hits counter The Secrets of Strangers: A BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick (Charity Norman Reading-Group Fiction) - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Secrets of Strangers: A BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick (Charity Norman Reading-Group Fiction)

Availability: Ready to download

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for five strangers whose paths cross in a London café - their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will t A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for five strangers whose paths cross in a London café - their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives? Another tense, multi-dimensional drama from the writer of the Richard & Judy bestseller AFTER THE FALL.


Compare

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for five strangers whose paths cross in a London café - their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will t A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for five strangers whose paths cross in a London café - their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives? Another tense, multi-dimensional drama from the writer of the Richard & Judy bestseller AFTER THE FALL.

30 review for The Secrets of Strangers: A BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick (Charity Norman Reading-Group Fiction)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    I’ve read a few books by Charity Norman and enjoyed them but I think this one is the best. This is a very moving and fast paced story that takes you in directions you don’t expect. The start is electrifying when there’s a confrontation in the Tuckbox Cafe in Balham, London between the owner Robert and Sam, who turns out to be his stepson. Sam storms out, returns with a shotgun and shoots Robert and this turns into a tense hostage situation. The principal hostages are Mutesi, a nurse in a care ho I’ve read a few books by Charity Norman and enjoyed them but I think this one is the best. This is a very moving and fast paced story that takes you in directions you don’t expect. The start is electrifying when there’s a confrontation in the Tuckbox Cafe in Balham, London between the owner Robert and Sam, who turns out to be his stepson. Sam storms out, returns with a shotgun and shoots Robert and this turns into a tense hostage situation. The principal hostages are Mutesi, a nurse in a care home, Abi a defence barrister and Neil who is living on the streets. DI Eliza McClean is the negotiator in this tense stand off. We learn Sam’s incredibly sad story and the reasons behind his drastic action in the day long negotiations and we also learn about the hostages lives too as they tell their secrets to strangers. This book turns this kind of scenario on it’s head as the hostages and Sam become a unit, comrades, in this thing together as they care for and look after each other because of the intensity of their experience. The characters are so good and are very likeable, well, all bar one or two but I won’t spoil who they are!!! They all have sadness, carry baggage or in the case of Mutesi originally from Rwanda, enormously sad burdens. She is extremely brave, warm and a truly wonderful character. Sam’s story makes you feel a whole range of emotions, he has had years of unhappiness, of being misunderstood, of having things taken from him, of being manipulated and let down. He is the perpetrator but is also a victim. Neil, Mutesi, Abi and Eliza are the first people in many a long year who have actually listened to him and that starkly contrasts with what he has done. They are the perfect people to draw out his story. This novel is very well written, it has tension, it has care and love, some unbelievable moments of mental cruelty, all hell breaks lose on occasion, you feel anger and overwhelming sadness. The way the story ends back at the farm where Sam had his happiest moments is a perfect way to finish. Overall, this is an extremely powerful book that is hard to put down and one I highly recommend. Many thanks to NetGalley and Atlantic Books for the ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    4.5★s Tuckbox was their café of choice – near to the London railway station so customers could grab a quick takeaway coffee before jumping onto the train and heading into work. But one weekday morning, as strangers converged on Tuckbox, all with their own agendas, another person was about to change their lives. A volatile, angry young man entered Tuckbox; words were exchanged, and he left. But within minutes he’d returned, and this time he held a shotgun in his hands. Terror reigned as shots were 4.5★s Tuckbox was their café of choice – near to the London railway station so customers could grab a quick takeaway coffee before jumping onto the train and heading into work. But one weekday morning, as strangers converged on Tuckbox, all with their own agendas, another person was about to change their lives. A volatile, angry young man entered Tuckbox; words were exchanged, and he left. But within minutes he’d returned, and this time he held a shotgun in his hands. Terror reigned as shots were fired and people scattered; all who could escape did so. In the end, those left inside - Neil, Ali, Mutesi and the gunman – all very different people, were destined to be together for hours. As the hostage situation escalated, the police negotiators outside did everything they could to calm what was unfolding. Eliza eventually managed to speak to the gunman, but it took her a long time, many calls and much patience to feel a rapport with him. The hostage situation; the witnesses; the victims; the gunman – what was his story? Why did he snap that day and do the unthinkable? What would be the outcome to a horrific situation for people going about their daily lives? The Secrets of Strangers is a fast paced, electrifying psychological thriller by Charity Norman which I found hard to put down. Written with incredible clarity, I felt the characters to be so real I could visualize them; I was beside them in that café, watching on as events unfolded. It reminds me of the horrible siege in Martin Place in Sydney, in a café, just before Christmas in 2014. It was played out on the news stations across the country and world, just as the siege in Tuckbox café in London was portrayed. It is of course, fiction, but so realistic it makes me shudder! Highly recommended. With thanks to Allen & Unwin AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    The Tuckbox café situated near the London railway station was a popular and convenient place for those who were wanting their morning coffee or a quick snack to eat as they hurried to catch their train. It appeared to be just another normal weekday until a man enters the Tuckbox café holding a shotgun. The fear and terror among those in the café was felt by all when shots were fired. Some people were lucky enough to escape, but a few were not so lucky and found them self being taken hostage by t The Tuckbox café situated near the London railway station was a popular and convenient place for those who were wanting their morning coffee or a quick snack to eat as they hurried to catch their train. It appeared to be just another normal weekday until a man enters the Tuckbox café holding a shotgun. The fear and terror among those in the café was felt by all when shots were fired. Some people were lucky enough to escape, but a few were not so lucky and found them self being taken hostage by the crazed gunman. As minutes tick into hours police negotiators are doing all they can to bring the hostages out safely. These strangers have never met before now and as the hours pass they start to form a bond, but will they all make it out of there alive? This was a very intense thriller which I found extremely difficult to put down. Charity Norman has once again done an exceptional job in writing this book and keeping her readers highly entertained. If you’re looking for a page turner, then I suggest you grab a copy of this book. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mandy White (mandylovestoread)

    I think that this is a book you should go into fairly blind to fully enjoy the story. It is and one where the author manages to turn the tables and have us feeling sorry for people you would not expect to. The characters are so well written that you feel that you are in the cafe with them. This was the first book by Charity Norman that I have read but I certainly will be looking for more by her in the future. All you really need to know about this book is: One Monday morning in the Tuckbox Cafe in I think that this is a book you should go into fairly blind to fully enjoy the story. It is and one where the author manages to turn the tables and have us feeling sorry for people you would not expect to. The characters are so well written that you feel that you are in the cafe with them. This was the first book by Charity Norman that I have read but I certainly will be looking for more by her in the future. All you really need to know about this book is: One Monday morning in the Tuckbox Cafe in Balham, London a shot is fired and the owner is killed. The gunman takes hostages and the negotiations begin. We learn the stories of the gunman, the main hostages Neil, Abi and Mutesi and the hostage negotiator Eliza. We find out why they are all there that day and that they have more in common that meets the eye. A fantastic, fast paced read that you won’t want to stop reading. Thank you Allen and Unwin for my advanced copy to read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Krystal

    What a story! The Strangers with the Secrets find themselves unwillingly spending the day in a cafe after a dude with a shotgun holds them all hostage. That's it. That's the plot. And I can't tell you how much I enjoyed learning about these strangers. This is one of those books that reminds you that everyone is living a life you know nothing about. It was fascinating and gut-wrenching and these people were so real to me and I felt all their triumphs and heartbreaks as my own. Honestly I don't wa What a story! The Strangers with the Secrets find themselves unwillingly spending the day in a cafe after a dude with a shotgun holds them all hostage. That's it. That's the plot. And I can't tell you how much I enjoyed learning about these strangers. This is one of those books that reminds you that everyone is living a life you know nothing about. It was fascinating and gut-wrenching and these people were so real to me and I felt all their triumphs and heartbreaks as my own. Honestly I don't want to talk about this one too much, because it's a real character journey and I want you to get to know them for yourself. So here's what you need to know: -It's fast paced -Has great characters -Creates emotional attachment to the story -Keeps you guessing -Mysteries to solve -Makes you think I'm definitely going to be recommending this one to a lot of people. It's going to stay with me for a while. With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brooke - One Woman's Brief Book Reviews

    *www.onewomansbbr.wordpress.com *www.facebook.com/onewomansbbr **4.5 stars** The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman. (2020). A regular weekday morning veers drastically off course for a group of strangers in a London café when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their liv *www.onewomansbbr.wordpress.com *www.facebook.com/onewomansbbr **4.5 stars** The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman. (2020). A regular weekday morning veers drastically off course for a group of strangers in a London café when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives? I've greatly enjoyed all of this author's books that I've read and her newest novel is no exception. A gripping and fascinating story emerges from the very beginning. I liked that we experienced a few different character's point of views which included both during the event and some of their back history. The viewpoints also include the gunman which I particularly appreciated as it added another level to someone whose actions that day would be considered evil at face value. This is an intense fast-paced read which is full of suspense. I raced through the pages because I had no idea how this siege was going to end. I highly recommend this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nadia

    3.5 stars rounded up A few strangers stop in their local coffee shop in Balham to pick up their morning dose of caffeine unaware that they'll become hostages to a madman with a gun who came to settle once and for all with the owner of the cafe.  They have seemingly nothing in common, each one of them has their own story and yet, they'll become connected for life. Abi - a young successful lawyer who's been trying to get pregnant for years, Neil - a rough sleeper who was once a teacher with a wife a 3.5 stars rounded up A few strangers stop in their local coffee shop in Balham to pick up their morning dose of caffeine unaware that they'll become hostages to a madman with a gun who came to settle once and for all with the owner of the cafe.  They have seemingly nothing in common, each one of them has their own story and yet, they'll become connected for life. Abi - a young successful lawyer who's been trying to get pregnant for years, Neil - a rough sleeper who was once a teacher with a wife and a daughter but is now left to sell Big Issue every day; Mutesi - a nurse, proud grandmother who flew Rwanda many years ago; and Sam - a young man who is desperate to see his 3 year old daughter but his ex cut all contact. In the usual Charity Norman way, the characters and their lives feel very real and authentic and it's impossible not to like them. This is my 4th Charity Norman's book and I know I can rely on her to come up with a thought provoking story.  The book appealed to me also for its location and reminded me of the time when I worked as a barista in a Balham coffee shop in my student days. Compelling and brilliantly written, I'd recommend to anyone in mood to meet some strangers under siege. Many thanks to the publisher for my review copy in exchange for an honest review. 

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Hall

    An armed siege with unrealistically empathetic characters & cringeworthy social commentary. I was expecting to be floored by the brilliance of Charity Norman’s novel given the compelling premise of an armed siege in a cafe uniting a group of strangers who happen to bear witness to the event. Disappointingly I never felt it lived up to the billing, lacked tension and ended up feeling like a public service broadcast intended to illustrate the ideal handling of such a situation! The story gets off to An armed siege with unrealistically empathetic characters & cringeworthy social commentary. I was expecting to be floored by the brilliance of Charity Norman’s novel given the compelling premise of an armed siege in a cafe uniting a group of strangers who happen to bear witness to the event. Disappointingly I never felt it lived up to the billing, lacked tension and ended up feeling like a public service broadcast intended to illustrate the ideal handling of such a situation! The story gets off to a strong start and shows the three character who become hostages going about their very different lives. Fifty-something ex-teacher and homeless, Neil, is waking up in the grounds of a local church with his dog, Buddy; grandmother and nurse, Mutesi, from Rwanda is taking her six-year-old grandson to school and criminal barrister, Abigail Garcia, is on her way to defend a client accused of harming her child. All three are heading to the busy Tuckbox cafe in Balham and are amongst the witnesses to an incident that sees mid-twenties Sam Ballard fire a shotgun with irrevocable consequences. Frazzled working mother and police negotiator, DI Eliza McClean, is drafted in with a mission to establish a rapport with the gunman and get everybody out alive. What follows is seen from multiple perspectives - Sam, Eliza, Mutesi, Abi and Neil - and we not only learn more about the characters but also get their take on the unfolding situation. Sam’s perspective includes flashbacks to the earlier years in his life to illustrate his story and Eliza’s provides a glimpse into the behind the scenes police handling of such an operation. Disappointingly the motivation for the gunman’s actions is made apparent at just twenty percent of the way through the novel and whilst what follows is a slow reveal of the detailed reasons behind his actions, I did feel that much of the tension was lost. From then on the novel felt like a drawn-out look at how Sam had been failed by society and the legal system. It became glaringly obvious at this point that the three hostages and police negotiator, DI Eliza McClean, were intended simply to demonstrate compassion and act as a sounding board for Sam’s story. I cringed at how the hostages tried to keep Sam calm and patiently listened to his backstory as it was so obvious that their intents were simply to pacify him and keep themselves out of danger. From this point on there were really no surprises and it all felt rather prosaic. Whilst I felt that the character of criminal barrister, Abigail, was believable with her lack of tact and impatience, I had less success in investing in homeless, Neil, or nursing home carer, Mutesi, who both felt overwritten and overly-earnest. Of the characters it was Eliza I wanted to hear more from and wished she had been given a bigger part of the narrative. In the end this was over-sentimental and too mawkish for my tastes and whilst the prose is engaging and there are plenty of insights into the human condition, the novel lacked realism. Once I knew the motive for the gunman’s actions my interest in the novel waned and from the halfway juncture onwards I found the blatant politically correct execution of the story tiresome.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    What a read! This is how thrillers should be written; it certainly deserves to be a bestseller as it is masterfully crafted, taut and completely riveting. It sucks you in from the opening pages and had me reading well into the night. The incident at the cafe is all too real and reflects the fact that many more people are turning to extremism and committing terrible atrocities all over the world. But not only is it thrilling and intense it packs a real emotional punch too. This is one of the nove What a read! This is how thrillers should be written; it certainly deserves to be a bestseller as it is masterfully crafted, taut and completely riveting. It sucks you in from the opening pages and had me reading well into the night. The incident at the cafe is all too real and reflects the fact that many more people are turning to extremism and committing terrible atrocities all over the world. But not only is it thrilling and intense it packs a real emotional punch too. This is one of the novels that it's best going in blind as the surprises will be all the more enjoyable. A terrifying, compulsive and fast-paced must-read I implore crime connoisseurs to pick up. One of the best thrillers I've had the pleasure of picking up over the past few years. Charity Norman is undoubtedly one to watch. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Allen & Unwin for an ARC.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    It’s Monday morning in London and Tuckbox Cafe is busy with customers. People heading to work and school, on their way home from night shift or popping in for a coffee to warm them up. A man enters the cafe with a shotgun and alters the course of their day. This is a hostage situation and we get to know all the characters including the hostage negotiator. I really enjoyed this book and the interaction of the characters involved. Thank you to NetGalley and Atlantic Books for my e-copy in exchange f It’s Monday morning in London and Tuckbox Cafe is busy with customers. People heading to work and school, on their way home from night shift or popping in for a coffee to warm them up. A man enters the cafe with a shotgun and alters the course of their day. This is a hostage situation and we get to know all the characters including the hostage negotiator. I really enjoyed this book and the interaction of the characters involved. Thank you to NetGalley and Atlantic Books for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nigel

    In brief - What a roller coaster - extremely powerful at times too. 4.5/5. In full Something about this book appealed to me. The blurb says that things go off course for a group of strangers at a London cafe one morning - it sounded interesting and I intentionally read no more. So the book opens with random strangers at or around the Tuckbox in Balham. From the start we know that Neil is one of them. He and his dog Buddy are on the streets but someone has kindly dropped some money in his tin mug. In brief - What a roller coaster - extremely powerful at times too. 4.5/5. In full Something about this book appealed to me. The blurb says that things go off course for a group of strangers at a London cafe one morning - it sounded interesting and I intentionally read no more. So the book opens with random strangers at or around the Tuckbox in Balham. From the start we know that Neil is one of them. He and his dog Buddy are on the streets but someone has kindly dropped some money in his tin mug. Some time with a hot drink in a warm cafe seems like a good idea... More characters are introduced at or around the Tuckbox as the early chapters go by. In some cases it is obvious who they are but not in every case. Welcome aboard the roller coaster! This was a book I kept returning to whenever I could. The individual stories, as they emerge, are good. I thought that the characters as a whole were very good and well written. They engaged me and convinced me. In particular both Neil's story and Mutesi's worked very well indeed for me - powerfully moving at times. Ultimately Sam's story was outstanding. I found the first third of this highly readable and well paced. It grabbed me early on and didn't let go. If I am totally honest the mid section felt a little slow. However I'm guessing that that would reflect the situation quite well in real life. It's rare but the ending here really did work for me. I think it was an excellent piece of writing. I'd not read any of Charity Norman's books before but I'll certainly look at her previous books. I'd happily recommend this to anyone after a genuinely good read. Note - I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review https://viewson.org.uk/fiction/the-se...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews

    *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com ‘The one night. It was a random chance, you see? Like being in here today. This was a random chance too.’ Charity Norman as shortlisted for the Best Crime Novel in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Crime and she utilises this expertise to present a new crime thriller. The Secrets of Strangers is brimming with dark secrets, shocking revelations and complex issues relating to the heart of humanity. Charity Norman’s explosive new offering is absorbing from the fir *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com ‘The one night. It was a random chance, you see? Like being in here today. This was a random chance too.’ Charity Norman as shortlisted for the Best Crime Novel in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Crime and she utilises this expertise to present a new crime thriller. The Secrets of Strangers is brimming with dark secrets, shocking revelations and complex issues relating to the heart of humanity. Charity Norman’s explosive new offering is absorbing from the first to the last sentence. This is the tragic story of the events that unfurl in a London café when a gunman lets loose on a group of five strangers. For this group of five unrelated people, being in the wrong place at the wrong time means that their lives will never be the same again. While the gunman unpacks his own issues, the group he has under his control confront a number of moral and personal dilemmas. Secrets unravel, issues are disclosed and the fight for survival becomes deeply imperative. This is a day of reckoning for the patrons, staff, gunman and police negotiator of Charity Norman’s The Secrets of Strangers. While I was reading through the author of The Secrets of Strangers Charity Norman’s biography, I noted that she was once a mediator and a telephone crisis line operator. Norman is also passionate about the power of communication. I find these facts very pertinent, as I believe that Norman’s latest story is a book that highlights the importance of communication and listening, in a time of crisis. The Secrets of Strangers zones in on a crisis at hand and how this impacts upon the innocent bystanders, as well as the perpetrator of the crime. It is a well-rounded and precise novel. Initially I found The Secrets of Strangers to be a little eerie and confronting. For many Australian readers, this book will hit quite close to home and it may even hit a nerve. It reminded me very much of the Lindt Café Hostage Crisis of 2014. This event has still haunted me to this day, as I sure it has done for many others. The Secrets of Strangers is a book that mirrors these events in some respects, but Norman puts her own spin on the desperate situation at hand. We are presented with a set of diverse and eclectic characters in The Secrets of Strangers. From the misunderstood and highly stressed gunman, through to the dedicated police negotiator and the actual hostages. Norman presents a varied cast. I appreciated the way in which Norman was able to completely peel back the very personal stories of each of her key protagonists. We also get a very good glimpse into the inner thoughts, feelings and concerns of the characters. These were colourful but serious back stories, which makes the audience think very carefully about everything from genocide, PTSD, guilt, domestic abuse, homelessness, IVF and career pressures. Each is presented in an insightful and thoughtful way. I really had no idea where I stood with this novel, it can feel a little unnerving and tense at times. The plotting is astute and on point. The tension level also remained at a high pitch. This is an emotionally charged novel, that will make you think hard about what we are all hiding away and what plagues us, in an age of disconnection and at a time of uncertainty. The Secrets of Strangers is an edgy, hypnotic and penetrating examination into the human condition. It is a novel that looks carefully at our responses when we are driven to breaking point. Revealing and addictive, The Secrets of Strangers should bring Charity Norman a new collection of readers. The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman was published on 3rd March 2020 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here. *Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Smith

    ‘The early moments of a siege are the most dangerous. Attackers panic. The lizard brain takes over: the primeval fight-or-flight response, smothering rational thought. They can’t run, so they lash out. They do appalling things: things that their friends and family can’t believe of them; things they can’t believe of themselves when they look back later.’ I liked this book far more than I anticipated. I expected a crime story, a cafe under siege, tense right the way through, more focus on the event ‘The early moments of a siege are the most dangerous. Attackers panic. The lizard brain takes over: the primeval fight-or-flight response, smothering rational thought. They can’t run, so they lash out. They do appalling things: things that their friends and family can’t believe of them; things they can’t believe of themselves when they look back later.’ I liked this book far more than I anticipated. I expected a crime story, a cafe under siege, tense right the way through, more focus on the events than the characters. It was tense alright, but it dug down deep into the lives of the characters, steering me towards a feeling of empathy with a gunman – something I never thought I’d ever feel. But as the story unfolds, Sam (aka gunman) becomes less of a crazed man with a gun and more of a fellow human being who has been wronged, over and over, a victim of a master manipulator and an unfortunate pawn in a young woman’s naivety. Grief over first losing his farm, then his daughter, and finally his mother; rage at his step-father for years of personal injustice and witnessing the terrible man gas-light his mother until she was all but destroyed; weighed down with fatigue and over stimulated by days of chewing Ritalin; by the end, I could see so clearly the how and why of Sam being where he was at that moment in time with a gun in his hands. And, so could his hostages. And even more telling, so could his hostage negotiator, a character, I’d like to point out as being remarkable. I very much enjoyed the inclusion of that perspective to the story. ‘He likes all three of these people. In fact, he’s wondering whether he’s got some kind of Stockholm syndrome but in reverse. It’s him aligning with them, not the other way around.’ Less terrifying siege and more breakfast club (but with a gun and barred doors), over the course of a very long day, Sam and his hostages get to know each other. It surprises them all, this sharing of stories, to the point where they are genuinely trying to get the best outcome for Sam. This is a novel that really humanises suffering, which shows with so much clarity that everyone has a breaking point, and that sometimes good people do bad things. I was in tears by the end. The author reels you in, bit by bit, until you are so immersed it’s as though you are a hostage in the cafe as well. This is a top read, utterly gripping and beautifully written. I’ll certainly be reading more from Charity Norman, you can count on it. ‘Hours later, one of the owls hooted in the dark mass of the spinney. He opened his eyes and saw that the sky had cleared, and so had his mind. Stars blazed from one horizon to another. The clock was striking again. One, two, three strikes and you’re out.’ Thanks is extended to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a review copy of The Secrets of Strangers.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    *thank you to Allen & Unwin for an ARC of this book* 5 stars! Ohh man. By the end of this I was wanting to give this 7 stars total. What an amazing story this was! While it wasn't really much of a thriller/mystery as I had thought, that didn't matter one bit. Yeah it was still partially a thriller but it was also a drama. Normally such books in not keen on so the fact I gave this 5 and want to add a bonus 2 stars, says Ohh so much. The Story is of 5 strangers who are at a London Cafe called The Tuck *thank you to Allen & Unwin for an ARC of this book* 5 stars! Ohh man. By the end of this I was wanting to give this 7 stars total. What an amazing story this was! While it wasn't really much of a thriller/mystery as I had thought, that didn't matter one bit. Yeah it was still partially a thriller but it was also a drama. Normally such books in not keen on so the fact I gave this 5 and want to add a bonus 2 stars, says Ohh so much. The Story is of 5 strangers who are at a London Cafe called The Tuckbox early one morning. None of them suspected that, this day, is one that they will never forget or that it will change their lives in a surprising way. None of them ever expected that day, to have a man standing in the Cafe with them, with a gun. No part of this was boring. No character I found uninteresting. Near the end I thought it was finished. But no. There were another 3 or 4 layers of the story to go and wow. The scary thing about this book is how realistic it could be. Yeah it sounds like an extreme situation to be in, but once the story starts to get told your hooked in and at times, finding yourself relating to bits here and there. At least I know I was. The deeper you got into the story, the more realistic it became. This story shows you not to instantly judge a person or for the situation they find themselves in, and why you shouldn't. Because your initial thoughts and assumptions could end up being way off. By the end of this story you will have felt like you have just travelled an epic journey into the life of another and the outcome of your original thoughts will probably have changed. This is one of those books where you can pick it up months, years, later and hold it and still remember it like you are remembering a time in your own past, of friends who have come and gone. This book is really well written and the author, Charity Norman, is an amazing storyteller. Highly recommended!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings)

    I’ve been struggling with how to review Charity Norman’s latest novel “The Secrets of Strangers” as I wasn’t expecting it to be the book it was. I had convinced myself this was a crime/psychological novel, since its billed as a thriller involving five strangers held hostage in a London cafe by a crazed gunman. However, although there is police negotiators involved, this was for me very much more a character study. All the characters are diverse and with each one having a unique and intriguing in I’ve been struggling with how to review Charity Norman’s latest novel “The Secrets of Strangers” as I wasn’t expecting it to be the book it was. I had convinced myself this was a crime/psychological novel, since its billed as a thriller involving five strangers held hostage in a London cafe by a crazed gunman. However, although there is police negotiators involved, this was for me very much more a character study. All the characters are diverse and with each one having a unique and intriguing in depth backstory that we get to learn from each of them, this made for a slightly slower paced read. I did enjoy it, there were slow moments during the cafe scenes but the last few chapters certainly picked up the tension and with often short chapters featuring multiple perspectives, I did feel a connection with most of the five main characters. Homeless Neil and his dog Buddy were really endearing and even though Sam the gunman is seriously troubled, I could really see how he ended up in the position he did and felt for his woes. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s previous novel “See You in September” and I was hugely looking forward to “The Secrets of Strangers” but even though it wasn’t the thriller I anticipated, I did find it entertaining if just a little slow at times. 3.5 stars

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Fenton

    I am a huge fan of Charity Norman, she is one of those authors who manages to bring each character to life in your mind with incredible detail and once again she’s created a stunning, thought-provoking and highly emotive story in The Secrets of Strangers. Set in a cafe in Balham, London “Tuckbox” is a busy coffee shop, packed with commuters, parents on school runs, gym mummies gossiping over a cappuccino and customers getting their caffeine fix before the day begins. Owned and run by the friendly I am a huge fan of Charity Norman, she is one of those authors who manages to bring each character to life in your mind with incredible detail and once again she’s created a stunning, thought-provoking and highly emotive story in The Secrets of Strangers. Set in a cafe in Balham, London “Tuckbox” is a busy coffee shop, packed with commuters, parents on school runs, gym mummies gossiping over a cappuccino and customers getting their caffeine fix before the day begins. Owned and run by the friendly and loved Robert, a recent widower, the customers are shocked and terrified when a young man armed with a shotgun comes into the Tuckbox and shots the owner dead and then takes hostages. The story is told by numerous narrators and each character has such an authentic voice that the reader is immediately transported into the cafe and can almost taste the emotion, fear and despair felt by the hostages, the negotiators and the gunmen. I was taken on an incredibly powerful journey through each character and chapter. My emotions ranged from shock to sympathy and back again throughout the book. What starts off as an horrific and violent unprovoked attack on a seemingly innocent victim ended up making me question everything I’ve read and rethink my judgement. At times it was heart-breaking and then heart-warming, my emotions were all over the place. The Secret of Strangers may be a work of fiction, but it left me feeling hopeful and positive about the human race and that most people are kind, caring, compassionate and more importantly brave. 5 stars

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bree T

    I made the mistake of taking this book with me to my son’s swimming lesson, to read during that. The swimming lesson is only 30min plus the time it takes for my son to get changed. It was a big mistake because when it was time to go, I did not want to put this book down at all. If you start it, do so when you have plenty of time. Because it sucks you in immediately and takes you on the most unexpected journey. It seems relatively straightforward at first – it’s early morning at a cafe in London, I made the mistake of taking this book with me to my son’s swimming lesson, to read during that. The swimming lesson is only 30min plus the time it takes for my son to get changed. It was a big mistake because when it was time to go, I did not want to put this book down at all. If you start it, do so when you have plenty of time. Because it sucks you in immediately and takes you on the most unexpected journey. It seems relatively straightforward at first – it’s early morning at a cafe in London, there’s a host of workers and regulars: businesspeople stopping in for a coffee before work, mums with young children. Then a young man storms in, demands something of the cafe owner and is summarily dismissed. But he’s back moments later, this time with a shotgun. Some manage to flee but about a dozen are trapped inside, including an elderly man and some young children. From there it’s the job of police negotiator Eliza to get on the scene, find a way to contact the gunman inside the cafe and hopefully, defuse the situation before there is loss of life. The narrative revolves between six adults: homeless man Neil, African immigrant and nurse Mutesi, lawyer Abi, a worker, the gunman himself and Eliza. For Eliza, it’s about ascertaining the motive, connecting with the perpetrator as a person, hearing him and hoping to talk him down. For everyone else except Sam, the gunman, it’s about staying alive. Not doing anything that might set him off. And for Sam himself? Well that becomes outlined over the course of the narrative. This is an expertly character driven novel, with Charity Norman using a small cast of people to construct the whole. Abi is on the phone when the first gunshot is fired, so police are alerted and on the scene very quickly. Through each of the characters, Sam’s story is revealed. For Eliza, connecting with Sam is a must. It’s quite obvious that he’s feeling as though he’s the only one without his life together, which leads the others who are his hostages to share some of their stories. So that Sam can see that whilst it might look like everyone else is doing well, you never know what is going on beneath the surface and that everyone has their demons to face, crosses to bear, the ways that life has disappointed them, rejected them, let them down, hurt them unbearably. It was easy to go into this book, knowing it was a shooting and hostage situation and think one way. That you knew how you were going to feel about characters, about the situation. But the ways in which the backstory is revealed and it’s shown how everything came to this moment, is so expertly done. I honestly couldn’t stop reading this, it’s such an amazing showcase of some of the more subtler forms of abuse that are out there, the ones that people do not see, and perhaps the ones that it’s impossible for those to see who are outside looking in. But for those experiencing it, it’s very real, it’s the realest thing in their world at the same time as being something that they wonder if it’s even happening, because why can no one else see it. It’s so incredibly damaging, so insidious, especially over a long period of time. I loved so many of the characters in this – Neil and his blunt honesty about his life and who he was. Mutesi and her story was heartbreaking and the sort of person that she was was just a joy to read because of the outlook she had managed to maintain. Her pain and heartache and suffering were so enormous and the impact of her story I think, hit everyone. What she had endured and not let break her was incredible. Even Abi and her brusque manner and tendency to occasionally clap back at Sam, kept me amused, even though he was the dude standing there with the gun. I think it said a lot about the situation as it unfolded, that Abi was willing to do that. This is a very powerful story, the sort that it’s actually not that difficult to imagine. That one day, you might walk into your favourite cafe and get caught in a situation that you don’t expect, that could very quickly escalate to terrifying levels. It’s not that difficult to put yourself into this story, think about what you might do or say, how’d you feel. I loved every page of this, I appreciated so much the way that the author chose to tell the story, how it forced me to re-examine things constantly. And once again – if you do pick this up (and I hope everyone does!) give yourself the time to sit down and read this in as close to one sitting as you can. ***A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review***

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Lockdown has enabled me to change my reading rituals. No longer do I snatch a chapter or two as I grab a coffee between work chores. Instead, I've put aside one day per weekend to read, and I finished this amazing story in just one day. It's an ironic read for lockdown, but actually puts our situation into a little perspective. We are not prisoners; we may be struggling, but we still have the freedom to walk out of our door, and to speak to, if not actually see, our loved ones. What excites me m Lockdown has enabled me to change my reading rituals. No longer do I snatch a chapter or two as I grab a coffee between work chores. Instead, I've put aside one day per weekend to read, and I finished this amazing story in just one day. It's an ironic read for lockdown, but actually puts our situation into a little perspective. We are not prisoners; we may be struggling, but we still have the freedom to walk out of our door, and to speak to, if not actually see, our loved ones. What excites me most about Charity Norman's stories is that she is not afraid to delve into some dark and often very emotionally trying issues. She writes with an empathy for character that shines through the stories; her development of each and every person in her stories is beautifully and carefully done. The reader often changing their opinion as more is revealed about each one. The Secrets of Strangers is the perfect title for this complex and incredibly taut novel. Each of the characters begin as strangers but by the final pages they are as connected to each other as they are to their family and their oldest friends. In fact, they probably reveal far more about themselves during that long day trapped within the walls of Tuckbox; a fairly ordinary cafe on a London street. Tuckbox is a busy cafe, populated by regulars and owned by cheerful and friendly Robert. The customers this morning include a street sleeper, a barrister and a carer, among others. Ordinary folk going about their regular business. Meeting family, trying to keep warm or on their way to an important court case. Also visiting Tuckbox that morning is Sam. Sam is an angry, troubled man who isn't there for the coffee; he's there to see Robert, and to get back what is rightfully his. As Sam and Robert argue and Sam storms out of the cafe, the regulars look on, then settle down again. Just one of those spats, you see them every day, now to get on with their own business. However, Sam returns quickly, with a gun, and the customer's lives will never be the same again. The customers of Tuckbox are in for the long haul and this very clever author allows her readers to get to know each one of them intimately. There's such a tension that builds throughout the story, as Sam shows how unstable he is; downing pills and veering between hyper active and morose; there is no predictability to his behaviour at all. By revealing the most personal details of each of the character's lives, the author also deals with some hard hitting and incredibly powerful issues including infertility, addiction, genocide and child neglect and abuse. She makes her readers see all sides of these people, including Sam who does not let go of his shotgun at all throughout the day. Once more Charity Norman has produced an outstanding story that had me gripped throughout. The tension is almost unbearable at times, and the absolute heartbreak of some of the character's stories almost broke my heart. A novel that looks at perception and belief. A story that is so powerfully moving, from an author who really is at the top of her game. Highly recommended.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amelia Strydom

    What a suspenseful, heart-wrenching, yet ultimately life-affirming read. I felt like I was right beside the characters in that cozy coffee shop turned murder-and-hostage scene. I fell in love with each of them and rooted for them until the end, which was realistic and hopeful without being saccharine sweet. Ms. Norman is a wonderful writer and I am so looking forward to reading ALL her other books.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen Wicks

    Started reading this Sunday morning and finished it Monday morning. I found it absolutely riveting, moving and unputdownable, Just like the cover said. The characters were all believable and my opinion on some of them changed as I got further into the book. I can't say anymore, without spoiling it - all I can say is read it! Started reading this Sunday morning and finished it Monday morning. I found it absolutely riveting, moving and unputdownable, Just like the cover said. The characters were all believable and my opinion on some of them changed as I got further into the book. I can't say anymore, without spoiling it - all I can say is read it!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lady Delacour

    Happily this was a blind read which made the story even better. Not your Typical Cafe experience. 3 Want more of this author, Stars. Listened with TTS. Cleanishhhhh. Foul Language.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jo Spain

    Absolute page-turner. Heartwarming and thrilling.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Young

    My heart broke for 98% of the characters in this book. When you read it i guess you will figure out which ones my heart did not break for. Brilliant story. It had me hooked from the beginning.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ali Kennedy

    You know when you see an unassuming present under the tree on Christmas morning? Then you open it and there's a sparkly pair of earrings inside? Then you put them in your ears and they don't irritate and look really beautiful in? That's this book. I didn't think much of it when I signed up to read it on The Pigeonhole. By stave 1 I was pleasantly surprised and hooked right away. By the end I knew I had discovered a gem. The premise is simple - man goes into a cafe and shoots the owner then takes h You know when you see an unassuming present under the tree on Christmas morning? Then you open it and there's a sparkly pair of earrings inside? Then you put them in your ears and they don't irritate and look really beautiful in? That's this book. I didn't think much of it when I signed up to read it on The Pigeonhole. By stave 1 I was pleasantly surprised and hooked right away. By the end I knew I had discovered a gem. The premise is simple - man goes into a cafe and shoots the owner then takes hostages. What follows is a beautiful story of diverse lives that intersect in extreme circumstances, and the goodness that humanity can show even in the face of such horrific badness. The shooter, Sam, and each of his hostages have their own backstories and concerns, which we learn about throughout the book. It is tense yet heartwarming and that is a delicate balance to achieve. I don't want to spoil anything but I also felt that the ending was apt, realistic and fully appropriate to each of the characters. Nothing too silly to ruin the work that the author had done throughout the book. Read it and smile through tears. Thanks to the author and publisher for making this available to read on The Pigeonhole - it was an fantastic experience reading along with my fellow readers and sharing in their reading experiences. I loved it so much I dedicated my first ever Instagram video review to it! You can see it on @LibraryAliKnits if that's your kind of thing!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shalini

    A usual busy morning in a café and suddenly it all changed. Entered a gunman and 2 shots were fired. Everyone ran helter-skelter, only 3 remained along with one dead and 1 lost and 1 crazed. But there were secrets linking them. Then came the hostage negotiator and slowly the story unfurled. My first book by author Charity Norman, I was awed in the way the story was foretold. There was something so poignant about their lives that each one of them touched my heart. Their courage, their sadness, the A usual busy morning in a café and suddenly it all changed. Entered a gunman and 2 shots were fired. Everyone ran helter-skelter, only 3 remained along with one dead and 1 lost and 1 crazed. But there were secrets linking them. Then came the hostage negotiator and slowly the story unfurled. My first book by author Charity Norman, I was awed in the way the story was foretold. There was something so poignant about their lives that each one of them touched my heart. Their courage, their sadness, their truths, and their lies all surfaced as each page was turned. The author's writing caused goosebumps to appear when the truths were revealed, it shocked me to my core. There was a certain old connection between them. And newer ones were formed between the hostages which touched my heart. There were times I had tears at the way they rallied together and supported each other. It was heart warming. The story was fast paced; the scenes permeated my soul with its ambience, enlivening and shattering it both at the same time. Fear and dread, helplessness and resignation, friendship and camaraderie were all depicted seamlessly. Everything was so realistic. Overall it was a beautifully written story with tension across the scenes along with poignancy and emotions.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Fabulous! I didn't want to read this (which is all you need to know about advertising and reviews) but it was a book club choice. I was planning on cracking on with another, one that wasn't chosen but which I fancied, but thought I'd just give this a chance. Two sittings. I've read some criticism regarding the sympathy of characters that have no real reason to sympathise, other than they were like real human beings. There are possibly a few too many characters at the beginning but they all have Fabulous! I didn't want to read this (which is all you need to know about advertising and reviews) but it was a book club choice. I was planning on cracking on with another, one that wasn't chosen but which I fancied, but thought I'd just give this a chance. Two sittings. I've read some criticism regarding the sympathy of characters that have no real reason to sympathise, other than they were like real human beings. There are possibly a few too many characters at the beginning but they all have their role to play. This story never lost its pace while telling many other stories in many time-lines. There is one, near the end, I don't think I will ever forget. It is one we are all aware of and has been brought to life in an amazing way. Can't recommend this enough.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fictionophile

    It is true that you never really know another person until you've walked a mile in their shoes. After spending several hours in a small London café with the characters in this book, I have come to know them. And love them. This is one of those novels that I'm sure I'll think about for years to come. Though it is only January, I'm also certain it will make my end of 2021 Top Reads list. Superb characterization and deep human understanding make this novel stand heads above the rest.  The author's ow It is true that you never really know another person until you've walked a mile in their shoes. After spending several hours in a small London café with the characters in this book, I have come to know them. And love them. This is one of those novels that I'm sure I'll think about for years to come. Though it is only January, I'm also certain it will make my end of 2021 Top Reads list. Superb characterization and deep human understanding make this novel stand heads above the rest.  The author's own career as a lawyer and crisis line mediator shines through in this book via the narratives of Eliza and Abi. The novel takes place over the course of one very long day. It is by times, tense, emotional, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. I'll never be able to hear Elton John's 'Rocket Man' again without thinking about this book. My favourite characters were definitely Sam and Mutesi.  Characters that are ordinary people yet are larger than life, characters whose stories moved me to tears. Highly, highly recommended. To read my full review of this novel, visit: https://fictionophile.com/2021/01/10/...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Veronika Jordan

    This is such a hard book to review. It made me cry - buckets at times. It made me mad - how could 'that' have been allowed to happen? It made me sad many times for the wonderful, beautiful, real characters that Charity Norman has created. I loved every minute of this book. I've lived with the people in it for 10 days via Pigeonhole staves and it will be a long time before I can get it out of my head. Though long term I hope it says with me - just not quite so emotionally as now. I can't really s This is such a hard book to review. It made me cry - buckets at times. It made me mad - how could 'that' have been allowed to happen? It made me sad many times for the wonderful, beautiful, real characters that Charity Norman has created. I loved every minute of this book. I've lived with the people in it for 10 days via Pigeonhole staves and it will be a long time before I can get it out of my head. Though long term I hope it says with me - just not quite so emotionally as now. I can't really say much more without spoilers. I am writing this nine hours after reading the final stave at 1 o'clock in the morning and a couple of hours after the virtual publication launch which I was proud and honoured to be part of. I hope this fabulous book flies up the best sellers chart. Good luck Charity, stay safe and God bless. Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, fellow Pigeons and to Charity for making this such an extraordinary read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gail Wylde

    Wow, what a great read. This book has played havoc with my emotions, I feel I have been on an emotional rollercoaster. The writing is excellent, the characters are so real I feel as if I know them personally and now I’m going to miss them everyday. I cried, a lot,in this book. I have got angry and wanted to harm somebody, and to shake some sense into someone. I cannot recommend this book enough and if I could give it more stars I would. This will definitely be one of my best books of 2020. I wan Wow, what a great read. This book has played havoc with my emotions, I feel I have been on an emotional rollercoaster. The writing is excellent, the characters are so real I feel as if I know them personally and now I’m going to miss them everyday. I cried, a lot,in this book. I have got angry and wanted to harm somebody, and to shake some sense into someone. I cannot recommend this book enough and if I could give it more stars I would. This will definitely be one of my best books of 2020. I want to give thanks to both Charity Norman and Pigeonhole for giving me the chance to read this.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I loved this book, the story of human nature, personalities and how different people see situations in varying lights and shades. Charity Norman kept this story interesting without making it long and boring. It kept me reading, had me on the edge of my seat right up until the end. I loved the ending as it really did complete the story. The characters were all different in their take on things, their personalities and their way of life yet they all came together to help end a volatile situation. I I loved this book, the story of human nature, personalities and how different people see situations in varying lights and shades. Charity Norman kept this story interesting without making it long and boring. It kept me reading, had me on the edge of my seat right up until the end. I loved the ending as it really did complete the story. The characters were all different in their take on things, their personalities and their way of life yet they all came together to help end a volatile situation. It is a story of grief, friendship, family, abuse, life and love. The Secrets of Strangers Charity Norman Thank you Allen & Unwin Australia Pty. Ltd.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...