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There are Dark Forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular) and so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them. A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but more often the weird) of modern life, it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable . . . At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspic There are Dark Forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular) and so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them. A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but more often the weird) of modern life, it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable . . . At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and -mouthed husk of a man who thinks little (and believes less) of the publication he edits, while his staff are a ragtag group of wastrels and misfits, each with their own secrets to hide and axes to grind. And as for the assistant editor . . . well, that job is a revolving door – and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who's got her own set of problems. It’s when tragedy strikes in Hannah’s first week on the job that The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious, proper, actual investigative journalism. What they discover leads them to a shocking realisation: that some of the stories they’d previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly, gruesomely real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker foes than they could ever have imagined. It’s one thing reporting on the unexplained and paranormal but it’s quite another being dragged into the battle between the forces of Good and Evil . . .


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There are Dark Forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular) and so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them. A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but more often the weird) of modern life, it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable . . . At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspic There are Dark Forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular) and so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them. A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but more often the weird) of modern life, it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable . . . At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and -mouthed husk of a man who thinks little (and believes less) of the publication he edits, while his staff are a ragtag group of wastrels and misfits, each with their own secrets to hide and axes to grind. And as for the assistant editor . . . well, that job is a revolving door – and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who's got her own set of problems. It’s when tragedy strikes in Hannah’s first week on the job that The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious, proper, actual investigative journalism. What they discover leads them to a shocking realisation: that some of the stories they’d previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly, gruesomely real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker foes than they could ever have imagined. It’s one thing reporting on the unexplained and paranormal but it’s quite another being dragged into the battle between the forces of Good and Evil . . .

30 review for The Stranger Times

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    So…..clearly I need more supervision. Once again, I blew right past a stack of long suffering TBR’s & went for a bright & shiny new ARC. In my defence, it is the latest from Caimh McDonnell (don’t be fooled by that “C. K.” business). Just a heads-up for fans: we’re not in Dublin anymore. Welcome to Manchester. And a whole new cast of colourful, odd, rude & entertaining characters. The prologue also signals a new genre. This is a mash-up of sci-fi, mystery, fantasy & mythology, served with a side So…..clearly I need more supervision. Once again, I blew right past a stack of long suffering TBR’s & went for a bright & shiny new ARC. In my defence, it is the latest from Caimh McDonnell (don’t be fooled by that “C. K.” business). Just a heads-up for fans: we’re not in Dublin anymore. Welcome to Manchester. And a whole new cast of colourful, odd, rude & entertaining characters. The prologue also signals a new genre. This is a mash-up of sci-fi, mystery, fantasy & mythology, served with a side of the author’s signature snark. When we meet MC Hannah Willis, she’s not having a bad day…she’s having a bad life. Recently divorced from her wealthy can’t-keep-it-zipped husband, she’s in desperate need of something she’s never had. A job. By a stroke of (good?) luck she ends up at the Stranger Times, which we will loosely refer to as a newspaper. There she meets Grace, Simon, Stella, Ox & Reggie. They fulfill the colourful, odd & entertaining part of the equation. The rude bit comes courtesy of managing editor Vincent Banecroft, a man intent on drinking himself into a coma. Right away, you know each of these people has a past that needs to be explored & we get hints as the plot progresses. But it’s not all giggles & insults. There’s a spooky, darker side to the whole story. In alternate chapters, we follow a strange man named Moretti (or, as I referred to him in my head, “creepy weasel guy”). He’s a man on a mission & if some unfortunate souls happen to get in the way….well, sometimes life is messy. So what we have is the basic battle of good vs. evil. Initially, readers are as clueless as Hannah as to what is actually going on in the world around us. Magic, mythology, scary critters & the stuff of nightmares….Manchester has it all. And it’s the Stranger Times’ job to keep us informed. They’re used to the usual harmless weirdos but clearly there is a new game in town. And not everyone from the newspaper will survive. This was an entertaining read with well defined characters. Hannah is a young woman just discovering that she has opinions. And a spine. Grace is the house mother who takes care of them all. And there’s definitely more to Banecroft, a man who pisses people off like it’s his job. The author dials down the silly & replaces it with a grittier edge than his previous books. During one scene in particular, I found myself waiting for someone to gaze into the distance & mutter “Winter is coming”. As book #1, time is spent establishing the cast & setting & some of the funniest lines are those describing Manchester itself. My only complaint about the ARC was the missing newspaper articles that I’m sure will be interspersed throughout finished copies. If you are new to this author, it’s the perfect place to start. Book #2 is due later next year & I look forward to catching up with some of Manchester’s more peculiar residents. Well, except that guy with the eyeball thing. Never mind. 3.5 * rounded up.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    The Fortean Times and the National Enquirer are real newspapers in the same way that Dr Pepper is a real doctor. But while The Stranger Times may appear to be another such questionably-sourced publication, the news it reports - on subjects like vampires, werewolves, etc. - are all true. Hannah Willis becomes the latest in a string of Assistant Editors of The Stranger Times who figures this out shortly after starting - just in time to cover a dark magician’s infernal goings-on in the Manchester u The Fortean Times and the National Enquirer are real newspapers in the same way that Dr Pepper is a real doctor. But while The Stranger Times may appear to be another such questionably-sourced publication, the news it reports - on subjects like vampires, werewolves, etc. - are all true. Hannah Willis becomes the latest in a string of Assistant Editors of The Stranger Times who figures this out shortly after starting - just in time to cover a dark magician’s infernal goings-on in the Manchester underworld that might make her the last hire of the paper… evarrr! CK McDonnell’s The Stranger Times, the first in a series of urban fantasy novels, is a decent beginning that, while not telling the most compelling or original of stories, introduces a beguiling cast of characters in a pleasing style that will mostly appeal to fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London books. The book gets off to a good start. McDonnell introduces his fair-sized cast skilfully while establishing the plot: a homeless person is murdered in grisly circumstances closely followed by a supporting character loosely connected to the paper. And then... things stagnate for quite a bit of time with characters slowly realising what we already know: that there’s a bad guy going around a-killing. The pacing never really recovers after that and the final act is an uninspired and neatly-forgettable Hollywood-esque conclusion. I guess “Mild Spoilers” for the rest of the review… The plot twists aren’t tense as there’s never any doubt of their resolution. Will the paper be shut down forever? Nope, because this is the first book in a series dependent on there being a paper. Will they stop the bad guy? Of course, because this is the first book in a series where our heroes will face more bad guys in more books. I wasn’t that gripped with much of anything that was happening because a lot of it was predictable - even when a minor character dies early on, I knew they were going to be resurrected because this is set in a world of magic so why not? And then in the epilogue, there they be. Yawn. McDonnell isn’t able to make the reader feel the emotions his characters are feeling because events either have little or no weight to them or you can guess what’s going to happen next so you’re never convinced that what he’s telling you is what it is. That’s also the weakness of magic itself in any story: write yourself into a corner? Magic will set you free! And so it goes here. He at least tries to quantify magic (poorly - “she’s a Type 8!”; it’s still vague, and sounds dumb) but it’s still used as a get out of jail free card with regards any scene and, rather than create an exciting finale, made for a tedious one instead. Still, the cast and their amusing office dynamics more than make up for a fast-moving, gripping story. Hannah is a fine protagonist/reader surrogate - flawed but likeable and “good” - while Vincent Banecroft, the irascible curmudgeonly editor-in-chief (think Spider-Man’s J. Jonah Jameson but Irish) stole the show with his bottomless fury energising every scene he was in. Dr Veronica Carter, the paper’s giggly lawyer (or is she…?), and the paper’s owner Mrs Harnforth, who was comparable to Ankh-Morpork’s ruler Lord Vetinari, were both memorable and enjoyable characters too. McDonnell also keeps us interested in these characters with surprise moments that reveal hidden depths like Banecroft’s vulnerability when it comes to his wife or mild-mannered Reggie’s vicious side when a pair of would-be muggers appear. McDonnell leans a bit too heavily on prefab elements/archetypes at times. He describes the villain Moretti as a “Danny DeVito lookalike” which is lazy descriptive writing (though it did give me a good idea of the character so it was effective to an extent). The werewolf hitman’s motivations were to save his sickly kid (cue eye-rolling) and all that rubbish about the Accords (rules for magic users) could’ve been taken from any urban fantasy story. There are some fun scenes though like Hannah sitting through her first Loon Day, when the paper allows members of the public into their church-based offices to try to sell them their insane stories, and Moretti’s Men in Black-esque visit to a magic shop. And the interstitials - excerpts of stories from The Stranger Times proper - were a cute addition. I would’ve liked to have seen more originality and a stronger core storyline but this first book of The Stranger Times succeeds in establishing the world and tone of the series, and, more importantly, its likeable cast of main characters. Easy to read, mildly entertaining, even funny at times - while not as good as Pratchett or Aaronovitch’s books, McDonnell’s novel is still worth checking out for fans of those authors.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    I got a sneak peak at a sampler for the first in a new series for this author, centred around a newspaper called The Stranger Times. From an article about a toilet in a pub that was possessed by the devil (hey, it could happen...): "The commode, having previously spent nineteen years at the property providing the expected normal services has recently branched out into issuing ominous predictions, lifestyle advice and shortbread recipes". Oh yeah. I'm in. I got a sneak peak at a sampler for the first in a new series for this author, centred around a newspaper called The Stranger Times. From an article about a toilet in a pub that was possessed by the devil (hey, it could happen...): "The commode, having previously spent nineteen years at the property providing the expected normal services has recently branched out into issuing ominous predictions, lifestyle advice and shortbread recipes". Oh yeah. I'm in.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Whispering Stories

    Book Reviewed on www.whisperingstories.com Hannah Willis has walked away from her London home and her marriage after hitting the point of no return with her husband’s numerous affairs, and the fact she burned down their house, by mistake. Penniless she finds herself in Manchester and in need of a job, rapidly. Any paying job will do and that is what she gets when she applies for a job reporting for The Stranger Times newspaper which covers the weird and wonderful goings-on in the world. From haunt Book Reviewed on www.whisperingstories.com Hannah Willis has walked away from her London home and her marriage after hitting the point of no return with her husband’s numerous affairs, and the fact she burned down their house, by mistake. Penniless she finds herself in Manchester and in need of a job, rapidly. Any paying job will do and that is what she gets when she applies for a job reporting for The Stranger Times newspaper which covers the weird and wonderful goings-on in the world. From haunted toilets to waxworks attacks. The staff is a mix of eclectic misfits and their boss is as eccentric as they come. She is also promoted to Assistant Editor on her first day. Whilst most people scoff at the paper and their reporting, strange, supernatural occurrences are currently happening in Manchester right under everyone’s noses and The Stranger Times is suddenly thrown into the mix, but the forces are dark and the staff has found themselves in grave danger. OMG, where to start with this review? The book is aptly named, not only because it is the title of the newspaper in the story but because it is completely and utterly strange. It is bizarre, weird, and oh so wonderful. The book is part mystery, fantasy, thriller, supernatural, and suspense. It has a bit of everything really. It feels like there are two plots woven within one another, one the daily life of the goings-on a The Stranger Times and the other a man on the run from powers outside of our realm that has enlisted the help of a man who is desperate to save his dying daughter and has agreed to be the man’s ‘Beast’. From the very first page, I was hooked. I adore the writing skills of Caimh McDonnell (C.K. McDonnell), the way he hooks you in, and the humour he creates whether that be the type to make you roll your eye or laugh out loud. It is littered with one-liners, comments, or quotes that made me snigger on more than one occasion. The member of The Stranger Times team are all so different, yet they work well together. They are realistic with all their flaws on show. They are comfortable with one another and caring in their own sarcastic way. But then this is set in Manchester and sarcasm is how we deal with life around here! Not having read this style of book before I took my time and savoured it. I simply adore the book and I do hope that there will be more to come from The Stranger Times, perhaps more stories to cover, especially with that ending too!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is the first in a new series, set around a newspaper which focuses on the paranormal , housed in an old church in Manchester. We meet the inhabitants of, “The Stranger Times,” through the eyes of Hannah Willis, who has walked away from an unhappy marriage with a wealthy man and now finds herself in the position of needing a job. This need is mirrored in the job description, “Publication seeks desperate human being with capability to form sentences, using the English language. No imbeciles, This is the first in a new series, set around a newspaper which focuses on the paranormal , housed in an old church in Manchester. We meet the inhabitants of, “The Stranger Times,” through the eyes of Hannah Willis, who has walked away from an unhappy marriage with a wealthy man and now finds herself in the position of needing a job. This need is mirrored in the job description, “Publication seeks desperate human being with capability to form sentences, using the English language. No imbeciles, optimists or Simons need apply…” Having had a previous, cringe-worthy interview, it seems life can get no worse, but, oddly, “The Stranger Times,” is where Hannah will find her new home. There is Grace, the kindly office manager, Reggie, the flamboyant feature writer, computer whizz, Ox, young runaway, Stella, Simon – who lurks outside (see job description) and the Jackson Lamb like, Vincent Banecroft – not to mention the actual printing press and the man who encourages it to perform its magic in the basement. I haven’t read anything by Caimh McDonnell before and, to be honest, found some of the dialogue a little stilted, which meant I took a while to get into it. However, by the middle, I was totally engrossed. For, while, “The Stranger Times,” has been seen as a publication full of odd stories and run by some crazy characters, there may be more fact than fiction in the bizarre events that seem to be occurring in the city. When a homeless man is killed in strange circumstances, and the unpopular and ambitious D I Tom Sturgess insists on investigating, the scene is set for the bizarre to need to be believed. I think the test of any series is whether you would read on. Certainly, I would read the second in this series, which suggests it will be a success. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review. Great fun and possibly just what is needed in these troubled times.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dom

    I'd like to start this off with a huge thank you to Netgalley, Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and C.K McConnell. ‘Good meeting. Now, whose leg do I have to hump around here to get a cup of tea?’ This was hands down the funniest book I have read in a long time. It has an absolute fantastic cast of eccentric characters. ‘Message one,’ came the electronic voice. ‘Hello, yes. This is . . . It doesn’t matter who I am. I want to keep my identity secret. My next-door neighbour, he’s an alien. His a I'd like to start this off with a huge thank you to Netgalley, Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and C.K McConnell. ‘Good meeting. Now, whose leg do I have to hump around here to get a cup of tea?’ This was hands down the funniest book I have read in a long time. It has an absolute fantastic cast of eccentric characters. ‘Message one,’ came the electronic voice. ‘Hello, yes. This is . . . It doesn’t matter who I am. I want to keep my identity secret. My next-door neighbour, he’s an alien. His address is . . . Oh, wait a sec . . . I’ll call you back.’ It was absolutely filled to the brim with hilarious moments. The story is a brilliantly written modern fantasy. That breaths new life into the world of the supernatural. ‘By any chance are you referring to this little slaphead thunder -anus in the background?’ I usually copy 2 quotes for a review, however I have 7 and could have copied so many more. The whole book was filled with "moments" and by these I mean really memorable outstanding moments. What an absolute joy to read :)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kate~Bibliophile Book Club

    The Stranger Times is one of those novels where you don’t know what to expect when you start, but you’re quickly pulled into the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. An excellent cast of characters, an engaging and fast-paced plot and some proper humour made it even better. Utterly different to the authors usual writing, this change to urban fantasy is both a huge surprise and an excellent decision. Highly recommended for sure.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ali Kennedy

    This book is the perfect antidote to the current strange times we live in! The basic plot involves an eclectic collection of characters who work at a newspaper called The Stranger Times. This publication is unconventional in the sense that it focuses on the weird, wonderful, supernatural and magical tales. The plot is great but the real joy in the book are the characters. There is such a range of people and they all have their own eccentricities, quirks and issues. Together they investigate some This book is the perfect antidote to the current strange times we live in! The basic plot involves an eclectic collection of characters who work at a newspaper called The Stranger Times. This publication is unconventional in the sense that it focuses on the weird, wonderful, supernatural and magical tales. The plot is great but the real joy in the book are the characters. There is such a range of people and they all have their own eccentricities, quirks and issues. Together they investigate some suspicious deaths that lead them deeper into a hidden world. I don't normally read science fiction/fantasy genres as I struggle to really immerse myself and believe in the scenarios created. However, this had me completely believing in the reality I was reading. It was so well written. The best bit is just how funny this book is. There are so many one liners, analogies and descriptions that made me laugh out loud. I really hope that this is the beginning of a whole series of books as it is so unique and entertaining! Thanks so much Caimh and The Pigeonhole for access to this wonderful book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

    The premise of Caimh McDonnell’s novel caught my attention because as a teenager I discovered a UK magazine called The Fortean Times, which reported on ‘weird news’ (and still does as far as I know) and went to great trouble and expense to have it imported by my local newsagent for a year or two. “Publication seeks desperate human being with capability to form sentences, using the English language. No imbeciles, optimists or Simons need apply.” Similarly, the titular ‘The Stranger Times’ is a wee The premise of Caimh McDonnell’s novel caught my attention because as a teenager I discovered a UK magazine called The Fortean Times, which reported on ‘weird news’ (and still does as far as I know) and went to great trouble and expense to have it imported by my local newsagent for a year or two. “Publication seeks desperate human being with capability to form sentences, using the English language. No imbeciles, optimists or Simons need apply.” Similarly, the titular ‘The Stranger Times’ is a weekly newspaper devoted to the weird and wonderful. When Hannah Willis, newly separated and desperate, answers an ad for a position at The Stranger Times she has no idea what it may entail, but she is not expecting to find a man threatening to throw himself off the roof, a wannabe reporter named Simon lurking by the entrance, and then for her new boss, Vince Bancroft, to set fire to his office and shoot himself in the foot during her interview. Still, Hannah needs a job and this is the only one on offer. “We aren’t reporting the story as fact; we’re reporting the existence of the story as fact.” Though Hannah doesn’t believe in the litany of the strange and unbelievable that The Stranger Times reports on that’s all about to change when, after Simon is found dead at the base of a construction tower, the staff of The Stranger Times becomes the target of a killer, who has a vicious beast at his command. “Because, sweetheart, you ain’t never met a short-arsed slaphead quite like me.” The Stranger Times is an entertaining urban fantasy novel. Set in Manchester, McDonnell introduces a shadow world that lurks amongst ours, where folk hide in plain sight. One of these folk has gone rogue, breaking a centuries old Accord, and the staff of The Stranger Times gets in the way of his plans for murder and mayhem. But no matter what happens, the paper still needs to go out. The staff of The Stranger Times are an eccentric bunch, editor Vince Bancroft is a barely functioning alcoholic in a permanent bad temper, flatmates Ox and Reggie are feature writers, specialists in the supernatural and extraterrestrial, Stella is a teenage runaway, and pious Grace is the paper’s office manager. I loved their unique personality’s, and their group dynamic which is delightfully dysfunctional. Though it gets off to a bit of a slow start I was quickly caught up in this witty, weird and wonderful romp full of magic, mystery and monsters. Read all about it in The Stranger Times!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    It is early in the year, being only Feb but I am calling it. This will be in my top 3 for the year It was bananas. Batshit insane. Bonkers and totally hilarious. I loved everything about it, it was all told with such humor even the more horror bits. Interspersed throughout are newspaper clippings and one about a drunken Loch Ness monster had me cackling in the middle of a very quiet lunch room at work. SO awkward. I loved this so much it was a fantastic, fun and very weird read and I wish the se It is early in the year, being only Feb but I am calling it. This will be in my top 3 for the year It was bananas. Batshit insane. Bonkers and totally hilarious. I loved everything about it, it was all told with such humor even the more horror bits. Interspersed throughout are newspaper clippings and one about a drunken Loch Ness monster had me cackling in the middle of a very quiet lunch room at work. SO awkward. I loved this so much it was a fantastic, fun and very weird read and I wish the sequel was out right now so I could read it as well

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    A very entertaining and witty novel with some excellent characters - I really liked the main character Hannah and I loved the excerpts from this strange Manchester paper! But while I was entertained and amused by this band of misfits with their disgusting, irritating boss whose career has taken a nose dive, I couldn't help feeling that it was all very familiar - characters I'd met before, relationships I'd encountered before. It's all very Mick Herron, in my opinion, and the magic elements feel A very entertaining and witty novel with some excellent characters - I really liked the main character Hannah and I loved the excerpts from this strange Manchester paper! But while I was entertained and amused by this band of misfits with their disgusting, irritating boss whose career has taken a nose dive, I couldn't help feeling that it was all very familiar - characters I'd met before, relationships I'd encountered before. It's all very Mick Herron, in my opinion, and the magic elements feel wooden. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights. 2.5 stars rounded up.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nick Brett

    Well, this was an unexpected treat. This is urban fantasy with great characters and gentle humour. The Stranger Times is a small and irrelevant newspaper dealing with stories of unusual or supernatural elements. Run by an editor reminiscent of the Jackson Lamb character in the Mick Herron Dead Horses series about spies that have been put out to pasture. Lot of similarities between the two series, and that’s a good thing. Hannah is a new recruit to the small team at the paper, like the rest she is Well, this was an unexpected treat. This is urban fantasy with great characters and gentle humour. The Stranger Times is a small and irrelevant newspaper dealing with stories of unusual or supernatural elements. Run by an editor reminiscent of the Jackson Lamb character in the Mick Herron Dead Horses series about spies that have been put out to pasture. Lot of similarities between the two series, and that’s a good thing. Hannah is a new recruit to the small team at the paper, like the rest she is a bit of a loser and a bit of a misfit and that means she fits right in. The paper reports on supernatural nonsense such as a demonic toilet, but then they have a real story and discover their assumptions might need to change. This was great fun, the characters are all a delight and the plot gently lets you into things that are more than they first appear. Eventually we see the more standard urban fantasy urban secret world type trope, but you kind of know it will and you just enjoy the pleasure of the journey getting there. There will be another book and I honestly can’t wait.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mairead Hearne (swirlandthread.com)

    The Stranger Times is the first book from C.K. McDonnell, the pen name of Caimh McDonnell and will be published with Bantam Press (Transworld/Penguin) January 14th 2021. It is described as a book that ‘combines his (C.K. McDonnell) distinctive dark wit with his love of the weird and wonderful to deliver a joyous celebration of how truth really can be stranger than fiction.’ Many of you will already know that I am a fan of Caimh’s writing having read all of his previously published novels in both The Stranger Times is the first book from C.K. McDonnell, the pen name of Caimh McDonnell and will be published with Bantam Press (Transworld/Penguin) January 14th 2021. It is described as a book that ‘combines his (C.K. McDonnell) distinctive dark wit with his love of the weird and wonderful to deliver a joyous celebration of how truth really can be stranger than fiction.’ Many of you will already know that I am a fan of Caimh’s writing having read all of his previously published novels in both The Dublin Trilogy and its spin-off series McGarry Stateside. When I heard about this new direction that Caimh was taking, I was intrigued and excited. Living in the UK, Caimh has never forgotten his very strong Irish roots (born in Limerick and raised in Dublin) and continues to bring his distinctive Irish wit onto the pages. Screen rights for The Stranger Times have already been purchased in auction and, let this be a heads-up folks, we are looking at a series that has the potential to reach huge heights. I’m thinking a Dr. Who type of following, a cult following, for this writer who brings something new and fresh onto our bookshelves. The Stranger Times introduces us to a cast of characters, who are a wonderful mix of personalities, from the eccentric to the downright boorish and absolutely EVERYTHING in-between. A newspaper for the weird and wonderful, The Stranger Times is managed at the helm by a just about functioning, ex-Fleet Street, alcoholic, Vincent Banecroft. Vincent’s life spiralled downward after the loss of his wife. He lost all respect for himself, and everyone else, seeking refuge in a whiskey bottle. For reasons he never quite understood himself, he was hired to take over control of The Stranger Times, a newspaper filled with fanciful stories, yet one that had its own loyal following. ‘Under the destroyed bird’s nest of hair sat grey-green bloodshot eyes in a face of pale unshaven skin. He wore a suit that a charity shop would politely thank you for donating and then burn as soon as you walked out the door. He somehow managed to look both fat and skinny. His face had a hangdog air to it…’ Hannah Willis is attempting to stand on her own two feet after a failed marriage. Her life had been one of luxury but a straying husband put a stop to that. Now on her own, she is looking for a job. An opening arises at The Stranger Times and, with no preparation or research, Hannah unwittingly stumbles into a job that was never in her wildest dreams part of her plan. But it was a job…. 'There are dark forces at work in our world. So thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them…' With a receptionist, Grace, literally holding the fort together, the remainder of the team are Ox and Reggie, a young girl Stella and a rather odd naked Rastafarian called Manny who rarely leaves the printing room. Somehow this motley crew always manage to get the paper out on time but, within days of Hannah joining the team, there is a shift in the state of play. When an event occurs that personally impacts all on the team, the dynamics change and even Vincent Banecroft awakens his long dormant journalistic talent to get to the bottom of this terrible tragedy. I was attempting to explain the premise of this book to my husband and younger daughter and I’m not going to lie, it was hard. And the reason quite simply was that I just did not want to give anything away. McDonnell has let his imagination run riot starting this fantastic series with a big loud BANG. Mixing the supernatural with the fantastical in this fast-paced romp around Manchester, he has unleashed the inner child. I loved it, I really, really loved it. The suggestion has been made that this book is perfect for fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books and Ben Aaronovitch’s writing, which is wonderful to hear, but don’t let that deter you if that genre is not normally your thing. McDonnell’s experience as a former stand-up comedian gives him a sense of timing, a balance that all shows through in his writing, providing an all round compelling and exciting read. The Stranger Times is a totally new direction for McDonnell and is quite simply addictive reading at its finest. I eagerly await the next book in this rather terrific series to see what adventures awaits. One thing I can definitely say is to expect the unexpected. An absolute treat folks. Mark the diaries for Thursday, 14th January 2021 and I can honestly guarantee you a highly entertaining weekend of reading ahead! Excellent stuff…..

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Antipodean Bookclub

    “Biscuits are never just biscuits. They send a message. Offering someone a rich tea is a slap in the face; a chocolate Hobnob is downright solicitous. You’ve got to strike the right balance.” . . . Hannah has left her marriage and her business class life split between London and Dubai. Rather than take a penny from her adulterous husband she moves to Manchester and sets about trying to find a job. The fancy furniture showroom falls through, but she notices a small website ad “Publication seeks despar “Biscuits are never just biscuits. They send a message. Offering someone a rich tea is a slap in the face; a chocolate Hobnob is downright solicitous. You’ve got to strike the right balance.” . . . Hannah has left her marriage and her business class life split between London and Dubai. Rather than take a penny from her adulterous husband she moves to Manchester and sets about trying to find a job. The fancy furniture showroom falls through, but she notices a small website ad “Publication seeks desparate human being with capability to form sentences using the English language. No imbeciles, optimists or Simons need apply.” And so Hannah finds herself working for The Stranger Times, a niche publication that operates out of an old church and deals in the paranormal. Office manager Grace keeps the place running on threats and tea. Reporter Reggie threatens to throw himself out of the window before every editorial meeting. Ex-Fleet Street Editor Vincent manages to shoot himself in the foot with a blunderbuss and strangest of all is nearly-naked Manny who operates the printing press in the basement. A spate of deaths locally has a strong whiff of the weird, but as The Stranger Times comes closer to revealing the truth, the whole team comes under threat from a forces that they never even knew existed This was an absolute ray of joyous bonkers sunshine. The plot zipped along, the dialogue was funny, the characters sharply drawn and there was a lot of biscuit talk which had me at Hobnob. If you enjoy the Rivers of London series from Ben Aaronovitch then this will be very much up your Strasse and there’s another book on its way!

  15. 4 out of 5

    ahaana ☽

    Disclaimer: This is not the complete review!! You can read the full review over on my blog: https://windowstoworlds.wordpress.com... What I liked The characters and their relationships. Each of the characters were all so well-defined and had beautiful relationships with one another. Even Banecroft, who we all saw as a moody grouch, had an emotional past, and though he didn’t show it, we know he still cared about Simon, Hannah, and everyone around him. I love the bonds between each of the characte Disclaimer: This is not the complete review!! You can read the full review over on my blog: https://windowstoworlds.wordpress.com... What I liked The characters and their relationships. Each of the characters were all so well-defined and had beautiful relationships with one another. Even Banecroft, who we all saw as a moody grouch, had an emotional past, and though he didn’t show it, we know he still cared about Simon, Hannah, and everyone around him. I love the bonds between each of the characters because the amount they care about each other is described so beautifully by the author. There were also so many diverse reps!! There were plus-sized mc’s, as well as queer mc’s, as well as people of colour!! The plot + plot twists. This book had a really interesting plot, and it was filled with twists!! To be honest, the beginning was really slow, and it took a while for the main characters to realize the problem, but other than that, I loved the plot and the way it was written! The ending. The ending is what saved this book for me!! I LOVED this ending!! It was so unexpected, and because of the slow pacing in the first half, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The ending exceeded my expectations, and well, pleasantly surprised me!! It was action-packed and super fast paced, filled with sarcastic and witty comments made by, well, each and every character. What wasn’t my cup of tea The pacing. The first chapter was okay. I kept thinking to myself “it will get better”, honestly for more than half the book, I found myself falling asleep because of how slow everything was moving. Things that took 3 chapters could have been done well and finished in 5 pages. The plot was interesting, but it was moving at such a slow pace, that it was a struggle to complete this book. As I mentioned earlier, the ending was the saving grace. It was so action-packed that it made up for the sloth-paced beginning. Overall + Trigger Warnings Overall, this was a pretty good book. Honestly, it wasn’t really what I expected, and I think if the pacing hadn’t been so slow, it could definitely have been a 5-star read! If you don’t mind droning through the slowness of the beginning, then I promise you, this book is worth it, and the ending is great!! Trigger Warnings Mentions of Suicide Alcoholism Divorce Deaths ☆☆ Final Rating: 4.3 stars (out of 5)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Please find my review for The Stranger Times by C K McDonnell. Please find my review for The Stranger Times by C K McDonnell.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steph Warren

    *I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author, Transworld Books – Random House UK and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.* This is going to be a really hard review to write. Mainly because my notes for this consist mainly of words like ‘fantastic’ and ‘bloody brilliant’, held together by abundant swathes of exclamation marks. I might as well have just drawn a big smiley face and left it at that! Briefly attempting coherence: The Stranger Times is a humoro *I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author, Transworld Books – Random House UK and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.* This is going to be a really hard review to write. Mainly because my notes for this consist mainly of words like ‘fantastic’ and ‘bloody brilliant’, held together by abundant swathes of exclamation marks. I might as well have just drawn a big smiley face and left it at that! Briefly attempting coherence: The Stranger Times is a humorous, paranormal mystery-slash-urban fantasy which had me grinning from the very first page. Our main character, Hannah Drinkw… Willis, is having a hard time, which gets weirder rather than easier when she applies for a position at her local paranormal newspaper offices. There we – and she – meet the most incredibly entertaining and lovable band of misfits imaginable. There is motherly Grace, rebellious Stella, comedy duo Reggie and Ox, the unemployable Simon and, presiding over them all is the impossibly obnoxious Vincent Banecroft (channelling Bernard Black). In very little time at all, Hannah goes from doggedly humouring her new employers (from what seems to be a form of existential shock), to investigating a spate of mysterious local deaths, to facing down monsters with little more than a stapler and the office coffee mugs. Luckily, not all of her new colleagues are what they initially appear to be. Or maybe unluckily, depending on who you ask. C.K. McDonnell’s worldbuilding is fantastic; I am desperately keen to find out all about the Founders and the different types of Folk. I adore that he takes tired old standard monsters like werewolves and vampires and spins them into something completely new and far more interesting. To be fair, his character development and plot-wrangling are ‘bloody brilliant’ too and the pacing is spot on. I have no criticisms at all… not even those little niggly nitpicking ones! This book was an utter joy from beginning to end. I have already pre-ordered my hardback copy (Happy Unbirthday to me!) and feel a strong urge to sit pressing F5 repeatedly until I see a sequel pop up for purchase. Ideally it will then be the second book in a very long-running series… I will beg if I have to! 'As well as the Storn interview, Hannah had another one lined up for today – mainly because she had forgotten to cancel it. The advert on the website had been, well, different: ‘Publication seeks desperate human being with capability to form sentences using the English language. No imbeciles, optimists or Simons need apply.’' – C.K. McDonnell, The Stranger Times Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog https://bookshineandreadbows.wordpres...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Veronika Jordan

    A bit like Terry Pratchett meets The Fortean Times, this book is at times hilarious and at times too crazy for words. To be honest I prefer the parts about the newspaper and its eccentric employees to the forces of evil as I am not really into fantasy (apart from His Dark Materials). The banter in the office though, with newcomer Hannah who left her philandering husband and burnt their house down in the process, receptionist Grace, runaway Stella, and features writers Reggie and Ox is the best p A bit like Terry Pratchett meets The Fortean Times, this book is at times hilarious and at times too crazy for words. To be honest I prefer the parts about the newspaper and its eccentric employees to the forces of evil as I am not really into fantasy (apart from His Dark Materials). The banter in the office though, with newcomer Hannah who left her philandering husband and burnt their house down in the process, receptionist Grace, runaway Stella, and features writers Reggie and Ox is the best part. Then of course we have the dreadful and totally bonkers editor Vincent Banecroft who shoots himself in the foot with a blunderbuss and hobbles throughout the story on a crutch. But it’s not all funny. There’s this short, fat, slap-head (not my un-PC words) American chap called Moretti going round controlling people’s minds, turning them into Were-monsters and making them do terrible things in exchange for a ‘favour’. All very Doctor Faustus and Mephistopheles. It turns out some of these people belong to the Folk. This is ancient mythology and involves immortality and such-like. There are rules though and even the Founders (no I’m not even going to attempt to explain) must respect the Accord. In the old days the Folk used to live amongst us in harmony (kind of) but now they must hide in the shadows. Apart from throwing people off buildings that is. If you think this all sounds a bit bonkers and far-fetched, I can assure you that this is nowhere near as bonkers as it gets. A bit too bonkers for me if I am honest but I still enjoyed it massively and often laughed out loud. The retorts and one-liners are classic. Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Don Jimmy Reviews

    https://donjimmyreviews.wordpress.com... The Stranger Times is the first book by C.K. McDonnell – but let there be no secrets here, C.K. McDonnell is a pen name for Caimh McDonnell. This is the first “traditionally published” book by the author. It is also very different to the books he has written previously (which, if you have been following my reviews for any length of time you will know I am a massive fan of). The Stranger Times is an urban fantasy novel set in Manchester. It combines Caimh’s https://donjimmyreviews.wordpress.com... The Stranger Times is the first book by C.K. McDonnell – but let there be no secrets here, C.K. McDonnell is a pen name for Caimh McDonnell. This is the first “traditionally published” book by the author. It is also very different to the books he has written previously (which, if you have been following my reviews for any length of time you will know I am a massive fan of). The Stranger Times is an urban fantasy novel set in Manchester. It combines Caimh’s brilliant wit and humour, with the strange happenings you sometimes hear on the grapevine. It’s a bit like Terry Pratchett mashed up with Manchester based urban myths – which is coincidentally where the book is set. In The Stranger Times we start with the story of Hannah. She has gone from rich socialite to pauper after discovering her husband’s many infidelities and needs a job, pronto. With few options available to somebody with no apparent experience she arrives at the offices of The Stranger Times. The newspaper is not a run of the mill red top or broad sheet. The stories it contains are more out there. Think of the newspapers that run stories about the ghost of Elvis living inside a persons cat, or aliens choosing a small house in Salford as their base of communications, then you’ll get the idea. With little option, Hannah is roped in as the latest of what appear to be many “assistant editors”. While Hannah is at times the focus of this story, it is the collective who work at the newspaper who shine brightest (in my opinion), they are an eclectic bunch to say the least. Starting with the editor who is a chain smoking alcoholic, with a mouth that would have been washed out with dishwater many times over by my gran. He seems to have his own ideas about the paper, and while he may not believe the stories his journalists are publishing, still wants to ensure that the paper is of the highest quality. He also lives in his office. His long suffering assistant, Grace, is the glue that holds the whole system together – if anything she is his polar opposite – and while their relationship is hilarious at times, it is clearly built on a strong friendship. Our other main characters include two journalists, Ox and Reggie, (who are constantly at odds with each others strong beliefs and stances on UFO’s, government conspiracies and more) Stella (a runaway who got a job by…. breaking into the building…), and a (mostly) naked Rastafarian man named Manny. So yes, as I have said, a wild a eclectic bunch. While the backdrop to this novel may seem crazy enough the author also has to throw in a plot to match and has done so superbly. There appears to be a rogue magician on the lose who is using his powers in ways which are not acceptable. His goal is revealed over the course of the novel, however, his actions have lead to the deaths of two people and it has not gone unnoticed. Enter the staff of The Stranger Times. While the paper normally deals with the outrageous, they find themselves embroiled in an investigation into these deaths, one of whom is close to the staff. The paper all of a sudden goes into “proper investigation” mode to try and find out answers to the burning question of just what is going on – while fending off the eyes of the police. Filled with fantasy, humour and intrigue this is a fantastic novel. Don’t let the urban fantasy tag put you off if you are not generally a fan of the genre. Caimh has really pulled out all the stops here, and as I was reading it felt as if he was creating the characters and the world he really wanted to. I can’t wait for him to explore these characters more. I was gripped from the word go, and I felt really invested in the characters and the story. I highly recommend you check this out upon it’s release next month.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kahn

    Having already made a name for himself as one of the funniest crime writers around, the artist formerly known as Caimh McDonnell has set sail in a new direction. Switching to the fittingly enigmatic C.K. McDonnell, we find ourself in a strange new world that is at once familiar (Manchester) and bizarre (satanic toilets). And in creating a new range of characters and events, the hairy Irish genius has produced his best work to date. Set on a niche newspaper (no, not that sort), we find Hannah, Gra Having already made a name for himself as one of the funniest crime writers around, the artist formerly known as Caimh McDonnell has set sail in a new direction. Switching to the fittingly enigmatic C.K. McDonnell, we find ourself in a strange new world that is at once familiar (Manchester) and bizarre (satanic toilets). And in creating a new range of characters and events, the hairy Irish genius has produced his best work to date. Set on a niche newspaper (no, not that sort), we find Hannah, Grace, Stella, Ox, Reggie and their antisocial editor Banecroft. Together, they run The Stranger Times. Telling the tales the other papers wouldn't touch. And then a dead body turns up, and the gang find themselves inside the story as dark forces abound. And hilarity ensues. Written with the ease and flair we have come to know and love, McDonnell keeps the pages turning as events unfold at breakneck speed. His characters are at once new and yet familiar, the oddness naturally believable, the weirdness quite normal - and you, the reader, will lose track of time as the book casts its spell over you. If there's one complaint about this book, it's that - as one who reads before falling asleep - you need, and in fact will want, a good few hours alone with The Stranger Times because 'a quick chapter' is impossible. You will want to know what happens next, each chapter will have you hankering for more. This is his most unputdownable book yet. I'm already impatient for the next issue...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lora Milton

    The first chapter of this one info dumped a lot of back story and really should have started from the end of chapter one, but it was interesting when it got going from that point. Hannah Willis goes to the newspaper office for The Stranger Times, which reports on the weird and wonderful. What she doesn't expect is a ragtag bunch of characters who run the paper. Her interview had me howling with laughter and sure I was really going to like this book. Just calling the phrase 'vegetarian meal' an ox The first chapter of this one info dumped a lot of back story and really should have started from the end of chapter one, but it was interesting when it got going from that point. Hannah Willis goes to the newspaper office for The Stranger Times, which reports on the weird and wonderful. What she doesn't expect is a ragtag bunch of characters who run the paper. Her interview had me howling with laughter and sure I was really going to like this book. Just calling the phrase 'vegetarian meal' an oxymoron had me in stitches. It only gets better from there, but then a fantasy magic subplot enters the fray. In some ways I found it a distraction from a strong character driven story, but it ties in to give the strange subjects the paper deals with some reality and the humour was amazingly done all through. I followed the link at the end to the website set up for the world of Stranger Times and found several 'news' stories of the sort the paper publishes, some of which featured in the plot. There's also a disclaimer to reassure the reader that it's all fictional. I get the impression there will be more books in this world, but to my joy the story finished with proper closure. That's the sort of series I like and there's a good chance I'll read more books as they come out. Very enjoyable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    After the strange year we've all just experienced this is just the book to lift your spirits. I have to say it is completely bonkers at times but made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. Full of weird and wonderful characters with some fantasy and magic too. What's not to like. I loved it and look forward to the sequel. After the strange year we've all just experienced this is just the book to lift your spirits. I have to say it is completely bonkers at times but made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. Full of weird and wonderful characters with some fantasy and magic too. What's not to like. I loved it and look forward to the sequel.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Not for me, but I can see other people enjoying this.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Noemi Proietti

    This is an unusual read, I will tell you that. Hannah Willis is famous for having burned down her house in a revenge act against her cheating husband. Now, after a public divorce and homeless and moneyless, she needs a job and she applies for the position of assistant editor for The Stranger Times a newspaper dedicated to weird and inexplicable facts. Her boss is quite a character – he shoots himself in the foot during her job interview – and her colleagues can be considered normal either. For m This is an unusual read, I will tell you that. Hannah Willis is famous for having burned down her house in a revenge act against her cheating husband. Now, after a public divorce and homeless and moneyless, she needs a job and she applies for the position of assistant editor for The Stranger Times a newspaper dedicated to weird and inexplicable facts. Her boss is quite a character – he shoots himself in the foot during her job interview – and her colleagues can be considered normal either. For my personal opinion, the story is fun, witty, intriguing, but, for some reason, I couldn’t get completely into it. All in all, I enjoyed it and I would still recommend you give it a try…

  25. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Rickard

    I finished reading this book with The Pigeonhole today and a loved every single minute! The story is wonderfully written with a unique plot and a fascinating cast of funny, intriguing, endearing characters. This book had me laughing out loud so often , it was honestly hilarious at times and the perfect antidote to the difficult year this has been. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Clare

    This book was just what I needed - in fact I think it’s what we all need at the moment! It’s hilarious, the laughs come thick and fast, but it’s not a series of puns with no storyline. Far from it. We get to really know these characters: their faults, their goodness and willingness to help one another. Vincent Bancroft, the editor, is a particularly prickly character. He seems to have no redeeming qualities: he’s verbally abusive, a drunk - and he smells. But when the chips are down, he comes up This book was just what I needed - in fact I think it’s what we all need at the moment! It’s hilarious, the laughs come thick and fast, but it’s not a series of puns with no storyline. Far from it. We get to really know these characters: their faults, their goodness and willingness to help one another. Vincent Bancroft, the editor, is a particularly prickly character. He seems to have no redeeming qualities: he’s verbally abusive, a drunk - and he smells. But when the chips are down, he comes up trumps. The reporters Ox and Reggie are long-suffering employees, and travel the length and breadth of the country to get a story; Grace the receptionist (and at times, ring master!) keeps everyone in line; the runaway, Stella, who is working at The Stranger Times instead of serving time for breaking and entering. And then there’s Hannah. It’s her first week on the job, and she’s having to deal with the death of a wannabe reporter - his murder, in fact. And the weird and wonderful is pretty much non-stop! I really hope that this is the start of a series - I will be listening to The Stranger TImes podcasts, without a doubt! Many thanks to The Pigeonhole for serialising this and to Caimh McDonnell for reading along.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Hannah is down on her luck, her husband cheated on her and her life is falling apart. She finds herself no longer living in the lap of luxury and for once having to fend for herself. She needs a job quickly. After an unsuccessful interview she finds an ad looking basically for someone who can string a sentence together coherently, fed up she decides to go for it and when she arrives at the location of the job in Manchester she is met with a man threatening to throw himself of a building and an an Hannah is down on her luck, her husband cheated on her and her life is falling apart. She finds herself no longer living in the lap of luxury and for once having to fend for herself. She needs a job quickly. After an unsuccessful interview she finds an ad looking basically for someone who can string a sentence together coherently, fed up she decides to go for it and when she arrives at the location of the job in Manchester she is met with a man threatening to throw himself of a building and an another man making no effort what’s to talk him down. Odd? Definitely, but nowhere near as odd as what is inside. The building is the office of The Stranger Times, a newspaper dedicated to the weirder things in life. Ghosts, Ghouls, Elvis, you name it, they’ll probably report it. Hannah discovers an odd group of people headed up by the most impossible man known to life, Banecroft the editor. Picture the most obnoxious person you can think off and then double it, you get the idea. Her interview, however unorthodox ends up with her getting the job and the editor making a trip to the A & E, her career at The Stranger Times has begun. Despite zero journalism knowledge she quickly gets stuck in and in the first week she experiences a a whole new world of craziness she never knew existed. This includes a spate of strange murders, so strange they can’t possibly be true.....can they? It’s up to the Stranger Times to report the news! It’s bonkers, picture a blend of Jasper Fforde, Douglas Adams and Ben Aaronovitch and you get the idea. It’s funny, it’s scary and it’s a cracking read. Thanks to Net Galley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – as always, thanks so much to Netgalley for sending this to me! This is probably one of the hardest reviews I have ever had to write, largely because I had such a strange experience with this book. ‘Mixed feelings’ is an understatement. The Stranger Times follows Hannah, a soon-to-be-divorcee, former spoiled heiress who’s trying to make it on her own for the first time and looking for her first real job. In doing I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – as always, thanks so much to Netgalley for sending this to me! This is probably one of the hardest reviews I have ever had to write, largely because I had such a strange experience with this book. ‘Mixed feelings’ is an understatement. The Stranger Times follows Hannah, a soon-to-be-divorcee, former spoiled heiress who’s trying to make it on her own for the first time and looking for her first real job. In doing so, she stumbles upon The Stranger Times, a chaotic and deeply weird newspaper that reports on the weird, the wonderful and the downright ridiculous. The editor, Banecroft, is a belligerent drunkard: his staff includes a god-fearing receptionist, a runaway teen, an intermittently suicidal Liverpudlian, a UFO-conspiracy theorist and the world’s most relaxed printing press operator – and now Hannah, whose editorial experience goes no further than correcting the typos in her text messages. Together, they all struggle to throw together each issue of this terrible paper that barely anybody reads – a process which is rudely interrupted by a tragic death on their doorstep, at which point their new focus becomes investigating the nature of the killer. I hope this brief description of the characters has painted a good picture of what I enjoyed about this book: its eccentric but loveable cast. I remain at least partially convinced that this book is thinly-veiled Black Books fanfiction (Banecroft, the drunken Irish editor-in-chief, bears more than a passing resemblance to Bernard Black ;he also has an employee who just HAPPENS to be called Manny.) I truly enjoyed the chaotic energy these characters brought to the page. A large segment of the book simply follows the characters bantering at each other, and I really enjoyed the back-and-forth of their conversations; the dialogue is (with some exceptions, which I’ll touch on later) brilliantly funny and leaps off the page. I had such high hopes for this book, largely because it was the first book I can honestly say has ever given me even moderate Skulduggery Pleasant vibes. People are always asking me for books similar to Skulduggery Pleasant, and I wish I could oblige, but I’ve honestly never found anything that compares until I read this. Its humour, snappy dialogue and the brilliant mixture of magical and mundane were so reminiscent of that series, and I was hoping I’d finally have a good recommendation to pass along. Unfortunately, as I kept reading, things kept cropping up that made me more and more dubious about whether or not I was enjoying this, and whether it’s something I could whole-heartedly recommend. First of all, in terms of structure, this book is a bit weird. I’d almost call it sloppy – though that sounds a little harsh. It’s more that there doesn’t seem to be much plot to speak of for the first 50-70% of the book – just a lot of witty remarks with occasional segues that hint there is actually a point to all of this, before we drop back into the office to watch Banecroft perform some Tom and Jerry-esque stunts with a blunderbuss or spend twelve pages making fun of the weirdos who wish to be interviewed for the paper. This is the first book in a series, and you can definitely tell – it feels very much like a set-up book, giving us lots of threads that’ll be important later on, to the detriment of the plot of the first novel. This in itself wasn’t a deal-breaker – I’ve always been one to prioritise characters over plot, and while I did occasionally feel a bit frustrated by the pace, I enjoyed the characters enough to be pretty happy reading about their day-to-day exploits. It does come as a bit of a shock towards the end, when suddenly a whole novel’s worth of plot is crammed into the last 30% and you feel like you’ve been going for a pleasant afternoon drive with Grandma when she suddenly puts her foot down and you start shooting down the motorway at 200mph – but I could handle that. My main issue with this book is going to sound very hand-wavey, and perhaps it is, but the best way I can describe it is that it gave me a bad vibe. That sounds very sinister, and perhaps a little melodramatic. It wasn’t constant, but little things kept cropping up that made me start to feel uncomfortable. Firstly, the humour in this book walked a very fine line between funny and sly, and often went too far over the line for my liking. It felt as if the author was trying too hard to be funny at all times, in a way that made it all start to seem forced – which was sad, because it detracted from the moments where the book was genuinely amusing. The jokes often had quite a mean-spirited edge at a lot of points, which was also disappointing. It’s been proven time and time again that it’s entirely possible to be funny without having the joke be at someone else’s expense, and this book felt a little overly reliant on the kind of humour that encourages you to laugh AT people rather than with them. In addition to this, there were some edgy, ‘ooh, political correctness gone mad, ha-ha’ sort of remarks slipped into the book in this very irreverent way that I really didn’t like: ‘Let’s start with the Chinese one and then we’ll do the fat one.’ ‘Sorry,’ said Hannah, ‘but that is totally inappropriate.’ Banecroft flicked some cigarette ash on to the floor. ‘Oh, the late one has something to say.’ ‘Yes,’said Hannah. ‘Yes, I do. I know you’ve got your whole being-horrible-to-everyone thing going on here, but you cannot refer to somebody as “the Chinese one”. It is racist.’ ‘No, it is not.’ Banecroft turned to Ox. ‘Are you Chinese?’ Ox looked at Hannah and then nodded. ‘I am. I’m proper Chinese, me.’ ‘See? […] Now, if Malcolm X of suburbia is done trying to empower the oppressed workers, we’ve got a paper due out on Friday.’ In addition to this, we have a chapter where the author uses several racial and homophobic slurs in the space of a few pages, and while this is clearly condemned by the text, I still don’t think it was an adequate reason to use those kinds of words. Again, if you have no way to show that your villain is a bad person other than having them throw slurs around, you need to go back to the drawing board. I wanted to love this book, and I can’t act like there weren’t aspects of it that I really liked, but I couldn’t shake this uncomfortable feeling I had while reading that the author was nudging me and winking and expecting me to share in these icky, snide jokes he was making at other people’s expense. It really soured the reading experience for me, which was a shame, because I liked the characters and it seems like there’s a really solid foundation for a great urban fantasy series being built here. I very rarely get to read books set in Manchester (which is my closest major city) and get that pleasant feeling of recognising the settings and the accents and little inside moments that comes with reading a book set where you’re from. I don’t know if I’ll continue with this series or not – my fondness for the characters is very much at war with my concerns about the content, and it’s left me with a really bad taste in my mouth. The Stranger Times was – for the most part – a fun, interesting and quirky read, but I really can’t get over my reservations towards the author’s idea of a throwaway joke. I really don’t know what to make of this one, other than a lingering feeling of disappointment that what I’d hoped would be an amazing book was soured by its insistence on making marginalised people the butt of the joke. 3.5/5 stars

  29. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    After leaving her cheating husband, Hannah moves to Manchester to start afresh, and bags herself a job as Assistant Editor of The Stranger Times. She joins a team of eccentric misfits who publish stories of the weird and supernatural. But fact can often be weirder than fiction. I wasn't sure what I was getting when I started reading this, but I absolutely loved it. It has magic, mayhem and lots of humour. It's a fast-paced urban fantasy with some great characters. I hope there will be more. Thanks After leaving her cheating husband, Hannah moves to Manchester to start afresh, and bags herself a job as Assistant Editor of The Stranger Times. She joins a team of eccentric misfits who publish stories of the weird and supernatural. But fact can often be weirder than fiction. I wasn't sure what I was getting when I started reading this, but I absolutely loved it. It has magic, mayhem and lots of humour. It's a fast-paced urban fantasy with some great characters. I hope there will be more. Thanks to Netgalley and Publisher for the ARC.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul Sparks

    This book is funny, it has been a long time since I really laughed whilst reading and I would like to thank the author for giving me those spontaneous moments (although my wife now thinks I need placing in care as I am obviously senile) it is reminiscent of terry practhett at his best, I’m not going to bore you with a synopsis or a critique of this book just know it is very good and so funny 😂😂 highly enjoyable and highly recommended

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