Bibliophile | ‘The Secrets of Strangers’ brings a thrilling, unforgettable read

The Secrets of Strangers
by Charity Norman
Allen & Unwin

Neil used to have a job, a family, friends, a home and a sofa to sit on at night to watch television. Now he sleeps on the London streets and keeps everything her owns on three plastic bags and a tatty backpack. When someone drops him some money, all he needs now is warmth and a cup of coffee at the nearby café.

Mutesi’s shift at the nursing home has just ended and she heads to St Jude’s Church to light a candle for a resident who has died overnight. Then she goes to the Tuckerbox Café to collect her 6 year-old grandson from her daughter and have some breakfast before taking him to school while her daughter goes to work.

Lawyer Abi is on her way to court and expecting to be contacted by the IVF clinic with the results of her latest pregnancy test. With 6 minutes until her train arrives, she texts her coffee order to Tuckerbox Café and goes to collect it.

Then there’s Sam who has an argument with the café’s owner Robert before storming out and returning with a gun. So these strangers find themselves held hostage in the café along with a few others including an elderly man, a pregnant woman and her child and a worker who scurries to hide in a cupboard.

As London carries on much the same as before, armed responders surround the café and hostage negotiator Eliza has her off-duty day cancelled. The people in the café are caught up in someone else’s private war and it is her task to make sure that everyone manages to get out of the café alive.

So, for the next 300 pages, the reader is also held captive as one tense situation after another erupts and several of the characters try to calm things down by telling their stories. The reader becomes more and more involved with the characters, including the gunman, as they are thrown head-first into heaps of emotional turmoil. Such a relief to finally finish the book and recommend it to everyone as an unforgettable reading experience.

Lezly Herbert

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