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68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INTRICATELY PLOTTED, COMPELLING NOVEL...
This is a marvelous and beautifully realized work of fiction. As someone who enjoys mysteries, as well as historical fiction and gothic novels of suspense, I was quite taken with this book. Intricately plotted, the book is clever in its premise. Two disparate human beings, a highly independent, red-headed slip of a woman, Samantha Flood, Australian by birth, and a...
Published on 20 Oct. 2005 by Lawyeraau

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile read but a big long
This is set in a small village in Cumbria. A village where little has changed in centuries and the old families still exist (the Church, the big house, the pub, the smithy and the sexton are still in the same families).

By an unlikely coincidence two people meet here. A Spaniard from the Sherry trade who is half English and is a former trainee priest who has...
Published 13 months ago by Bob from Beds


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68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INTRICATELY PLOTTED, COMPELLING NOVEL..., 20 Oct. 2005
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Stranger House (Hardcover)
This is a marvelous and beautifully realized work of fiction. As someone who enjoys mysteries, as well as historical fiction and gothic novels of suspense, I was quite taken with this book. Intricately plotted, the book is clever in its premise. Two disparate human beings, a highly independent, red-headed slip of a woman, Samantha Flood, Australian by birth, and a serious, fervently religious Spaniard, Miguel Madero, who is half-English, find themselves thrust together, as each explores the tiny, remote Cumbrian village of Illthwaite in England, looking for answers to their individual quests. Both are in Illthwaite to get information relative to that which each is seeking. Both are staying in the local inn, called The Stranger House.
This book has well-drawn characters that come alive under the author's expert hand. The plot is unusual, as well as complex, containing many layers that the discerning reader will enjoy exploring. Well-written, as well as intricately plotted, this book crosses a number of genres. With its supernatural portents, historical underpinnings, underlying mystery, as well as its gothic type suspense and sensibilities, infused with just a dollop of romance, this book will appeal to those readers who favor these genres. In particular, I found the parts of the book that transcended into historical fiction to be the most compelling. This is not a book for everyone, but to those for whom its themes have inherent appeal, it is a book to be relished.
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85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Stranger House, Reginald Hill, 20 Jun. 2005
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Stranger House (Hardcover)
Two strangers come to the isolated village of Illthwaite, two strangers with history to explore and secrets to overturn. Sam Flood, a young Australian destined for Cambridge, is searching for information about her grandmother, deported from the village as a child four decades ago. Miguel - Mig - Madero, who became a historian after his flight from a Spanish seminary, has come in search of an ancestor last seen setting sail with the Armada in 1588.

The two first cross-paths staying at The Stranger House, the eerie village Inn that's as hostile as it is hospitable, full of people who conceal as much as they reveal. They do not, at first, hit it off. And here we have our first display of one of the novel's underlying aspects: the conflict between logic, reason (Sam is a mathematician) and spirituality. As the two characters look to seek out and overturn histories long buried, the novel floods with the mystical and mythical, the seemingly inexplicable happenstances of the past, made even worse by the dissonance between what people say occurred and why and the reality. It's only when the two warm to one another that things, for both of them, start to unravel and make sense. Understanding the past, Hill hints, requires an open viewpoint, a mix of filters.
Both strangers in a strange land, their senses of isolation, of being an outsider, are at times extreme. Especially when people are not being straight with them. Outright denial of a person's existence is negated when Sam unearths a gravestone in the local church, complete with the person's engraved name. It's first in a long line of uncovered deceptions. The people of Illthwaite, it is clear, do not want to be open. And those who do wish to be open are suspicious at best. The atmosphere of isolation breeds a hysteric one of danger, of fear.
It's also a book about the nature of community, of belonging. Dark Illthwaite, isolated itself at the base of a valley, sun hidden by undulating hills, clubs together in the face of interrogation, is complicit in silence, and yet must maintain an unnerving façade of friendliness. Appearances, clearly, count for a lot.
The most obvious triumph of this novel? The two protagonists. Frankly, Hill's craft in drawing them is beyond praise. They're vivid, real, human, funny, passionate, and ridiculously engaging. It's a long book, but you're glad that it is, if just to spend it in the company of these vibrant, breathing characters. Hill's flare here is undiminished. The least obvious triumph? The fact that there's nary a crime in sight. This, when the final page is turned, is merely a novel where the characters discover their ancestors, and their own history, their own context, by scrubbing slowly away at the soil of untruths. No murders, no viciously spilled blood. And I only realised that when I'd actually finished the thing. "Wait a second..." my brain went. Hill, it's easy to forget, has been in this game for years, and there's a reason why he's one of the most accomplished crime writers in the world. There's no real crime here, and yet Hill's overflowing talent means there's as much suspense, as much mystery, as much tension and need-to-know-what's-going-on desperation on the part of the reader as there is would be in the first five books of a less experienced practitioner.
There's something that perhaps shouldn't work about this book: the fact that it's full of so very much. One the one hand, it's incredibly clever and learned (Hill displays not just knowledge but understanding of everything from Mathematics to Norse myth) at the same time as being incredibly light and jocular; it's dark and oppressive at the same time as being funny and bawdy; it's so full of characters that brim with neon life; it's so full of history, yet is so grippingly immediate. It's full of stuff, and full of contrasts, and it works at every single level it aims at.
A serious book, it's also hugely enjoyable. This, I think, can be said of all his work, and that is something to be proud of. He's a special writer indeed; there's certainly no one writing books quite like his. A novel wreathed in mystery and myth, soaked with secrets and history, The Stranger House is one of the most unique and remarkable books of the year. Hill deserves several cheers for this.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Ripping Yarn, 31 July 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Stranger House (Hardcover)
I have been a fan of Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe books for some time, and have recently read several of his earlier works, some written while he was honing his craft.
Some of the earlier ones are patchy, but he has got better and better, and The Stranger House is brilliant
The Australian protagonist is perhaps a bit strong, but he has captured the essence of a type of feisty, no-nonsense character that does exist in that country, and she is funny, vulnerable and likeable. He draws on a real historical episode, which has caused enormous distress since it first came to light, and he shows great compassion.
The Spanish Catholic character is also seeking answers about a time of religious fanaticism and the cruelty it engendered, and also has a humanity that easily wins the reader's sympathy.
It is very much a book one reads to find out what happens next, while Hill does not put a foot wrong in his evocation of place and how the morality that exists at different times in history shapes the actions and reactions of people.
Five hundred years ago physical torture was state-sanctioned; as recently as the mid-twentieth century mental torture and sometimes physical abuse was still being inflicted on the helpless in the belief that it was in their best interest
Hill does not preach, but the lessons in the book are powerful and thuoght-provoking.
Above all, it is a ripping yarn, brilliantly told. I loved it.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our Dickens?, 6 Oct. 2005
By 
Casey B. Rucker (Dryfork, WV, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Stranger House (Hardcover)
I loved The Stranger House. It has a large cast of interesting characters, a relentless plot, and a basis in the author's social outrage at his contemporaries' misconduct toward one another. Sounds like Dickens, doesn't it? And Mr. Hill has improved on (or at least modernized) Dickens by grounding an extremely elaborate plot, spanning many centures, squarely in human pyschology. In The Stranger House my credulity was not strained, as so often in Dickens, by coincidences and dei ex machina. And Mr. Hill's moral take on his characters reveals far more shades of gray than Dickens's more polarized characterizations.
I've been a fan of the Dalziel & Pascoes series for many years, and have long considered Mr. Hill the best crime writer in English today. (It denigrates his novels even to characterize them by genre.) But in The Stranger House, Mr. Hill has assumed the daunting mantle of Dickensian moral fiction, and achieved a triumph.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Restored my faith in Mr. Hill, 11 April 2011
By 
John Nevill "jnev52" (Liverpool UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Stranger House (Paperback)
After suffering the unmitigated disaster of "Arms and the Women" I was uncertain whether to spend time and money reading any more by Reginald Hill. However, I'm glad I did, as this is a very good read. It's difficult to put it into any particular category, as it's not a detective story in the "Dalziel & Pascoe" mode. It's just a mystery novel,with just enough hints of the supernatural to make it a bit spooky, although the ancestral link between the main character, Miguel, and his 16th century predecessor doesn't take much guessing from the outset.

I tend to agree with some other reviewers who have criticised the characterisation of some of the characters in the plot; in particular it's difficult to imagine how someone as blatently and unnecessarily rude as the Australian girl Sam would be given the time of day by anyone, particularly in an insular Cumbrian community. Anyhow, that aside, it's still a good yarn and well worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Subjects aplenty to in this multi-layered tale, 31 Aug. 2014
By 
C. Bannister (Jersey, CI) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Reginald Hill departs from his normal genre of detective fiction in The Stranger House, instead we have one mystery that spans decades to the forced migration of children to Australia and another that goes back centuries to the time of the reformation.

Sam Flood, Australian and former priest, Miguel Madro who is half-Spanish meet at The Stranger House in Illthwaite, Cumbria. With the two strangers thrown together to uncover what happened to their ancestors they soon find that the villagers will close up as tight as a clam to protect the past from them because while they appear to help in finding out why Sam’s grandmother was shipped off to Australia they are actually working frantically to conceal the past from her.

Reginald Hill moves the subjects covered seamlessly from mathematics which is Sam Flood’s speciality to Nordic myths from the supernatural to historical records, this book has so many layers that as a reader even in the slower middle section there is much to ponder and wonder about. The villagers if not the stars of the show are certainly deserve the best supporting cast moniker, with the mix of fantastically ugly identical twins, the half-truths told and the mysterious contests held to liven up the days such as the gurning competition.

A book so dense in detail and one that covers the present, past and recent past it all sounds a bit heavy, and in the hands of a less accomplished writer could easily be a turgid read, but we are lucky that Reginald Hill is a master of adding a light touch with a touch of humour to ease the complexity at just the right moments. I struggle reading about the supernatural, often this will make me put the book aside in disbelief and annoyance however once again Hill judges his readers capacity for reality and within the claustrophobic setting of the small village where secrets are kept to hide other secrets this aspect complemented rather than overwhelmed the plot. This isn’t a story of good and bad, or to use the disparate protagonist’s characteristics one of logic and spiritual, instead expect a mixture of shades of grey with multifarious conclusions to be taken.

So with fantastic characters, a plot that you feel has been carefully paced to get the maximum reaction The Stranger House is a perfect standalone novel from this wonderful author.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile read but a big long, 7 April 2014
By 
This review is from: The Stranger House (Paperback)
This is set in a small village in Cumbria. A village where little has changed in centuries and the old families still exist (the Church, the big house, the pub, the smithy and the sexton are still in the same families).

By an unlikely coincidence two people meet here. A Spaniard from the Sherry trade who is half English and is a former trainee priest who has opted out. The other is also 20ish, a feisty Australian woman (a bit of a stereotype) who us to shortly start post graduate maths studies at Cambridge.

He is here to research Catholic families in the 1500s , she is trying to trace the roots of her grandmother forcibly sent as a child to Australia in the 1960s. They take a dislike to each other but things change.

The action does not move far (although it does in time) and revelations gradually come about, often coming from more than one source to make any so-called facts more ambiguous.

By the end of the book there have been further tragedies and know a bit more about what happened centuries ago. The two turn out to be closer than expected in several ways.

The book is over 600 pages long and a bit of editing might not have come amiss. Nevertheless a fairly good read.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 29 May 2006
This review is from: The Stranger House (Paperback)
This is the story of two completely contrasting characters whose pasts both lead them to a small English village in search of information, but the local villagers are reluctant to have the past brought back up. I'm not going to mention much more about the plot, as I do not want to ruin the storyline.

This was the first book I had read from Hill, and I must say I was immensely impressed.

The novels good points are numerous: there is the amazing descriptive prose that Hill uses which really brings everything to life, there is also the awesome characterisation of the all the people in the book, and I still haven't mentioned the fantastic plot, which interweaves throughout the book, slowly revealing all in an excellent finale. The book, although long, remains interesting throughout.

At the moment I can think of no bad points - this is how much I enjoyed this book.

I highly recommend this book, it is one of the best I have read this year and is well deserving of 5 stars.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reginald Hill - The Stranger House, 12 April 2006
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Stranger House (Paperback)
Two strangers come to the isolated village of Illthwaite, two strangers with history to explore and secrets to overturn. Sam Flood, a young Australian destined for Cambridge, is searching for information about her grandmother, deported from the village as a child four decades ago. Miguel - Mig - Madero, who became a historian after his flight from a Spanish seminary, has come in search of an ancestor last seen setting sail with the Armada in 1588.

The two first cross paths staying at The Stranger House, the eerie village Inn that's as hostile as it is hospitable, full of people who conceal as much as they reveal. They do not, at first, hit it off. And here we have our first display of one of the novel's underlying aspects: the conflict between logic, reason (Sam is a mathematician) and spirituality. As the two characters look to seek out and overturn histories long buried, the novel floods with the mystical and mythical, the seemingly inexplicable happenstances of the past, made even worse by the dissonance between what people say occurred and why and the reality. It's only when the two warm to one another that things, for both of them, start to unravel and make sense. Understanding the past, Hill demonstrates, requires an open viewpoint, a mix of filters.

Both strangers in a strange land, their senses of isolation, of being an outsider, are at times extreme. Especially when people are not being straight with them. Outright denial of a person's existence is negated when Sam unearths a gravestone in the local church, complete with the person's engraved name. It's first in a long line of uncovered deceptions. The people of Illthwaite, it is clear, do not want to be open. And those who do wish to be open are suspicious at best. The atmosphere of isolation breeds a hysteric one of danger, of fear.

It's also a book about the nature of community, of belonging. Dark Illthwaite, isolated itself at the base of a valley, sun hidden by undulating hills, clubs together in the face of interrogation, is complicit in silence, and yet must maintain an unnerving façade of friendliness. Appearances, clearly, count for a lot.

The most obvious triumph of this novel? The two protagonists. Frankly, Hill's craft in drawing them is beyond praise. They're vivid, real, human, funny, passionate, and ridiculously engaging. It's a long book, but you're glad that it is, if just to spend it in the company of these vibrant, breathing characters. Hill's flare here is undiminished. The least obvious triumph? The fact that there's hardly a murder in sight. This, when the final page is turned, is merely a novel where the characters discover their ancestors, and their own history, their own context, by scrubbing slowly away at the soil of untruths. Crimes, yet, but no murders, no viciously spilled blood. And I only realised that when I'd actually finished the thing. "Wait a second..." my brain went. Hill, it's easy to forget, has been in this game for years, and there's a reason why he's one of the most accomplished crime writers in the world. There's no overt crime investigated, and yet Hill's overflowing talent means there's as much suspense, as much mystery, as much tension and need-to-know-what's-going-on desperation on the part of the reader as there is would be in the first five books of a less experienced practitioner.

There's something that perhaps shouldn't work about this book: the fact that it's full of so very much. One the one hand, it's incredibly clever and learned (Hill displays not just knowledge but understanding of everything from Mathematics to Nordic myth) at the same time as being incredibly light and jocular; it's dark and oppressive at the same time as being funny and bawdy; it's so full of characters that brim with neon life; it's so full of history, yet is so grippingly immediate. It's full of stuff, and full of contrasts, and it works at every single level it aims at.

A serious book, it's also hugely enjoyable. This, I think, can be said of all his work, and that is something to be proud of. He's a special writer indeed; there's certainly no one writing books quite like his. A novel wreathed in mystery and myth, soaked with secrets and history, The Stranger House is one of the most unique books of the year. Hill deserves several cheers for this.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A stranger Tale, 19 Oct. 2013
By 
K. Sewell (Cardiff, Wales) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Stranger House (Paperback)
My first and only other book by Reginald Hill was The Woodcutter, a novel which I found totally flawless in every way. Couldn't wait to get my hands on another one of his, and went for the stand-alone The Stranger House.
I found it well written, but the plot just laughably implausible(of course, comparing it critically to The Woodcutter). Even so, it's a good yarn, and I liked the characters. I think the writer could have stuck with one or the other plot-line, producing two novels of totally different genres. The two merging together just took the story, for this particular reader, way over the edge of credibility. As a fantasy, it worked fine, and my respect for the author is largely unaffected.
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