We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings

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We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Summer 1984. A mysterious intruder, dubbed The Fox is breaking into people's homes but not stealing anything. When a local lady goes missing, the neighbourhood is turned upside-down as fear and paranoia grip the residents.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 320 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781409169048

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In the summer of 1984, a Chilterns village was gripped with fear and suspicion as a mysterious intruder known as The Fox broke into the homes of several residents in the area. Despite an increased police presence, regular patrols and vigilante groups, this slippery character still managed to evade detection. A huge police Foxhunt followed, and finally, forensic evidence led to the eventual capture of the perpetrator. This real-life news story sparked the imagination of a young Harriet Cummings, who went on to create a fictional version of events, which invites the reader to turn detective and try and unmask The Fox from a range of possible suspects.

The book is divided into four sections, each written from the point of view of four very different residents of the village. First we have bored housewife Deloris, who finds escape from the drudgery of her daily existence with her weekly fix of Dallas. Then we have gentle Jim, who is the acting local vicar. On the surface, Jim appears to be a pillar of the community, but will secrets from the past come back to haunt him? Brian is the likeable young local bobby who is completely out of his depth when his village becomes the focus of a major police investigation. Finally we meet eccentric local, Stan, who is clearly hiding something important from the police during their investigation. The sleepy village is rocked to the core when a well-loved local lady goes missing and The Fox is the prime suspect. A friendly neighbourhood suddenly turns hostile as fear and paranoia set in and everyone views their neighbour as a potential suspect.

Cummings does a perfect job setting the scene and manages to capture the 80's period wonderfully with the inclusion of quirky little details that will bring back fond memories for those who remember that era (although a reference to the Macarena was about a decade early!). I also loved the way that she cranked up the tension as the villagers started to turn on one another. In one scene, Jim goes to the local store to find that it has started selling weapons, traps and padlocks. It's wonderfully written and manages to capture the growing sense of paranoia. I also liked the way that the villagers took on a kind of mob mentality every time the finger of suspicion pointed at someone new.

The only problem I had with the book was that it was very slow in the beginning and I felt that Deloris' story was probably not the best opener. She wasn't a particularly sympathetic character and it was hard to warm to her or to see where the story was going. I persevered with the book, however, because I was genuinely curious about the identity of The Fox. The story became more engaging from the second section onward and the final reveal was a gratifying reward for my perseverance, as it was so brilliantly done; the kind of chapter you want to read over and over again to let it sink in.

We All Begin As Strangers is an intriguing and absorbing little mystery that will draw readers in. The story developed and played out well and I'd be interested to read more from this exciting author.

Bookbag enjoyed Dead of Winter by P J Parrish, another crime tale set in the 1980s, which is a delightful trip down a pre-technology memory lane.

Buy We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings at Amazon.com.


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