Cover Image: The Secrets of Strangers

The Secrets of Strangers

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I've just finished this book over the course of 3 days. It was totally brilliant!

The way the author developed characters that i felt such an emotional connection to, kept me gripped. When I wasn't reading the book, I was thinking about it and thinking about how it would all end for everyone.... and also worrying about all the characters, even the hostage taker!

Highly recommended! Brilliant!
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What a fascinating, different, insightful book. The multiple perspectives, the honesty of the characters, the introspection. Not many books could make you sympathise with a murderer I don't think, but Charity Norman does it with skill and empathy. In a space where anyone could die, judging someone else has gone out the window and it allows for true explorations of each character's experiences. Those who come out the other end do so better, freer, and with compassion for one another.
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The Secrets Of Strangers’ is the latest book by Charity Norman.

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for a group of strangers whose paths cross in a London café – their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?

Charity Norman is a new author for me and one that I enjoyed thoroughly after reading this book.

The story is seen from the different perspectives of people from all walks of life who decided to go to a particular coffee shop on a particular day when a man was feeling at his lowest.

To celebrate his birthday Neil gathers up all the change he has collected to treat himself to a cup of tea, solicitor Abi is getting ready to help a young mother in court and Mutesi has just come off a night shift to enjoy breakfast with her grandson and daughter. All four are preparing for the day ahead when a young man enters the cafe with a grudge and a gun. On the outside whilst people are fearing for their lives, negotiator Eliza is trying to get inside Sam’s head and figure out how he has got to this point in his life.

There are many things that I really liked about this book, the characters, the dialogue and the clever plot. The characters are an interesting mix of people who all have their secrets and issues, that on this particular things come to head and they find solace in each other during this surreal situation.

The characters are relatable and complex that I felt such an empathy for. Neil is homeless after unsuccessfully battling a gambling addition that has left him without his family and only Buddy a dog for company. Hardfaced Abi pretends that she the last thing she wants is a baby but that’s all she wants but biology isn’t on her side. Mutesi is such a kind and gentle character, creating a calming presence in the cafe, she speaks to Sam as though he is her grandson and not someone holding her hostage. In the background, we see the point leading up to Sam’s breakdown and it makes for hard reading as he struggles with mental health and family.

A beautifully written story about relationships, unexpected circumstances and life. Charity has explored many topics in this story, addiction, fertility and mental health in both a sensitive and informative manner. ‘The Secrets Of Strangers’ is a heartfelt and compelling story about the complexities of life and relationships that made for fascinating reading.

You can buy ‘The Secrets Of Strangers’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops
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If you haven’t yet discovered Charity Norman’s wonderfully compelling and highly addictive books, then you are missing out on a treat. An extraordinarily brilliant writer who subtly and brilliantly explores the fears, frailties and fragilities of the human condition, in her latest novel The Secrets of Strangers, she has penned a book that is so gripping and mesmerizing, to call it unputdownable would be an understatement.

It was a typical weekday morning like many others in London. The city heaving with people in a race against time rushing to get to work, to school or to their next appointment. A shot of caffeine at their favourite café is a necessity which they simply cannot do without. Usually, buying a coffee is a fairly mundane transaction which lasts only a couple of minutes. But not this time. The lives of three hostages are about to be turned upside down in a moment that will put them at risk and jeopardise all of their lives. Danger and terror has creeped into their lives when they least expected it, but will they end up paying the ultimate price for their misfortune at being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or will salvation come at the eleventh hour?

An apparently crazed gunman has shattered their seemingly ordinary lives and caused chaos, mayhem and destruction. But the situation may not be as it initially seems. Each of the hostages has their own darkness and their own demons haunting them and threatening to destroy them. There is not a single individual amongst this group who does not have a twisted and dangerous secret that is as lethal and terrifying as any weapon. With the clock ticking and the situation escalating, the lines between good and evil begin to blur, leaving each of them to wonder whether they will ever get out of this coffee shop alive.

A taut and terrifying read that is manages to be creepy and tense, but also poignant and affecting, The Secrets of Strangers is a densely written and brilliantly plotted read you will struggle to put down. A book that will consume you and keep you turning the pages until the early hours of the morning, The Secrets of Strangers is a book you will not forget in a hurry.

Fans of Rosamund Lupton and Jodi Picoult will not want to miss Charity Norman’s latest surefire bestseller, The Secrets of Strangers.
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It seems that I read the book different to everyone else. The premise was intriguing and sounded just up my street but I didn’t like the writing style and the characters, although well drawn out, were just too obvious and I struggled to connect with them. The pace was slow, the story didn’t grip me and I struggled to finish the book.
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Wow this was certainly an emotional read that is for sure! The Secrets of Strangers was a very moving and fast paced story that I spent the day engrossed in it and couldn’t put it down. Five strangers going about their daily morning routine and commute stop off at the Tuckbox cafe like normal, only the day turns drastically off-course and a simple ordering of a coffee for most ends up leaving them caught up in a hostage situation!

The main hostages are Mutesi, a nurse in a care home, Abi a defence barrister and Neil who is living on the streets, and after Sam has an argument with the cafe owner Robert and shoots him we meet negotiator DI Eliza McClean. These five people thrust together in an instant from different walks of live.

I am struggling to put into words just how amazing a read this book was, from reading the synopsis of the book I wasn’t expecting such an emotional and at times heartbreaking read. I really felt for the gunman Sam, he came into the cafe to threaten Robert and didn’t mean to shoot him, but of course that is exactly what happened and leads us to hearing his incredibly sad and heartbreaking story. This story covers mental health, gaslighting – which I could not believe how many times Robert had manged to gaslight Sam’s mother and then his girlfriend, and also the death and destruction that Mutesi managed to overcome in her home country or Rawanda before moving to London.

Those final chapters had me on edge, I knew what was coming and I could feel the tears welling and hoping it would take a different turn, and for a moment I thought I was all going to be all right, but alas that wasn’t the case and honestly as emotional as it was to read I could finally feel the sense of release for Sam.

The Secrets of Strangers was a brilliant emotional read and I highly recommend reading this one!

5 stars
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With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This is the first book I have read by Charity Norman and after finishing it I know I need to read her other books. Even though it is based around a serious crime it is concerned more with what led to it and the private lives of the gunman, his hostages and the police negotiator who is trying to get all of them to safety.

There are only a few pages that concern the shooting in the coffee shop, instead most of the novel focuses on the reasons why it happened and the way the small group in the coffee shop bonded. I had to decide if Sam was giving true account of what his life was like. Was Robert a saint and Sam spoiled, ungrateful, badly behaved and a disappointment? Or was every word that Sam said a true reflection of what his life was like. There were also some upsetting accounts of the hostages lives, especially one near the end. I just can’t imagine how people recover from experiences like the one described. I thought the ending was perfect. Friendships formed and promises kept. Even from one who made me mutter occasionally.

If you decide to read this book please take my advice and have a box of tissues nearby. It is one very emotional read
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A usual busy morning in a café and suddenly it all changed. Entered a gunman and 2 shots were fired. Everyone ran helter-skelter, only 3 remained along with one dead and 1 lost and 1 crazed. But there were secrets linking them. Then came the hostage negotiator and slowly the story unfurled.

My first book by author Charity Norman, I was awed in the way the story was foretold. There was something so poignant about their lives that each one of them touched my heart. Their courage, their sadness, their truths, and their lies all surfaced as each page was turned.

The author's writing caused goosebumps to appear when the truths were revealed, it shocked me to my core. There was a certain old connection between them. And newer ones were formed between the hostages which touched my heart. There were times I had tears at the way they rallied together and supported each other. It was heart warming.

The story was fast paced; the scenes permeated my soul with its ambience, enlivening and shattering it both at the same time. Fear and dread, helplessness and resignation, friendship and camaraderie were all depicted seamlessly. Everything was so realistic.

Overall it was a beautifully written story with tension across the scenes along with poignancy and emotions.
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What a book. One the one hand I was waiting impatiently each day for the next stage to be released and on the other I didn't want the book to end. The characters were beautifully written and you become immersed in their back stories. As Sam's story emerges you feel for him and the cruelty of Roberts actions thst ultimately destroyed his life. I cried at the end - he didn't deserve to die. Tj8s us the first book I have read by this author but it won't be the last.
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I’ve read and enjoyed all of Charity Norman’s previous novels but I have to start by saying that The Secrets of Strangers is her best yet, it’s an incredible read!

The Secrets of Strangers is set in a small London cafe on an ordinary morning. The regulars are all their grabbing a coffee or a quick breakfast but this isn’t going to be a normal day for many of them. A row breaks out between the owner and a customer and it leads to everyone in the cafe being held hostage by a gunman.

The novel follows multiple characters throughout and we get to learn about everyone’s lives and their pasts and where they are in their lives. They all have their own problems and the novel explores one character’s infertility journey, another’s battle with addiction, and how one of them survived a genocide. All of these issues are explored in such a sensitive way and it really makes you feel for every single person.

The tension is immediate in this novel but it waxes and wanes as the novel progresses and we’re at the mercy of the mood of the gunman. At times the tension is palpable and I felt I was holding my breath, at other times I wanted to cry. I always felt like I was right there in the cafe with this group of people.

Charity Norman in a brilliant writer and whilst this novel explores some very difficult themes, there is some lightness to balance the darkness because of the way she makes everyone so real and so human. I ended up feeling a connection to every single person I read about and even now, weeks after I read this novel, I still find myself thinking about them.

This is a one sitting book – I picked it up one afternoon and I didn’t put it down until I’d finished reading it. I was experiencing a reading slump at the time and nothing was holding my attention but this book did and it’s a testament to the wonderful writing. I loved this novel, it’s my new favourite Charity Norman book and I strongly suspect it’ll be in my favourite books of the year list. I highly recommend it!
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It's a regular morning for all our characters who as we meet them are all heading about their days and Charity introduces us to that, so we meet them all and where they are going, for example Neil who is going for a warm drink with the four pound that was put in his cup that morning. What none of them expected was that morning they would end up held hostage in a cafe.

It boils down to five hostages and a long game as we and they sit and await the outcome, with one dead already, it makes us question - why? We also meet the negotiator who is trying to bring this to a close. We start to discover the gunmans motive and why, he chose that morning to go into Tuckbox (the cafe) and shoot the owner, and hold all these strangers hostage.

This book was fast paced from the get - go with high speed impact i wondered how Charity would keep it so gripping all the way through as once the initial impact had happened it was really how it was going to end.  Charity did a fantastic job of keeping the reader hooked. 

She allows the reader to go on the journey with the gunman as we discover him, we also discover slightly more about all the hostages and their own personal lives. Charity writes in a way that allows the reader to feel emphatic despite the horrible situation. I even may of lost a few tears towards the last few pages of this. She writes in a way that gives you attachment to all the characters.

I really really enjoyed this, it was stressful, dramatic and moving. I felt like it hit on some deep topics but handled them in a way the reader could handle and understand them. The atmosphere was kept throughout the whole book and changed as the situation developed which i really appreciated. Charity managed to match the tone of the mood with the setting and reflect it in the characters and their individual personalities.

Overall, a thrilling, gripping and moving read that keeps the reader hooked from the very first pages.
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A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for a group of strangers whose paths cross in a London café - their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?

This is a brilliant read.
Wonderful well written plot and story line that had me engaged from the start.
Love the well fleshed out characters and found them believeable.
Great suspense and action with wonderful world building.
Can't wait to read what the author brings out next.
Recommend reading.

I was provided an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher.  This is my own honest voluntary review.
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Fantastic novel. Kept me hooked all of the way through. Really enjoyed the development of all the characters. Makes you think about first impressions.
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The start of the book was dynamic and had me hooked   This interest continued not just about the drama in the cafe but in the back stories of all the characters. Unfortunately the histories for them all somehow drained the tension away and so by just over half way through I was a bit bored. It had the promise of an excellent book but got a little lost along the way. I think the author is certainly worth noting.
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'Tuckbox' a coffee shop in Balham is dealing with the usual morning routine of people coming in & out. A young man comes in & shouts about at the owner & storms out, only to return a couple of minutes with a shotgun. He shoots the owner & the rest of the customers are taken hostage The shooter allows some of the hostages are allowed to leave when an elderly man shows signs of cardiac problems. As the siege situation goes on we learn the stories of the people left. There's Neil, a homeless man,  Abi, a successful barrister, & Mutesi, a care worker from Rwanda who came to Britain many years ago. The gunman is Sam, he is separated from his wife & is desperate to see his young daughter. The cafe owner was his stepfather &  the man who ruined his life.

Ever since I read 'Freeing Grace' Charity Norman  has been one of my favourite authors. Her books are all very different but they have one thing in common- incredible characters that you can't help getting involved in. I couldn't put this book down. I loved the characters & really wanted it to end well. Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read & review this terrific book- my read of the year so far!
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My first novel by the award winning Charity Norman and wow, what a read it was!

The story begins with a staggering confrontation in the Tuckbox Cafe in Balham, London between the owner Robert and an angry young man. As the customers are grabbing a quick coffee before going about their business, volatile words are exchanged, and the young man - Sam - storms out, only to return with a shotgun. Proceeding to shoot Robert, the situation rapidly degenerates into a tense hostage situation. As the story progresses, the reader learns the stories of the gunman, the main hostages Neil, Abi and Mutesi and the hostage negotiator Eliza.

The Secrets of Strangers is lavish with dark secrets and shocking revelations. While the gunman offloads his own personal demons, the small group under his control also face moral and individual dilemmas. As Charity Norman presents her varied cast, I was able to fully appreciate the way in which she completely laid bare the respective stories of the key protagonists and the glimmerings into their inner thoughts.

This well-rounded, tense and precise drama took in complex issues of guilt, domestic abuse and homelessness, among many others. Highly absorbing from the first to the last sentence, I confidently recommend The Secrets of Strangers.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel at my request from Atlantic Books/ Allen & Unwin via NetGalley and this review is my unbiased opinion.
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A very original plot and very engaging read. Thoroughly loved the characters inside the cafe as well as those in the police negotiating team.
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This a contemporary fiction that is mainly set in Tuckbox café in London. It features five main characters who are Sam, Abi, Neil, Eliza and Mutesi. 

Normal everyday routine of having coffee in their favourite café gets distrupted when a gunman attacks the cafe owner and holds people at ransom. 

The main characters all have their own burdens to deal with and this situation adds pressure.

The author, Charity Norman, has done extremely well into developing each and every character as well as given their perspective so that you understand their situation. I found the characters were very relatable with their back stories. I would be looking forward to reading more books by her.

I received an e-copy from Netgalley.
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A madman with a gun shoots a cafe owner then holds some of the patrons hostage. Can they talk him down and find out why he committed the murder, keeping themselves safe at the same time. Is there a way out of this for everyone? 

Wow what an emotional and heart wrenching read. The story is told from various different points of view including the killer himself. It adds so much depth and detail to the story, allowing the reader to understand everyone's story. The plot is steady but builds to an emotional and at times tear jerking climax. The very end scene is beautiful. This is a story that touches on lots of different issues. It's a slow build to learn the truth of Sam but it's so well written and its raw. I really enjoyed this and it's the first time in a long time a book has bought tears to my eyes.
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What a read! This is how thrillers should be written; it certainly deserves to be a bestseller as it is masterfully crafted, taut and completely riveting. It sucks you in from the opening pages and had me reading well into the night. The incident at the cafe is all too real and reflects the fact that many more people are turning to extremism and committing terrible atrocities all over the world. But not only is it thrilling and intense it packs a real emotional punch too. This is one of the novels that it's best going in blind as the surprises will be all the more enjoyable. A terrifying, compulsive and fast-paced must-read I implore crime connoisseurs to pick up. One of the best thrillers I've had the pleasure of picking up over the past few years. Charity Norman is undoubtedly one to watch. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Allen & Unwin for an ARC.
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