I am pretty sure that I've got Paul Finch's first novel, Stalkers, lurking on the TBR pile of doom. I'm now sure that I'm going to dig it out and read it asap if it's anything as good as Strangers. This was a rip-roaring read.

Granted there were times I was a bit infuriated with PC Lucy Clayburn, and her seeming inability to just wait for help, but that aside, she was an interesting and well-rounded character. She is obviously an ambitious policewoman who is trying to overcome her failures at the start of the book. I'm guessing that it's this need to prove herself which means that she has a tendency to look into things herself rather than ask for help, but hopefully she'll grow out of this as a character.

There are many subplots going through the novel, rather than "just" the hunt for Jill the Ripper; and the murky worlds Lucy finds herself in are realistically portrayed - well they seem realistic enough to someone totally unaccustomed to that dark side. And it certainly was a dark side, with prostitution, the North's answer to the Mafia, and much more being explored in the search for the murderer. And in this case the murderer does tend to take a bit of a backseat throughout; we're given very little information about them, and 'see' them even fewer times, but the other characters more than make up for this.

They're as well-rounded and accessible as Lucy Clayburn, even those who we meet very few times are made to seem like we've had a full character profile given to us as a side-sheet. I would have liked a bit of a follow up on the lovely DC Des Barton - I'll admit to a little soft spot for him, he was just...well, lovely. And though we are treated at the end of the book to the beginning of Paul Finch's next novel, I did resist reading it for fear of spoiling it (or me!). I do hope though that I see much more of the characters in Strangers, such was my enjoyment of them.

But all of that aside, the real strength of this novel is indeed the plot. I was mentally kicking and hitting alongside Lucy at times. The chases will honestly leave you feeling like you've been running after the baddies yourself. There are the requisite twists and turns, and enough action to keep anyone engaged and enthralled. Strangers is a terrific read, reminiscent of some of the great crime thriller writers we're so lucky to have around now. What greater way to spend one of these increasingly darker autumn nights, than snuggled on the sofa reading Strangers - perfect!