The String Diaries, by Stephen Lloyd Jones, succeeds in finding an original space in the popular genre of fast paced thriller. As with many good books the plot is not constrained by this single label, touching on horror, mystery and folklore as the tale unfolds. The bare bones of the climax may be inevitable, but the denouement is not.
The story moves across Northern Europe, between the late nineteenth century and the present day. It describes how generations of a family have been hunted and killed by an elusive being of which little is known outside of a series of diaries, which are guarded as the only means of warning for those left behind when the killer strikes. Historical records mention a tale that is widely believed to be fanciful folklore; the family diaries detail the frightening truth.
At times the actions of the present day hunted can appear overwrought. I did not warm to the heroine, finding the supporting cast more rounded and believable. Having said that though, she was the one to have suffered the most, she had the most to lose. None of us can know how we would act under such circumstances.
The book is long at well over six hundred pages, but the writing is tight and the build up and background added authenticity. If anything I would have welcomed more detail on some of the groups which became key as the plot progressed. The world that the author created captured my interest and imagination. I am left wondering how the society functioned prior to the initial time frame described in this book, something that is touched on only briefly. I wonder why they evolved as they did, what purpose they served.
I felt ambivalence over the denouement. The lack of satisfactory explanation detracted from the potential for plausibility. I wanted to know how the apparent contradiction could have happened. The whole tale required a leap of faith, but I did not find this an issue due to the details provided which were lacking at the end.
This did not, however, spoil what had gone before. The author has created an intriguing world in which I was happy to immerse myself. The String Diaries is a riveting read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline.