The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones
Published by Mulholland Books on July 1st, 2014
A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night--her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?Stephen Lloyd Jones's debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion--a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.
The String Diaries is a mysterious and intriguing tale. There’s no build up in this one, you are thrown straight into the action and are left trying to puzzle together everything through out the book. I tend to like that, and so I felt this started off very strong. The story features three different (alternating) timelines, each providing a piece of the puzzle this story is telling.
Because of the way the reader is dumped right into the middle of things, the characters know much more of what’s going on than the reader. There’s just no reason for them to reveal much information in the middle of current events. And speaking of current events, the book starts of with Hannah driving in the middle of the night while her husband, who is just about bleeding out in the seat next to her, and her daughter is sleeping in the backseat. No matter what kind of reader you are, you can not help but need to know what brought her here, what happened to her husband, and why on earth is she not headed to a hospital?! Mysteries yet to be revealed. She is obviously quite frightened, but determined so it didn’t take me long to like her.
It is always interesting to get an antagonist point of view, and this is no exception. Loved that aspect of this book. We are thrown into the mind of pretty much a mad man, we get to see how he tries to internally justify his crimes as well as a bit of his life that led up to it. It is always fascinating and a bit disturbing to explore a troubled individual.
I did feel that this book may have had a bit too much internal dialogue at times, very much taking the route of telling instead of showing. Spelling out the characters thoughts, fears and motivations. I tend to prefer to get more of that by way of inference, but I know many people don’t mind. And, I have to admit, this is a double edged sword in some ways because I think that same trait of the book may helped create the suspense and tension in many scenes. So, while in most cases I think it worked, I might have liked to see just a tad less of it in others.
The String Diaries is a very tense book that takes the reader on a journey through multiple times. While I did find my interest wavering just a bit in the middle, I am glad I read it. I enjoyed the structure of the story and how it used the different timelines to help solve this mystery for the reader (and remember, this is mainly a mystery for the reader, the characters are much more aware of what is going on). Overall, an enjoyable read.