The Stranger Times #2: This Charming Man – C.K. McDonnell

On her first day, Hannah’s boss shot himself in the foot. It’s now been three months since Hannah joined The Stranger Times as assistant editor and she’s just returned from two week’s leave (divorce holidays aren’t especially fun), only to have a close encounter with the office toilet. It escaped the building via an upper window. Never a dull moment. 

‘Rumour has it the sun’s come out and people are losing their minds.’ 

Her boss, Vincent Bancroft, editor at large, remains “‘challenging’, in the way a cat sanctuary might use the word to describe a moggy that attempted to rip your face off while you slept.”

Banecroft, Stella, the paper’s purple haired intern, and Manny, their printer, are all currently living at the office. And let’s not forget the spirit that cohabits with Manny. Rounding out the team are Grace, the office manager, Ox, the ufologist, and Reggie, the paper’s paranormal consultant.

So, having been introduced to all of the “woo-woo nonsense” that’s hidden in plain sight in Manchester in the first book, what delights does this sequel contain? Vampires. 

‘They don’t exist.’ 

Sure, tell that to the people who never signed up to be blood donors.

In the course of their investigation, we meet Cogs 

‘Would it kill you to lie?’
‘Actually, dear lady, it would.’ 

and the dog that regularly puts him in his place. The dog quickly became my favourite character.

Because this is The Stranger Times, there’s more to the investigation than meets the eye. Which eye, I hear you ask? Touché. If you didn’t ask, I’d suggest you read the first book for the inside scoop.

I love this dysfunctional team and their investigations. The case of the non-sparkly vampires does have a resolution but that doesn’t mean the vampires are all going the way of their reflection in a mirror. I’m almost certain more blood will be spilled when we catch up with the strangeness in the next book. If not, though, there’s plenty of territory left to cover in this series, from questions about individual team members to the conspiracy theories I’m formulating about the Founders.

With more farts than your average book, a smelly gun and inexplicable Spam, you’ll be grateful this read isn’t presented in Smell-O-Pages. I was delighted to learn how to swear by number and I definitely need to hear more about the woman who was chased by the spectral dinosaur. 

I’m already looking forward to the third book.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be at the Spoonful of Sugar with Stanley.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Penguin Random House UK, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Vampires do not exist. Everyone knows this. So it’s particularly annoying when they start popping up around Manchester… 

Nobody is pleased about it. Not the Founders, the secret organisation for whom vampires were invented as an allegory, nor the Folk, the magical people hidden in plain sight who only want a quiet life. And definitely not the people of Manchester, because there is nothing more irksome than being murdered by an allegory run amok. Somebody needs to sort this out fast before all Hell really breaks loose – step forward the staff of The Stranger Times.

It’s not like they don’t have enough to be dealing with. Assistant Editor Hannah has come back from getting messily divorced to discover that someone is trying to kidnap a member of their staff and while editor Vincent Banecroft would be delighted to see the back of any of his team, he doesn’t like people touching his stuff – it’s the principle of the thing. 

Throw in a precarious plumbing situation, gambling debts, an entirely new way of swearing, and a certain detective inspector with what could be kindly referred to as ‘a lot of baggage’ and it all adds up to another hectic week in the life of the newspaper committed to reporting the truth that nobody else will touch.

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