, the suspense increases as intimacy develops.

Such relationship dynamics and others that develop throughout the story help heighten the stakes. Clare and DS Kaur, for instance, form a fragile truce, with the scales tipping in favor of friends instead of rivals; however, this is challenged when the body count steadily increases, and suspicions fall too close to home. In addition, it is possible that this “relationship” is founded on subtle (mutual) manipulation. Indeed, the relationship between a suspect and a detective is anything but casual.

There is no shortage of suspects for Kaur to consider (beyond Clare herself). These include Rick Lewis, the chairman of the English department, known for romantically pursuing his female colleagues despite being married; Patrick, Georgie’s friend, who had a romantic interest in Ella and was moved out of her classroom; and Bryony Hughes, who is at least guilty of being different. Thus, there are several red herrings, some of which will appear more believable to readers than others. The result is not wholly unexpected, but those who are more interested in the journey than the end should be delighted.

Overall, the story is remarkably atmospheric, a feat that can be largely attributed to the author’s real-life inspiration; the school location is based on West Dean College, where she teaches creative writing (and an allegedly haunted attic stairway). The blending of classical and modern styles, shown by “The Stranger” and recurring references to The Tempest, is also fairly effective, but readers with a predisposition for one over the other may conclude that the tale as a whole does not exceed the sum of its parts.

The Stranger Diaries as a whole is a bold, imaginative, and utterly enticing work from a writer who is not hesitant to leave her comfort zone. Appropriately, the book is more than unnerving, as all good ghost stories should be.
Overall, The Stranger Diaries is, on different levels, a complex story, one that Elly Griffiths weaves together skillfully and effortlessly. Besides the gothic elements added to every page in this novel, the author also uses the multiple narration technique to help bring out distinct perspectives of the story’s seemingly unexplainable happenings. While Clare remains the central character in the story, as she narrates the majority of the novel’s chapters, the author also adds female narrators to help give the story depth and perspective.

When done properly, multiple narrators are incredibly effective, and Griffiths uses them to great advantage here. Clare, Georgia, and Harbinder each bring their own backgrounds, personality, and secrets to THE STRANGER DIARIES. Griffiths does an excellent job of writing each character in a manner that seems genuine to who they are; you will never lose sight of whose chapters they are reading, as Griffiths gives each lady her own unique voice and perspective. In the capable hands of Griffiths, these people become channels by which you begin to put together the main puzzle of the novel.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Harbinder Kaur

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