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S is for Stranger

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A gripping debut psychological thriller you don’t want to miss!

‘Louise Stone is an exciting new talent to watch. S is for Stranger is full of tension and atmosphere. A hugely compelling read.’ ― Amanda Jennings, author of In Her Wake

There are two sides to every story.

But only one is true.

Sophie wished she’d paid more attention when her little daughter, Amy, caught sight of a stranger watching them. She only looked away for a second. But now Amy’s gone.

No one trusts an alcoholic. Even a sober one. The police are suspicious of Sophie’s tangled story and so is her ex-husband, Paul. Especially when new information emerges that changes everything.

But what if Sophie is telling the truth? What if her daughter really is missing? And what if that stranger at the fairground wasn’t really a stranger at all…

Perfect for readers looking for their next addictive read after The Girl on the Train and Behind Closed Doors.

234 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 16, 2016

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About the author

Louise Stone

8 books18 followers
I write under the pseudonym Louise Stone and worked as a teacher before turning my hand to fiction.

I was brought up in Africa and the Middle East and then – as an adult – travelled extensively before moving to London and finally settling in the Cotswolds with my partner, and now very active toddler!

When I’m not writing, you will find me scouring interior design magazines and shops, striving toward the distant dream of being a domestic goddess or having a glass of wine with country music turned up loud. As a child, I always had my nose in a book and, in particular, Nancy Drew.

Ten things you may not know about me:

1. As a child, I was always reading: Roald Dahl, Nancy Drew, Enid Blyton. Loved them – still love them – all!

2. My tipple of choice is a dry white wine – if you’re asking.

3. I need to stop buying shoes. I will. Not just yet.

4. I have a penchant for Country music.

5. You will often find me ambling about the countryside. Perfect for plotting out the next book.

6. I’ve lived in many different countries: Africa, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Czech Republic, Hong Kong.

7. One day I will travel to Texas, line-dance, wear a cowgirl hat and ride around in a pickup truck. See point 4.

8. I read all sorts of books but some of my favourite authors are: Helen Fielding, Amanda Jennings, Linwood Barclay, Claire Seeber, Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner… The list is endless.

9. My bad writing habits: Twitter and rogue commas.

10. My good writing habits: sitting for long periods, professional tea drinker.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 112 reviews
Profile Image for Deanna .
691 reviews12.5k followers
August 3, 2016
2.5 Stars

It seems like there have been quite a few books in the last little while that are about missing children. But when I came across this book and read the description I thought it sounded quite intriguing.

Sophie is the mother of eight year old, Amy. Sophie is in recovery for alcoholism and so her ex-husband Paul has custody of Amy. They are in the midst of court proceedings to see if the current custody arrangement will change.

Sophie visits with her daughter on Saturdays and for her birthday she will be spending the day with her daughter and ex-husband, Paul at the local fair. Lately during their visits, Amy's noticed a strange woman hanging around and looking at them. When Amy points the woman out to her mother, Sophie thinks she looks very familiar.

While looking forward to spending the day with her daughter, Sophie is worried about spending time with Paul. This is the first time in a few years that they will all be together.

The day of the fair Sophie is excited to be spending time with Amy but the visit is a bit awkward with Paul there too. She steps away for a moment, leaving Amy with Paul and when she comes back she sees her daughter standing alone, talking to the stranger. Sophie scolds Amy for talking to strangers, upsetting her. Angry, Sophie asks Paul where he was and he tells her that he had gone to the washroom. Sophie decides it's not worth arguing about in front of Amy and asks her if she would like to get some candyfloss. She tells Paul they will be back shortly and they set off in search of some candyfloss, As they are walking, Sophie receives a strange call on her cell phone and momentarily takes her eyes off of her daughter.

In that moment Amy disappears.

Sophie searches the fairgrounds frantically and finally calls Paul on his cellphone. She tells him she can't find Amy and asks if she is back with him somewhere on the fairgrounds. He asks her what she's talking about. Sophie asks him where he is....

He tells her he's at home where he's been all day.

The police are called to investigate. Sophie is steadfast in her story that Paul was with her and Amy at the fairground. However, Paul continually denies that he was there with them.

The fact that the parents had contrasting stories about how and when their daughter went missing leaves the police wondering where to start. Sophie starts to feel likes she's losing her mind and wonders if that's what this is all about. Is Paul trying to make her look like she's crazy? Is he hiding their daughter?

We are given more information about Sophie's past. Something happened during her time at University years ago, something tragic that has stayed with her all these years.

Who is telling the truth? Is Sophie the loving mother she portrays herself to be? Or is she the alcoholic train-wreck that her ex-husband wants everyone to believe she is? Is the stranger that Sophie has been seeing somehow involved?

But above all....WHERE IS AMY?

I thought the beginning of the book was really good. It pulled me right in. However, after a pretty terrific beginning it kind of fizzled out on me. There were quite a few times that I was confused about what was happening. Then I started noticing a few things here and there just weren't adding up. It's kind of hard to explain the issues I had as I don't want to spoil anything....

On the one hand the book kept me reading as there was a lot of interesting stuff going on, but on the other hand I spent much of that time confused and or going back to re-read what I had just read because I didn't understand it.

And the ending. I almost felt like it was a cliff-hanger gone wrong? The only way that I can think to explain it is that maybe the author wanted the reader to come to their own conclusion? But even then it still didn't seem like there was enough information for that. It felt like there were a few big plot holes. It almost seemed like I missed something pretty major as I didn't understand a lot of what was going on, especially towards and including the end.

I honestly don't like writing negative things about a book. But that ending really cinched it for me. I've seen some positive reviews and so maybe this book just wasn't for me.

I do feel like this author has a lot to offer as there were many good things in the book and the plot had a lot going for it. I do hope to read more from Louise Stone in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley, Louise Stone, and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Sue.
1,347 reviews5 followers
June 8, 2016
S IS FOR STRANGER by Louise Stone is a debut psychological thriller that is fast paced and full of suspense. This book will completely capture your attention.

This is the story of every mother's worst nightmare, a missing child.

The main character, Sophie is a recovering alcoholic who has lost custody of her eight-year-old daughter Amy. Her manipulative estranged husband Paul limits her access to her daughter, and she is allowed to spend Saturdays with her daughter. Paul now has a new woman in his life. Sophie dreams of the day, that the custody decision is reversed, and Amy can live with her.

On Sophie’s birthday, she and her ex-husband take Amy to the fairground for a day of fun…but it turned out to be a nightmare. Sophie sees a woman talking to Amy…A Stranger pulls Amy away while Sophie is distracted for a few seconds on the phone.

Sophie gets a call on her cell…unknown number, and a woman’s voice says
“Happy Birthday” and “Your turn.” In that split second, Sophie looks over, and Amy was gone.

Frantically, Sophie calls Paul, asking him if Amy had made her way back to him, and he said he was “at home?” Paul then tells her, he wasn’t at the fairground with her today? What is she to believe? Nothing makes sense!

The police are suspicious of Sophie’s twisted story and so is her ex-husband, Paul.

“Sophie is just not well enough to look after our daughter with, your drink problems, the delusions, the OCD.”

Sophie feels that the disappearance of her daughter has something to do with her own past. Her best friend, Bethany had died on the anniversary of the same day years before. Sophie had always believed it was murder and not a suicide. Who can Sophie trust? She just wants to find her daughter. Time is running out!

I really enjoyed this story, but I felt that the ending was a bit confusing, and should have been flushed out a bit more. For that reason I have rated this book as a 4 and not a 5. I hope to read more from the author.

Many thanks to the author, Carina UK and NetGalley who provided a digital copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Profile Image for Sandra.
195 reviews85 followers
March 2, 2017
As I have been going back and forth between a 2 and 3* rating, it is obvious to me that I don't know what to make of this book.

While an intriguing story and the author can keep up the pace, the outcome was a mess. It started out good, it kept my interest throughout the first chapters, but then it became jumpy. Certain events were introduced but went nowhere. Many things were left unexplained. We have all the clichés; the unreliable narrator (a former alcoholist/OCD/hallucinating/did-some-things-in-the-past-as-a-student/well paid lawyer), the shady boyfriend, the mistrusting detective, name it and it was included (don't forget the storm at the climax!). But there just was no real depth to the characters. And don't even get me started on the rushed ending.

So, I guess my final verdict is the lower of the two ratings. And I haven't even taken into account the plethora of grammatical errors since this is an ARC.

sidenote: Seeing this in the description after the fact...
"Perfect for readers looking for their next addictive read after The Girl on the Train and Behind Closed Doors".
While I despise the practice by publishers/authors of comparing books as the Next *insert bestseller*, this time it was meant as a warning. I really should take better note of those blurbs....

Review copy supplied by publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a rating and/or review.
Profile Image for Linda Strong.
3,880 reviews1,644 followers
June 3, 2016
Whoa! I feel like my mind has been in the house of mirrors ….. no matter where you look, you really can’t believe what you’re seeing.

Sophie is an alcoholic. She’s lost her husband and her daughter because of it. Saturdays she is allowed to spend the day with Amy, her daughter. Meeting Amy and Paul, her ex-husband, at the entrance of a carnival because it’s her birthday, Sophie plans on having a fun time.

Getting separated momentarily, she sees a woman talking to Amy. When she looks again, Amy is gone, nowhere to be seen. She frantically calls Paul, asking if he has Amy. He seems perplexed and she says where are you? Do you have Amy? Paul responds by saying he is at home … Amy is with her.

So starts this mind-bending journey of a woman searching for her missing daughter. She accuses Paul of wanting everyone to think she’s crazy. No one seems to believe her. Especially when Sophie starts talking about the murder of her best friend 20 years earlier ….

Is Sophie crazy? Confused? Has alcohol fried some of her brain cells? Is she hallucinating? Or is there someone out there … someone who knows the truth and has her daughter?

I read the entire book without getting those questions answered. And the ending was way out there. I’m still not sure how I feel about it or even if I understand what happened.

This is billed as a gripping psychological thriller and I can certainly agree to that! It does not read as a debut. It is well-written, the characters leap off the pages. I read this in one sitting. Once you start, you aren’t going to want to put it down.

My thanks to the author / Carina UK / NetGalley who provided a digital copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,230 reviews1,550 followers
June 5, 2016
Sophie's husband Paul has custody of their daughter after their relationship ended due to Sophie struggling with alcoholism. During one of Sophie's days to visit her daughter they go to a fair where Sophie sees a stranger talking to her daughter. Getting a bit upset she lectures her not to talk with strangers but when her back is turned for only a few seconds Amy disappears.

Sophie fears with the disappearance of her daughter that it has something to do with her past. Her best friend had died on the anniversary of the same day years before and Sophie had always believed it was murder even though it was ruled a suicide. Not knowing who to trust or who to turn to Sophie only wants to find her little girl.

S is for Stranger is described as a gripping psychological thriller which in a way it was. Any parent is going to cringe at the subject of what is probably the worst fear of a child being taken so it definitely turned in a page turner wanting to know where little Amy was and what had happened to her.

However, a part of me was rather frustrated with the entire read. We find early on that Sophie has suffered from hallucinations along with being an alcoholic. It was hard to connect with the story when the main character doesn't know what is real and what isn't and for someone who likes to follow along and try to figure out what will happen it's tough to do when you can't trust what is going on.

In the end I had a feeling I knew where the story would go and I do believe that is what turned out but the ending in the book was also a bit confusing. I felt that it really should have been a bit more clearly written at that point after following a confused character throughout the read.

Overall, 3.5 stars for this one. I think some will love it and I did find myself engaged wanting to find out what happened but wasn't a huge fan of the main character's perspective either.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.wordpress....
Profile Image for Maxine (Booklover Catlady).
1,322 reviews1,253 followers
December 2, 2017

I had really high hopes for this one after reading the synopsis, despite the fact that the market is flooded with books of a similar vein at the moment. That is why if you are going to write book of this genre you need to make it really, really good. There is so much tough competition out there.

This one just ambled along for me. Pretty early on I was picking up plot holes and contradictions in the text that had me quite baffled and not feeling I fully had a grip on the story. I didn't find it thrilling or fast-paced or full of unexpected twists like a good psychological thriller should have. Nope. This book could do with a good dose of editing and proofreading again. It needs tightening up.

I did finish the book but there were no fireworks at the end or redeeming finishing moments. My actual rating is 2.5 stars, I did not hate it, but did not love it, very forgettable overall.

Thanks to Carina UK for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest book review.
Profile Image for Jules.
1,049 reviews198 followers
June 10, 2016
I was attracted to S is for Stranger by its gorgeous cover. Based on a few other covers I’ve loved this year, I seem to have a thing for bright red and blue together.

This is a fast paced psychological thriller that had me gripped from the very beginning, and was so hard to put down.

As the story progressed, I really didn’t know who to trust, and ended up suspecting various characters. My gut feeling did end up being correct, but this story had me guessing and doubting my own assumptions throughout.

Great for lovers of fast paced psychological thrillers and suspense fiction.

I would like to thank the publisher, Carina UK for allowing me a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Joanne Robertson.
1,363 reviews557 followers
June 16, 2016
This book attracted me right from the off when I saw it on netgalley. That cover and the blurb made this book appear to be right up my street. But, and I really hate saying this, after a great start and an excellent idea for the plot, this book just didn't do it for me personally.

The idea for this psychological thriller is a good one. There are many, MANY books around at the moment about missing children that it must be so hard to bring something new and original to the table. The title really plays on every parents fear, that a stranger will take our child. And the way that Amy goes missing is, quite frankly, very scary! But after Amy goes missing, I started to get a bit confused by the storyline and thought it struggled to maintain the momentum of those first few thrilling chapters.

There were a few things in there that also bothered me (these are quite personal so I understand that others may be thinking "well that's a bit picky!"). Firstly, Amy is 8 years old but has a Peppa Pig bag and most 8 year olds are WELL past the Peppa Pig phase by the time they start primary school. There are also references to fish and chips being wrapped in newspaper which hasn't happened for quite a few years now. Also, at one point someone says Sophie needs to eat but the bread is stale and says "nothing the toaster won't fix" but the next minute they are buttering bread not toast for sandwiches! Silly things I know but I found them distracting!

I think with a few tweaks this could have been a really good example of its genre but I didn't enjoy the ending and found too many small mistakes to just sit back and enjoy the original and fascinating twists and turns of the plot. I know others have absolutely loved this book and I can certainly understand why so it's one of those that maybe you need to read and make up your own mind!

I received a copy of this book via netgalley in return for an unbiased review.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,937 reviews798 followers
September 21, 2016
S is for Stranger felt like just the right book for me. I love reading psychological thrillers that make you question everyone in the book and unexpected twists. However, this book just didn't do it for me. First, the big twist, in the end, was so obvious right from the start. Secondly, the plot just didn't make sense, there was one big inconsistency that made me wonder how on earth the editor could have missed that. I may spoiler the book a bit here so just jump to the next paragraph if you don't want to know. Here we go, Sophie's daughter is 8-year-old, she had her when she was at university, but that was 20 years ago? She kept on saying in the book that it was 20 years ago. Made no sense whatsoever...

But, the big problem for me was that the whole story just didn't make much sense, it started off interesting. Is she crazy or is it a conspiracy? Then, I started more and more to lean on one direction because it was so bloody easy to see where it all was leading. There is no twist to this story that is in any way surprising. The book is not totally bad, I liked the idea of the book. And, with a story that would have made more sense, and less inconsistency and a less obvious story could this book have been really good. Now, it just felt like a big mess.

I want to thank Carina for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!
Profile Image for Sue.
2,732 reviews225 followers
June 19, 2016

I was really looking forward to reading this. I personally think this could be an excellent story with just a few things changing.

In some places it got where I thought "hm didn't I read that just now"

I understand the story, its a good plot with a child going missing and a mom who has personal issues healthwise where we are lead to believe she might be bonkers, or is she actually right in what she relates to the DI that day, explaining what happened and her ex husband being at the same place but he denying it.
I certainly thought I was going crazy in the plot sometimes too.

Its a good debut novel, it has all the basis of a great read, but in some parts were yawnable and didn't keep my interest as much as I really wanted it to.

After saying this, this author has something, you can feel it from the pages so this won't put me off of reading more from her.

The ending was excellent.

Thank you to Carina UK via Net Galley for my advanced copy
Profile Image for Sue Wallace .
6,138 reviews71 followers
May 24, 2016
I received this as an arc from net galley in exchange for an honest review. There are two sides to every story. But only one is true......... Sophie wishes she'd paid more attention when her little daughter; Amy, caught sight of a stranger watching them. She only looked away for a second. But now Amy ' s gone. Wow. OMG. Wow. Absolutely fantastic read. CNPID. Read in one sitting. I loved the story and the characters. I loved Sophie. She was my favourite character. So many suspects. And wow didn't expect that. Shocked I loved the ending too. This is a must read and I would highly recommend this book. Definitely worth more than 5 *.
Profile Image for Erin Dunn.
Author 3 books88 followers
June 21, 2016

Thank you to NetGalley and Carina UK for providing an ebook copy in exchange for an honest review!

I have been extremely in the mood for thrillers lately (watch out for more thriller novel reviews soon!) and when I saw S is for Stranger I had to request it from NetGalley. I actually saw this book on Twitter somewhere first and then NetGalley. The STUNNING cover drew me to it right away and I'm so glad I requested it!

If you have followed my blog for a while then you may know that I love thrillers with unreliable narrators. That's just what we have here in S is for Stranger and this book sure is a mindf***! Sophie is definitely unreliable and throughout the novel I wasn't sure where the twists and turns would go. This book is remarkably fast-paced and suspenseful. I read all but a few pages of it in one day.

Another thing I really enjoy in thrillers is the missing child cliche. Yes, I know some people hate cliches, but this is a good one!! I love it because a missing child adds a lot of tension to a thriller and Amy missing certainly did add a lot of suspense here. Also, Paul is a bit of an unreliable (he was also unlikeable) character himself and that really kicked the suspense up a notch too! On the cover it says, "A Gripping Psychological Thriller" and that's exactly what I got with this book.

Overall I really enjoyed S is for Stranger. This is a great one to read all in one day on a lazy Saturday or Sunday. I just had to keep reading to see what would happen and I loved the ending. Are you wondering yet why I didn't give this book 5 stars? Well to be honest it wasn't the most unique thriller. It wasn't overly predictable either, but I don't know if a year from now if it is different enough to be memorable for me. This is a super enjoyable read though and the intense suspense makes it worth a read! I can't wait to read more by Louise Stone.

I recommend S is for Stranger to all psychological thriller lovers and more specifically for fans of Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt, 14 Days to Die By: A.B. Whelan, and (sorry I am going to add these even though we are all tired of books being compared to them lol) Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train of course.
Profile Image for Tracy Fenton.
953 reviews180 followers
May 31, 2016
This book started out with a gripping and intriguing storyline, unfortunately after several chapters it seemed to lose its way and I began to find big holes in the plots and several unexplained events which left me confused.
Profile Image for CD {Boulder Blvd}.
963 reviews93 followers
June 17, 2016
I was really thrilled when I got this book from Net Galley and was really looking forward to the read. In exchange of the ARC, I promise to provide an honest review. Unfortunately, I didn't really like the book.

The first few times I picked it up, I had a hard time getting interested in the story. This is a 1st POV narrative from the basis of the mother of the missing girl and she has memory/mental health issues due to past traumas. I know you should feel sympathetic towards this character, but I was turned off. It's hard to read a 1st POV book, when the person who is the narrator is a frustrating character. The last couple of books in this style didn't work for me either.

It's like following a mentally-ill psychotic person around. It's not fun. There are no thrills. And because she is the narrator, there is no relief. Because of her "issues", she often comes off as TSTL as well as pathetic. Why do authors write these characters in 1st POV? You don't want to know them. You don't want to hang with them through an entire book. I was not vested in this person; I wanted to dump her.

There were parts where Sophie is working with a therapist, Darren and it's like sitting in a therapy session - boring. I know this is how the author is giving you background story, but I never had any desire to be a therapist and now I really have no desire to be a therapist. I marked this book as past/present jumping because although the book takes place in the present, her meetings with the therapist have her recounting what happened in the past as she regains the memories of a college trauma. (Kind of like an amnesia story where things come in bits and pieces.)

Every time I read one of these "opps' I lost my memory or I'm not remembering correctly or it's a secret, it doesn't feel like a thriller. There are no thrills. There is just the frustration of spending too much time with someone you don't care about and don't want to spend time with. None of the people are interesting, Paul is shown as a conniving ex, Sophie is showing herself as having mental issues and the other characters are really underdeveloped. Oliver isn't likeable. The police officers are faceless names.

One of my major issues with 1st POV is that character development of other characters in these books can be limited. You get interpretations of other characters from the 1st POV character, but they aren't really fleshed out. This is what happens in this book. The only character you really see is Sophie as she narrates her story. And unfortunately Sophie is a mess. Which, as the book is a reflection of Sophie makes the book a bit of a mess as well.

So as the story continues, I keep hoping that the story doesn't go in a certain way and I was very disappointed to see it kind of did. So after a disappointing read, I was also disappointed with the ending.
Profile Image for The Book Review Café.
712 reviews196 followers
July 24, 2016
S For Stranger comes with the tag A gripping debut psychological thriller you don’t want to miss! Now when I see a book with such a tag I do wonder if it will live up to its description , and considering I have read numerous gripping Psychological thrillers already this year, I was interested to see how S for Stranger would fair. This is certainly a thriller that should come with the tag line BEWARE THIS BOOK WILL SERIOUSLY MESS WITH YOUR HEAD.

Sophie’s daughter Amy disappears on a trip out, and so begins a dark and twisted tale, Sophie is a recovering alcoholic whose account of the events leading to her daughters disappearance leave the police and her ex-husband suspicious. Is Sophie a reliable witness? And who is the stranger Sophie saw? This is a difficult book to review without giving away to many spoiler but it’s safe to say S For Stranger is far from straight forward, as events from Sophie’s past emerge her credibility as both a mother and a witness come under close scrutiny.

From the opening chapter I found S For Stranger to be a compelling read, Louise Stone has a style of writing that I found easy to follow, and once I started reading it I couldn’t believe I reached the half way mark in no time. It’s a cleverly twisted tale that I spent much of the novel working out who was telling the truth and who was lying, my opinion changed so many times I felt dizzy and I was still no closer to guessing how the plot would end until I reached the last couple of chapters.

The air of tension and malice that ricochets throughout this book make for an intriguing and compelling read. The author has written a very cleverly crafted tale, there were two sides to this story Sophie’s and her ex-husband Paul’s, throughout I wasn’t sure who was telling the truth, but one thing was clear, only one of them was! This made for a very compelling and exciting read. I did have one small niggle as there were a couple of things I felt weren’t explained in a satisfactory way, but as S For Stranger is a Psychological thriller it did make me think about the truth and lies within the story, so much in fact I thought my head would explode. If you love a psychological thriller that messes with your head, then I would recommend you add this book to your TBR pile.

I have read very mixed reviews on this book, it appears it’s one of those Marmite”one’s you either love it or hate it, as you can gather from my review I’m in the “love it” camp
Profile Image for FoodxHugs.
181 reviews45 followers
June 15, 2017
/spoiler/ Another author who drew from the "How to write mysteries for dummies" manual. That sounds harsh, but if you'll read this book, you'll come out of it shaking your head at the convoluted, messy, try-hard plot. But hey! At least, it's popcorn fodder, of the "so stupid-it's-kind-of-enjoyable" variety.

Brief summary: Sophie, a recovering alcoholic with mental health problems, has her eight-year-old daughter abducted one day at the funfair. Possible suspects include her shady ex-husband Paul, loser boyfriend Oliver, or her boss Zander. Or could it be Sophie herself?

Some of the male characters weren't fully sketched out with Oliver and Paul being the worse offenders. No attempt was made by the author to physically describe them. Even in their dialogue, they both kept on calling Sophie "woman", which was off-putting and disrespectful. Maybe it would have worked if one of them had said it, but it showed a lack of editing. The scenes with her therapist Darren were also a waste of space. Was there any purpose to his character? He was just a way for Sophie to remember her backstory and to spout the usual psychological schtick to our confused heroine.

It is revealed through her talks with Darren that, as a university student, she witnessed her friend Bethany's suicide. Although, Sophie is convinced that someone, a woman, murdered her while they were out escorting. The backstory gave some interesting opportunities to take the main story in another direction, but unfortunately, the climax and ending was a predictable and unimaginative let-down.

I have no problems with first person narration in crime fiction/psychological thrillers, but in "S is for Stranger", Sophie sounded unstable and boring. Nothing about her stood out. Throughout the story, she was suspicious to everyone she came into contact with, even if they were trying to help her like the policewoman in charge of the case D.I. Ward. She had an unlucky past which the author could have developed to tell a good story, but the execution was lacking and it seemed liked a rushed, disorganised effort. With similar tropes, it was a confusing mix of crappy titles like "Before I Go To Sleep" and "The Girl on the Train." Not being a fan of those works, I can't say I enjoyed it. But at least it went by quickly, so there's some consolation.

Best avoided, but the cover's cute: a heart-shaped lollipop smashed... aww.
Profile Image for Namita.
528 reviews33 followers
June 29, 2016
S is for Stranger is described as a gripping debut psychological thriller by Louis Stone. Sophie is a recovering alcoholic who is trying to gain custody of her eight-year-old daughter Amy. On Sophie’s birthday, she and her ex-husband take Amy to the fairground, but when Sophie is distracted on the phone for a few seconds a stranger lures Amy away. When questioned by the police Paul denies Sophie’s version and insists he was at home all day. Sophie meanwhile receives an anonymous letter threatening Sophie’s life and decides to track down Amy herself. She believes Amy’s kidnapping is connected to her best friend Bethany’s murder, which was ruled as suicide twenty years ago. This book is about a mother’s search for her daughter and to rescue her before time runs out.
I had a tough time rating this book between 3 ½ to 4 stars as I found the ending a little confusing. I raced through the chapters as I wanted to reach the end trying to find out what happened. Even though the end caught me by surprise it left a lot of questions unanswered. It felt as if the book was missing the last few pages and the ending was very rushed .
My thanks to the publisher & NetGalley for this advance reader copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
156 reviews14 followers
June 24, 2016
Wow! S is for Stranger is a psychological thriller that will have you questioning your own mind and sanity!
Sophie is a recovering alcoholic that is experiencing every parents worst nightmare. Her eight year old daughter, Amy is missing and Sophie was the last person to see her.
Every story has two sides, but what happens when your side doesn't add up?
Sophie knows her facts:
1) There was a stranger talking to her daughter.
2) Her husband was with them at the time of her daughters disappearance.
3) They're in the middle of a custody battle.
So why does the ex-husband, the cops, and the community think Sophie isn't quite in touch with reality? What's Sophie hiding?! Whose this stranger?! And wheres Amy?!

S is for Stranger was super gripping! Once I started I couldn't put it down. I felt my own sanity slipping trying to find out the truth. A must read for all psychological thriller lovers. Can't wait to read more from Louise Stone!

Big Thanks to NetGalley & the author for my copy in exchange for a honest review.

Profile Image for Liina.
294 reviews87 followers
June 6, 2016
Sophie is an alcoholic, but has been sober for 18 months. Her daughter lives with her ex-husband and she gets to see her on visitation days. Sophie, Amy and Paul went out all together to celebrate Sophie’s birthday. They are enjoying the day, when Sophie suddenly sees a woman talking to Amy, the same mysterious woman she has seen before. Not long after that moment Amy goes missing, when they were in a line to buy cotton candy. The detective is trying to collect as much information as possible to find the little girl, but the story is rather complicated, because Sophie’s mental state is iffy. Sophie fears that is has something to do with her past, when her best friend was murdered. She tries to solve the mystery in her past to get to her daughter before it’s too late.

It truly was a gripping psychological thriller. Once you start the book, it’s really hard to put it down. It was well written, but the ending was a bit confusing, I’d have preferred more to the story. I still thoroughly enjoyed the book and hope to read more from the author.
Profile Image for Pamela .
1,417 reviews75 followers
August 12, 2016

Many thanks to NetGalley and publisher for advancing me a copy of “S is for Stranger” by Louise Stone in exchange for an honest review.

Absolute crap! This took me days to read. I really wanted to end my misery but I trudged on if nothing else but to prove myself right, which I did - a story we've read many times over. You could see it coming from a mile away. If that wasn't bad enough, the author delivers a story that's full of holes and useless information as well as throwing in characters that are totally irrelevant to the story but only thrown in to make the reader think there are so many suspects when in fact you know from the get-go what's really going on. If that wasn't bad enough, it didn't make any sense. Everything about this novel was ridiculous and far-fetched.

I can't see how a father would stand by and say absolutely nothing about his ex-wife's condition especially knowing what she has done with their daughter. But we're to believe that he's the bad person out to get his ex-wife. I guess that's why we have the DI ask questions about his past as it turns out he lied to Sophie about his past. Why bother to bring this up when nothing comes of it?

Then there's the reappearance of Sophie's ex-boyfriend (Oliver) from college, a total loser who convinces her to let him stay with her so as to be there for her in her time of need but also at the same time making derogatory remarks about her, even talking to a reporter who he thought was a friend of hers. Cue eye-rolls. Does she throw him out? Considering he keeps letting himself in it doesn't seem like it. Not to mention she can’t make up her mind about him, whether or not she should trust him.

Sophie's convinced that the murder of her BF from college, Bethany, has something to do with the disappearance of her child but everyone including the police tells her Bethany killed herself but Sophie believes otherwise. Even I’m not sure what to believe at this point. If Sophie is the one and the same person as Polly, then who was the woman looking at her and Amy when they were at the restaurant? I mean even Amy saw her. Not to mention the police have this “woman” showing up on a video. So who is she really? The way the author portrays Sophie, you almost believe she had a homosexual relationship with Bethany but that’s not the case. Then out of the blue we find out that Sophie and Bethany worked as escorts during their college days; that they went to parties where lewd sexual acts took place; that there was this friend named Polly who was jealous of Sophie and Bethany’s relationship. If that’s not bad enough, it turns out that Sophie’s employer just so happens to be Bethany’s father. Talk about a convoluted mess. It’s as though the author herself didn’t know which direction her character should take; making it seem like it’s a culmination of everything that made Sophie’s mind split. In actuality, we’re not told exactly when it happened. I don’t even know if Bethany killed herself or not as it’s not made clear. Like I said, a complete and utter mess. As for the ending, that itself was a joke. I finished this novel yesterday and I still think it was a complete waste of my time. Not impressed one bit. If I could give it zero stars I would.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jan.
800 reviews252 followers
June 6, 2016
I SO wanted to love this story. The description whet my appetite and the cover is really enticing – that shattered heart shaped lollipop and the title scrawled in pen – very intriguing. Then there are the accolades comparing it to several books I’ve enjoyed, Wow I was champing at the bit to start reading this new psychological thriller.
That’s where my excitement fizzled out somewhat. I realise that I was privileged to receive an advance uncorrected proof copy and I will give a lot of the flaws in the book the benefit of the doubt, hoping that they will be ironed out in the final edit, the grammatical errors so frequent and glaring they jarred. The jumpy and erratic nature of the storytelling I assume is deliberate, it paints a picture of a fractured mind struggling to grasp reality but I found it over confusing and annoying.
Sophie is the narrator, a recovering alcoholic, split from her husband, trying to get custody of 8 year old daughter Amy, when Amy goes missing, Sophies recall of events is erratic and sketchy and constantly changes. Ex-husband Paul is behaving suspiciously and Sophie becomes more and more frantic to find Amy. But there’s another mystery she’s also desperate to solve, what exactly happened 16 years earlier the night her best friend Bethany died, Sophies convinced it was murder others tell her it was suicide.
Sophie is the most unreliable narrator ever. Nothing is quite as it seems and everything she does is a direct contradiction of what she said 5 minutes ago. I stuck with it despite being so confused I wanted to scream – wanting to know what had happened to Amy, who was who and what was what. Oh dear me – I read it right to the very last word expecting some huge twist and was left sorely wanting.
This is one muddled and convoluted storyline where half the things which happen just seem to have no purpose. Hardly anything was resolved and even the parts which had some closure did it in a pretty unsatisfactory way
People keep suddenly appearing in the story, half of them have no relevance to the story and most of them are two dimensional. It’s a really clever idea poorly executed. So disjointed it makes it impossible to get to know the characters or feel any empathy for anyone even the missing little girl.
I’m left with a sense of turbulent confusion and an unsettling disappointment.
I received my copy via Netgalley for the purpose of reviewing and as I said earlier it was an uncorrected proof maybe in the final copy for sale it will be fine-tuned and easier to follow.
Profile Image for Karen Mace.
1,905 reviews67 followers
June 22, 2016
I received a copy of this via NetGalley and Carina Uk in return for a fair and honest review - thankyou!

It has been an absolute rollercoaster reading this book! Hard to believe it's a debut too as it's so well crafted and gripping! Hope there is lots more to come from Louise Stone in the future!

Sophie is a recovering alcholic. Her estranged husband, Paul has custody of their 8 year old daughter, Amy, and as we hear from Sophies' point of view he was extremely manipulative during their marriage and that is what caused her to turn to the bottle.

She has saturdays with her daughter and is always reminded when she spends time with Amy of how much she is missing out on. For her birthday they go to the funfair but the dream day out soons turn into the nightmare every parent fears, as Amy is seen talking to a stranger and then is gone. Missing. No Trace...

The police are eager to get to the bottom of the disappearance but things the parents tell them just don't add up - could someone be lying? Who do you trust? It's a common theme throughout this book as you are totally conflicted throughout as to who is telling the truth and my mind was changed many times!!

This was a gripping read and quite tense at times as Sophie tries to recall traumatic memories from her past with the help of a therapist. The more that comes back, the more her mind seems to play tricks on her leaving her even more muddled and the desperation to just find out what has happened to their daughter is always increasing as time goes by with no sightings or news.

I did think certain parts of the ending were a little hurried which did distract from the slower build up in finding out where Amy could be, but it was still a thrilling read!
Profile Image for Siany.
451 reviews15 followers
July 1, 2016
WOW....4 days i gave this book and it just did not improve.

I REALLY wanted to like this book.
The premise of the storyline seemed really interesting and I had high hopes for this going in.

It took me 4 days to get 50% into this. I was on the aeroplane on my way to my holiday to Turkey and I found myself skimming the pages and just wanting to rush to the end to see what was what. In the end, for me, I couldn't even skim my way to the end.

It ended up so unbelievable and far fetched it made the story seem ridiculous.
The character of Sophie was just bleugh! None of the characters were nice or interesting and the whole thing ended up feeling very flat to me.

I see the 4/5 star reviews of this and maybe I should have stuck it out in the hopes it would get better, but I just couldn't do it.
One of my least favourite books this year unfortunately.

Read and reviewed courtesy of Netgalley
Profile Image for Jennifer.
315 reviews34 followers
July 2, 2016
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

2, maybe 2.5 stars. I was really excited about this book, but in the end, it really just fell flat. The writing was erratic, the story full of plot holes, no significant twists and turns and the ending felt rushed.

In the beginning the pace was good and I was definitely interested, but as Sophie delved deeper and deeper into her psyche, I found myself confused and not really interested. I venture to think that if the story wasn't told from Sophie's POV if it would have been a better read. The foundation is there, but needs a healthy re-evaluating.

There is definitely potential for Stone, but this one needs some work.
Profile Image for Fiona Wilson.
Author 2 books55 followers
June 13, 2016
I really wanted to enjoy this story as its a genre I really like reading. Unfortunately there wasn't enough there to pull me in as the story becomes very confused and hard to follow at times.

I honestly didn't feel any empathy with the main character of Sophie at all, and that is a necessity for me to enjoy a book. The narration is jumpy, it struggled at times to make sense. As for the ending! I was left feeling extremely confused by the whole thing and wondering exactly what I had read.

I don't give low ratings often, but unfortunately this story just didn't do what it promised for me I'm afraid.

Copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Denise.
478 reviews21 followers
June 28, 2016
S is for Stranger is a brilliant debut book by Louise Stone. The storyline is gripping and intense with flawed, and psychologically complex characters. It's a tense read, and that tension never lets up. Once begun, you have to finish it, because you have to find out what happens. There are some surprising and shocking moments in the book and the pace definitely makes it a page turner. The ending was unexpected and but leaves a lot of room for the reader's imagination. I'm still thinking about it now. Overall a great read!
Profile Image for Nelly.
180 reviews10 followers
May 31, 2016
There certainly is stuff happening that need answers and I did read in one sitting but....

And I would have preferred a few bits to be different esp the ending, same outcome possibly but written differently
Profile Image for Crystal.
723 reviews103 followers
October 31, 2018
It pains me to give a book a one star review! But this book is a complete mess.
I was drawn it by the awesome cover art (goes to show not to judge a book by its cover) and the synopsis sounded interesting.
I really hate to be harsh because I do respect literature and authors so much, but my honest opinion of this novel is as follows:

Profile Image for Victoria Zieger.
1,565 reviews9 followers
June 19, 2020
A woman's daughter goes missing and she tries to find her amidst a crazy past and a ton of suspicious people who are surrounding her. I thought this was pretty solid. It had a strong twist in the end and it definitely kept my interest all the way through. I would have liked it better if the end was more clear on exactly what happened. It was a little too open in my opinion on what could have happened. But, in general, I enjoyed this one!
Profile Image for Claire.
189 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2018
Really good storyline, quick easy read but I think the end could of been explained a bit better??
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