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Strangers at the Gate

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From the Agatha-award winning author of Quiet Neighbors comes a twisty, fascinating standalone that begs the question: how well can we ever know the people around us?

When Finn and Paddy decide to move from their home in the city to the small town of Simmerton, it feels like everything has finally fallen into place. Paddy's been made partner at the law firm in town, and Finn has found full-time work as the deacon. Paddy's new boss has even offered them the use of a gate house on his property. Finn feels like this must be a fairy tale. Paddy thinks they've won the lottery. Either way, they agree: it's perfect.

But only days after moving into the gate house, Finn begins to have doubts. She keeps hearing strange sounds, and the thicket of trees make her feel claustrophobic rather than safe. When she and Paddy discover the bloody bodies of Paddy's boss and his wife, the fairytale has officially ended. A strange email—supposedly sent from the dead man—makes it clear: this was murder.

Paddy and Finn's dream of a new life quickly turns into a nightmare as the plot thickens and the tension grows. With strange neighbors and a haunting setting, Catriona McPherson once again weaves a page-turning tale of suspense.

355 pages, Hardcover

First published September 5, 2019

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About the author

Catriona McPherson

47 books446 followers
aka Catriona McCloud

Catriona McPherson was born in South Queensferry. After finishing school, she worked in a bank for a short time, before going to university. She studied for an MA in English Language and Linguistics at Edinburgh University, and then gained a job in the local studies department at Edinburgh City Libraries. She left this post after a couple of years, and went back to university to study for a PhD in semantics. During her final year she applied for an academic job, but left to begin a writing career.

These days, McPherson lives with her husband on a farm in the Galloway countryside, where she spends her time writing, gardening, swimming and running.

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5 stars
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218 (33%)
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227 (34%)
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91 (13%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 140 reviews
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,687 reviews14k followers
December 31, 2019
Two days. That's how long it took me to inhale this book. It has been quite a while since I had a book I didn't want to put down. At the beginning of this year I made the decision to stop reading psychological thrillers. There are only so many plots that can be duplicated in a different manner and they all began to blend together. I did keep a few notable authors on my list, those for whom I would make an exception. McPherson, is one such author and again she did not disappoint. Her books are original, her plots interesting as are her characters.

With gothic undertones, this story has more red herrings in it than one can fathom. It is like a maze, where one keeps making wrong turns and things never quite make sense. There is a burnt house, a couple who now live in the manner house, dead bodies that disappear, an albino young woman searching for her brother, a strange elderly man whose wife always seems to be ill, and a married couple who hope for a brighter future. I couldn't resist, had to find how this played out and though I had an inkling, it was just that, an inkling. The denouement was stranger than I thought. Some characters are just good actors, I guess.

Anyway, you may not feel the same way, but I found this book made for an enjoyable two days of reading.
Profile Image for Victoria.
412 reviews317 followers
March 5, 2020
Turned the creep factor up to 11!

Dirty deeds, a foreboding atmosphere and a bevy of eccentrics made for an eerily good read. What starts as a slow burn thriller with a bit of a cozy mystery vibe soon turns into a many layered plot of deception, every revelation turns the previous upside down and the red herrings are more the size of trout. And all of it takes place over one week’s time.

A cleverly constructed plot and writing that makes you feel every chill and bump in the night ramps up the dread. Every time I thought I had it figured out, I didn’t. And our narrator, Finn, is a delight as a church deacon...she swears, drinks and smokes, what’s not to love?

This is my first book by this author and if this is any indication of her talent, then all of the praise and awards are well placed. If you’re looking for a mystery/thriller that you have not seen done before, then yer aff yer heid if you don’t head to Scotland by way of this book.

If not for Diane's Review, I might not have discovered this author. Thank you!
Profile Image for Indieflower.
313 reviews89 followers
October 25, 2022
This started really well - the set up, the creepy atmosphere, the intriguing mystery - but somewhere along the way I stopped enjoying it. The characters really started to irritate (I'm kind of over the ciggie smoking, whiskey drinking, sweary lady vicar) and the plot became convoluted and ridiculous. The motive for the crime was weak, in fact the whole thing was totally bonkers, then add to that the Scooby Doo ending (the villain sitting cuffed in the back of a police car, giving a detailed info dump run down of the entire thing) it was too much for me. 2 stars for the intriguing start.
Profile Image for Chris.
610 reviews15 followers
January 25, 2020
I’ve only read one other book by this author and I enjoyed it so much I’ve added many of her other writings to my already mountainous TBR pile. She has a way of writing that trips you up through the whole story. Thinking you’ve got it all figured out. No, you don’t! And if all her stories run like that, I’m in for the ride. If you want twisty, it’s there. If you want questionable characters, that’s there too. The descriptions of scenes - the darkness, the damp, the overgrown cemetery with the rusted gate and falling headstones. There’s the tenant on the property who has a wife, but where is she actually? No one has seen her for years though her laundry dresses are hung on the clothesline. Or we’re told she’s feeling poorly. Or she’s busy “making jam.” Her husband is suspicious acting and we wonder what’s really going on there. But it doesn’t come out until the end. Each and every character has a story that intertwines into the other, though you don’t realize or understand it along the way. The wife, described above, is not even a key character in the story, however, she is written up with just as much personality as the others. It makes you think and wonder!

Fantastic writing equals fantastic reading. I hated to have to put this book down; I wanted to read it all in one gulp, but it was not possible. I grabbed this book any time I had a free moment to even read a few pages, when I could. It’s a brain teaser for sure!

This is definitely a 4+ and I have rated it a five star because it did captivate me, it had a multitude of red herrings and the writing resonated well with me. I actually could feel the cold, the dark, the fear, the lies, the wet, the despair, the panic and anxiety coming through the book. More, please!
Profile Image for Julie.
1,079 reviews
December 13, 2019
I've read three of the author's novels; I enjoyed Quiet Neighbors the most and this one, the least. The book is disjointed, not straightforward; she introduces a lot of loose ends in the plot and a lot of characters, some of whom seem to have little to do with the story, and then tries to tie it all up in the last ten pages. The protagonist was confused and the villainy was implausible because the reader had no hints at all about motive, justification, character... anything, really. As a result, the twists at the end, though surprising, just weren't believable for this reader. I thought she showed a lot of promise with the setting and characterizations in Quiet Neighbors, and many readers love her work, but it's just not my cup of tea.
Profile Image for Kathy .
691 reviews228 followers
October 23, 2019
Catriona McPherson is a born storyteller. She can no sooner stop from spellbinding readers with her writing than she can from entertaining them when she speaks. I've often wondered if she was born with a story flying out of her mouth instead of a cry. She creates the tales that grip a reader and haunt their dreams. Could a story be any better than that? Of course not. McPherson's latest thriller, Strangers at the Gate, is as chilling as the cold, wet weather that blows through the hollow of its Scottish setting. This is the magic of a Scottish author writing about the harsh, beautiful country that is itself a character of unsettling presence, a character to love, but to respect for its fierceness and its peril.

Finn and Paddy have come to the small village of Simmerton from the large, busy city of Edinburgh after accepting what appear to be perfect jobs, their dreams coming true before Finn ever imagined they would. It's a big change, but when Paddy had told her of the offer for him to become partner in a law firm, a partner before he was 40, and shortly after that, she was offered a full-time position as deacon the local Church of Scotland there, Finn knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime. The proverbial ship had come in, and moving to Simmerton was the only logical decision, especially with the offer of the rent-free gate house on Paddy's boss' estate for them to live in. It was a falling into place like few others. The name of the estate, Widdershins, did give Finn pause to wonder, as it was an unlucky name, and the closeness of the mountains and trees crowding into the valley and blocking out the sun produced a rather an ominous feeling, but the opportunities overshadowed the, well, shadows.

Within days of moving into the gate house, Finn and Paddy are invited to dinner by Lovatt Dudgeon, Paddy's boss, and Lovatt's wife Tuft at their house up the drive. The Dudgeons live in the dowager house, as the main estate house was consumed by fire many years prior. After a rather harrowing walk for Finn down the drive, with strange noises that Paddy convinces her are innocuous country reverberations, Finn is delighted that Tuft is such a breath of fresh air. Tuft makes Finn feel like Simmerton is going to indeed be a "golden" place. But, Finn's optimism is short-lived when she discovers she has forgotten her hand bag while walking back home, and she and Paddy return to the Dudgeon's house to retrieve it. Arriving back at the Dudgeon's, Finn and Paddy find the door open, so they go into the house to check things out, and what they find is a brutal murder. No one has seen them come in, so instead of calling the police, Paddy convinces Finn to return to their gate house, where he will explain why they can't call the police, something from his past that he doesn’t want scrutinized. So, they sit on their gruesome discovery and wait for someone else to come forward. Going about their days, trying to act normal, is a tall order for Paddy and Finn, as they wait for murder to be announced Meeting their nearby neighbors brings only more strangeness into their lives, and everyone seems to have a personal agenda and secrets that compound the suspense. I was wrong more than once in thinking I'd figured out what was and had happened, and I couldn't be more pleased to have been kept guessing.

Strangers at the Gate has quickly become one of my favorite suspense thrillers. No one does atmosphere better than Catriona McPherson. As Finn described the saturation of her very being with the rain, I felt that same saturation in the atmosphere of the story. Characters are always a strong point of this author, too, and Finn was a deacon only Catriona McPherson could create. While she was not your mother's deacon, she was, with her full-spirited, smart, witty, and resourceful personality, still a disciple of the church and what is right and good. In the end, she must call upon all her strengths to survive both the ghosts from the past and the evil in the present. The plot of this tale was complex, delightfully twisty, but never unfairly.

Strangers at the Gate is my #1 recommendation for a Halloween mystery/thriller read, but it is a great read at any time. It is one of my favorite reads this year, and I hope to reread it next Halloween. Truth be told, I've already reread the first thirty pages of it, and I can tell you that the cleverness of Catriona McPherson's writing will pop out at you all over again in those carefully chosen words, which we call clues.

I was fortunate to receive an advanced reader's copy from the author, and I am giving my honest, gobsmacked reaction and review to this book.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,169 reviews542 followers
February 14, 2020
This one was just what I needed, an excellent read. Not an easy read, but an excellent read. There's just enough dialect placements that at times I thought a sentence or two was a word salad. But with all the various high tension situations and secret keeping of every sense of nuance going on- it was a sensational read overall. No more so than for a mid-winter snow and fog storm hiatus. It was a perfect book to read during such a spell- thank you, Diane.

Having read one other by this author I was not expecting to be so plot contorted blown away. It's a pithy tome for grabbing the key to enter (this beginning being difficult for me to embed, but once in-it flew) to say the least. In fact, having read as many who-dun-it village scenarios in my life as I have, I didn't think I could be so much taken aback. But was I. Something about this particular one made me think of the most retro, actually. Although it truly isn't. Tech, phones, DNA- it's all there.

Pencil this book in on a schedule if you can. Especially if you like the Mrs. Marple type of cozy which also doesn't shy to pull/ push some reality macabre buttons. More than to TRULY be cozy. Because the characters are clear cut here- multi-faceted; you just don't find the stereotyped much of anything in this town of two valley cuts. Not in neighbors, or church people, or visuals of natural world. One of them is our narrator, a Church of Scotland deacon, but she says Hail Mary's when it really comes down to it. No surprise to me. And also an excellent set of "eyes". Because she herself is quite quirky and non-clergy like.

Very, very strange people in this one. The "strangers" are NOT only at the gate. Nothing is quite as it seems. There is duplicity upon duplicity. I very much question the one large premise of keeping that "eye full" under wraps (Finnie doing SO that many days) but marriage will contort you into numerous unforeseen and far-fetched posits that you would never have believed possible before it. When you were singular and making "me" only decisions. Not only my opinion! But that factor, for me, was hard to swallow. After about the second twist vanish- I couldn't see any road to her keeping mum.

Excellent work in prose that has high Scottish parsing and lots of "talk over". A plethora of people talking in their flawed and strident ways- and at times it seems few are listening. Or if they are, they listen to "test"?

Well, it's a brain teaser. Not 5 star Agatha- but very close.

Enjoy!
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews341 followers
November 17, 2019
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Marla Warren

For those of us who get frustrated because we tend to figure out the twists and secrets far too early in a story, Catriona McPherson’s Strangers At The Gate may be the book you have been looking for! The twists and turns just keep coming. Every time you think you are a step ahead; you may find you are already a step behind.

The story begins as Finn, a deacon in the Church of Scotland, and her attorney-husband, Paddy, unexpectedly find themselves being offered new jobs, in a package that contains benefits they never would have expected, including their own home. While Paddy is ready to jump in with both feet, Finn can’t help but wonder if maybe this is all too good to be true.

Fighting her intuition, Finn goes along with Paddy, and they find themselves living in a relatively small village that is quaint, but clearly secretive. On one of their first night’s in their new location, they witness something horrific together. For their own separate, individual reasons, they decide to keep what they’ve seen a secret together.

The story’s tension comes primarily from that very decision. After that night, their time is spent trying to remember what version of events they have given to which people, and if they are both telling people the same details. Where will they trip up? What mistake have they made? Finn’s breathless worry is contagious, and the reader starts to feel that same sense of dread, remembering a time when they had to keep their own story straight.

With twists and turns, false leads, and never knowing who to trust (especially since everything and everyone in the town is new to them), Finn and Paddy are at first bonded together in their predicament. Perhaps it’s her position as a deacon in the church, but Finn becomes concerned about Paddy’s ability to be so comfortable living a life so duplicitous. Will their shared secret bind them closer, or ultimately tear them apart?

McPherson does an excellent job with pacing the story, and taking the reader through a steady march forward, building the tension constantly. There were plenty of times that I declared (yes, out loud), “Oh! I know where this is going!” But I am happy to say I was never right.

Strangers At The Gate is a perfect fall read. The creepy vibe that makes you wonder if this might turn out to be a ghost story, combined with the eerie descriptions of the setting and the constant dread that builds for Finn as she worries about just what will happen next, make for an excellent fall or winter, curl-up-by-the-fireside thriller.
Profile Image for ME.
655 reviews
November 10, 2019
I have a love hate thing going on with this book. It has a real creepy Ruth Ware vibe which I love, but I think I was so tripped up by the Scottish colloquialisms that I had a hard time following much of the story. I also think that the character development was lacking depth and that made things even more convoluted. It was hard to track with Finnie as she gained insight because she never spelled out what she was seeing...except those bodies. That said, it was pretty easy to spot the 'bad-guys' from the outset even when you couldn't have explained WHY. It's still a great story. Different. Dark, for sure. But it was not an easy read. (OH! And as a post-script... one of the reasons I had a hard time connecting with Finnie's character was the whole unbelieving-deacon thing. How is it that a servant of the church thinks there is no eternal life? That faith, and the purpose of the Word of God is platitudes and "do-gooding"? For what end, if there is no heaven, no hell? It made me VERY confused about her motivations!!! Perhaps this is a Church of Scotland thing, but that makes me think little of the Church of Scotland, that they think so little of their "god", and in the end, that was a huge distraction to the story for me...I never could truly trust her.)
Profile Image for Lee.
931 reviews33 followers
November 6, 2019
Finn and Paddy have an offer they can't turn down. Picking up their lives, they move to a small town. Paddy is a partner at a law-firm and Finn has found full-time work as a deacon. Paddy's boss has even offered them to stay in the gate house. All of it is a fairy-tale for them. But, things quickly get weird as Finn starts to hear strange noises and only gets worse when they discover the bodies of Paddy's boss and his wife. Their fairy tale life quickly takes a turn for the worst as things get more haunting for them.

This started out as good. It had a lot of moments that stressed me out because the characters were just flat out being dumb and honestly making no sense (okay so that was equal parts frustrating and great), but then at one point there were so many twists and turns that it turned into the unbelievable zone which was just a little disappointing when I felt that it had been pretty good to start out with.

Secrets keep getting revealed that really did leave me confused more often than not and did keep me guessing. I did enjoy myself enough while reading this and am now curious to see what else this author has written as I think the writing was good, but the turn into the unbelievable zone along with the characters who were just dumb did frustrate me.
Profile Image for Fictionophile .
984 reviews322 followers
November 12, 2020
This review was first published on my blog: https://fictionophile.com/

When Finnie and Paddy Doyle are offered the golden opportunity of a new start, in a new place, they jump at the chance. It would seem that lady luck has favoured them. They both have new jobs and a cottage as well. Paddy is over the moon at their new circumstances while city girl Finnie is less enthusiastic.

Their cottage, a gate house, starts to unnerve Finnie with its strange nocturnal noises and remote location.

They are invited to dinner up at Widdershins, the 'big house', by their neighbours, the Dudgeons.  They can hardly refuse as Lovatt Dudgeon is Paddy's new boss and partner at the local law firm. After a pleasant dinner, and shortly after leaving Widdershins, they backtrack to the house to fetch Finnie's handbag which she had forgotten. They find both the Dudgeons dead on the kitchen floor.

The decisions they make following this discovery will turn their world on its head, expose myriad secrets, and bring tension and even danger to their door...

MY THOUGHTS

I've read several novels by Catriona McPherson and this is one of her best! In my personal opinion it is second only to "The Day She Died", another one of my favourites.

Dripping with a dour Scottish atmosphere, the story kept me enthralled from first page to last. With themes of illegal adoption, deception, extortion, embezzlement and more, the novel will appeal to many readers who enjoy a good thriller.

I will keep my eyes peeled for the next book by this talented author. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Lori Rader-Day.
Author 15 books849 followers
July 30, 2019
I read an early copy. Read it OBSESSIVELY, I should say. Couldn't put it down and missed the protagonist when it was over.
Profile Image for Mortisha Cassavetes.
2,080 reviews54 followers
November 9, 2019
This was a twisty mystery that I just loved. I never knew the "who done it" until the very end and I never expected it at all. The story follows Finn and Paddy, a married couple, that move to a small country town for a job change. Paddy, an attorney, was offered a partnership in a law firm and his wife, Finn, was offered the job of deacon for the local church. Finn is a bit spooked by living in the country instead of the city life she is accustomed too but is learning to deal with the things that go bump in the night up until they find Paddy's boss and wife are stabbed to death. I don't want to go into the story more as to not spoil it but I highly recommend this book. I just love an English mystery.
Profile Image for Addie BookCrazyBlogger.
1,121 reviews36 followers
November 8, 2019
This was a struggle to read and to be perfectly honest, I almost DNF. However, since this was an ARC, I decided to read on. What I liked about the novel was the description of Scotland and the Scottish slang. That was it. That’s the only reason I liked the book. However, the characters had no depth and key plot lines or character details were only briefly mentioned but were then forgotten about or never explained fully. I felt like I was reading a really bad play, that’s super melodramatic but missing vital information that makes me actually care about the characters. And that ending was just atrociously written. Okay, yeah, grammar and perfect English wise, it made sense. In terms of the actual story...uhhh, SO many unanswered questions and one big blinking guy meme. That was me, by the end of the book. The blinking guy meme.
Profile Image for Empress Reece (Hooked on Books).
915 reviews78 followers
December 31, 2019
3.5 stars

Good mystery with plenty of twists but some of the dumb decisions the characters made didn't feel all that natural to me. They felt more like clumsy plot devices that weren't as refined as they should have been. All in all though, not a bad story for some reading entertainment but could use a little polishing.

*I received this ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Profile Image for emily.
35 reviews
February 19, 2020
2.5 stars but let's say 3. This was an okay but sometimes confusing read, I did like reading the last few chapters when everything started to unravel but is this worth reading? My opinion would be no but that's just me lol.
Profile Image for Kris - My Novelesque Life.
4,626 reviews189 followers
November 26, 2019
RATING: 3 STARS
2019; St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books
(Review Not on Blog)

I found this one to be a bit of a slower start and there were a few sections it seemed to drag on a bit. I liked the tone of Gothic-mystery, but I found the unraveling of the mystery a bit too much. It seemed like it was more tangled than not, and a bit out there. This is my first novel by the author and I would like to read another book soon.

***I received an eARC from NETGALLEY***
Profile Image for M..
206 reviews1 follower
October 23, 2021
As usual, McPherson has written great, twisted and often macabre mystery.
Had me guessing till the very end.
Profile Image for Debbie.
484 reviews
Want to read
October 30, 2019
Strangers at the Gate by Catriona McPherson is a chilly, creepy mystery. Finn and her husband Paddy seem to have just had the perfect situation both with new jobs and being offered to stay at the gate house of Paddy's new employer. But of course, nothing can be that perfect when it comes to a mystery novel! This book starts out with a bang when Paddy and Finn find the bodies of their new neighbors/employers dead in the kitchen. It goes on from there with the crazy decision of Paddy and Finn not to call 911 because of secrets in their past. The story builds with whether this was murder or murder/suicide and what happened? The ending I never could have guessed. This author has a really spectacular way with words as I could almost feel the cold and creepy atmosphere. This is my first book by this author and I look forward to diving into more of her work. I think I give this book 4 stars. Thank you to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book for my honest review.
Profile Image for Kristi.
818 reviews198 followers
October 12, 2019
Strangers at the Gate is the first book I’ve read by Catriona McPherson and it won’t be the last. It’s twisty and atmospheric, dark and suspenseful! I thought I had it all figured out until I figured out that I didn’t. I love a book that has the ability to keep me speculating until the very end.

When Paddy comes home to tell Finn of a wonderful opportunity in the quaint little town of Simmerton, Finn has doubts. First off, everything seems to fall into place a little too seamlessly. Paddy is offered a partnership in a law firm and Finn lands a full-time job as a Deacon in the parish. Not only do they both get the job of their dreams, they’re also offered the opportunity to live in a cute little gatehouse on the grounds of Widdershins (Ominous name, no?) owned by their benefactors – rent free. To add to this, they are able to rent their flat in Edinburgh and gain a little pocket change, too. As Finn remarks, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is … Those words come back to haunt Finn as the story progresses.

When a murder/suicide occurs within a short time of their moving to Simmerton, the story takes a mysterious and disturbing turn. Their employers and benefactors, Lovett Dudgeon and his wife, Tuft, invite Finn and Paddy to dinner, it’s a short walk from their gatehouse up to the main house and Finn doesn’t want to go. Despite herself, Finn actually really likes Tuft and enjoys the evening. On their walk home Finn realizes she’s left her purse; she and Paddy return to the Dudgeon's home only to find them dead in what appears to be a murder/suicide. The couple don’t call the police because Finn and Paddy both have secrets of their own and as Amy Tan once said: “That was how dishonesty and betrayal started, not in big lies but in small secrets.” And so, begins this suspenseful story.

Finn is an absolutely wonderful narrator, often shocking the reader (that would be me) out of their belief on how a deacon should behave. She is a breath of fresh air in this dark tale of murder, suspense, and treachery. I loved her and I hope that we hear more about her in another book – even though this is classified as a stand alone novel. The plot is fantastic and the characters all but leap off the pages they’re so realistic and well depicted. This is a must read for any fan of the genre.

A big thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books, and Catriona McPherson for the pleasure of reading and reviewing this title.
Profile Image for Becky.
729 reviews
June 9, 2020
This book was a pretty compelling read from the start--Finnie Doyle and Paddy Lamb are leaving busy Edinburgh behind to live in a little country town. Paddy has been made partner at the law firm there and Finnie has landed a nice job as a deacon for the local church. From their first night being invited over to Paddy's new boss's house for dinner, however, things start to go wrong. And strange. And they only get stranger. But Wow. It would be hard to come up with a stranger and darker final plot to this mystery. It's almost a bit too much. But definitely a page turner.
Profile Image for Criminal Element.
54 reviews13 followers
November 8, 2019
Strangers at the Gate by Catriona McPherson is a twisty, fascinating mystery that asks the question: Who do you turn to when everyone’s a stranger and you’ve stopped believing your own eyes?

Finn and Paddy Lamb know they’ve hit the jackpot when they each—he a lawyer, she a deacon—get plumb job offers in the prosperous Scottish village of Simmerton. And the dream jobs aren’t all they’re getting: Paddy’s new boss, Lovatt Dudgeon, also offers them his gatehouse for a pittance of rent.
Looking back, it’s tempting to say I knew from the start, as soon as Paddy said the word for the first time. I can nearly convince myself I shivered at the sound of it. Simmerton.

But I’d be lying. Truth is, there was a while back then when everything seemed fine. Or even better than fine. Everything seemed golden.


But no sooner have they moved in before Finn starts to doubt their outrageous fortune. Simmerton is a place of constant rain and little sunlight, where the woods and stony cuts and silence loom like claustrophobic sentinels. The gatehouse is a cold and dreary place, and Lovatt and Tuft Dudgeon’s house has an ill-omened name: Widdershins.

[The gate lodge] was squat and squint, with one bulbous bay window, like a toad’s eye, lumpy harling the colour of mud. Cottages, I reckoned, should be whitewashed with thatched roofs and you should live in them for a week, then go home. Still, I’d agreed to a year of this, so I tried to find a bright side…

One year, I told myself. I knew I could do a year. It wouldn’t be the first time. I would get used to the quiet. And the trees. I would stop seeing them out of the corner of my eye and thinking someone was there. If only they looked a bit less like a silent army of strangers standing dead still and watching me. Or if only the ones at the edge didn’t wave as the wind stirred them, looking as if they were shuffling their feet, just about to speak. If only there weren’t faces etched into the swirl of the bark, knot-hole mouths wide open and black eyes weeping resin tears.


Unfortunately, Finn’s malevolent first impressions prove prescient. Before they can meet anyone in town but the Dudgeons, mere minutes after a cheerful dinner with the elderly couple, the Lambs discover their bloody bodies. Panicking, spilling secrets to one another that have been hidden the whole year of their marriage, Finn and Paddy decide to not call the cops, confident someone else will find the bodies—the result of an apparent murder/suicide—the next day.

But then, a strange email is sent out by the dead man, and it quickly becomes apparent that this was murder. Someone is covering their tracks and buying time to disappear...Read Angie Barry's full review on our blog!
Profile Image for Kristin (Always With a Book).
1,117 reviews332 followers
October 22, 2019
Last year I read, and loved, Go to My Grave, by Catriona McPherson. It was the first book I had read by this author and I knew it would not be the last. It was the type of book that keeps you fully engaged, frantically flipping the pages, trying to piece together what is happening. This latest book is much the same but with a different spin.

Once again, Catriona McPherson has crafted one heck of a dark and atmospheric book that just took my breath away when all was said and done. This time around we are left wondering just how well do we really know the people around us. I can't think of a more perfect time to read this book than right now, as we are gearing up to all things spooky for Halloween as not only is it layered in secrets and ghosts from the past, but the isolated house also adds to the overall eerie sense of foreboding.

I loved that this book jumps right into things. There is no time wasted on setting things up. And I loved that we are left with little cliffhangers at the end of some chapters here and there which just begs you to keep reading...there is this need to find out what is going to happen next. And let me just say, as much as I was trying to figure it all out, I definitely did not see that ending coming - it completely took me by surprise which is such a great thing!

This book keeps the shocks coming left and right. As a narrator, Finn is most spectacular. She is a deacon and she just doesn't quite behave how you would think a deacon would which really keeps you on your toes. She is witty and resourceful yet she makes some interesting choices at times that make you wonder.

This was such a complex, thrilling murder mystery that really kept me guessing all the way til the end. It is dark and completely atmospheric and definitely one to add to your fall reading list if it is not already on it. I can't recommend Catriona McPherson's books enough...her stand-alone thrillers are not to be missed!

Thank you to Minotaur Books for providing me with a free review copy!

My reviews can also be found on my blog: Always With a Book
Profile Image for Gina.
596 reviews8 followers
November 17, 2019
solid 4 stars

As of late, I have been drawn to mystery books, and when I could not borrow a Tana French audiobook, I decided to give Catriona McPherson's Strangers at the Gate a try. I am so glad that I did.

The book is well-written and descriptive -- without falling into the trap of bogging down the reader with too much unnecessary description. There is a dark, moodiness to the book, and I plan to read more of McPherson's work.

Also, Lucy Paterson did an excellent narration.
112 reviews1 follower
November 8, 2019
I really enjoyed this read. It was a thriller that kept me asking all the questions until the very end. I began piecing things together but at the same time didn't see the twist ending coming. I kept asking how and why???? I also really enjoyed how Padfy and Finnie were polar opposites in she is a Deacon and he is a lawyer giving them different beliefs and moral compasses. It was all very interesting how it came together in the end and I highly recommend this read.
Profile Image for Mac Daly.
733 reviews
April 23, 2020
How can you discover the truth when everyone has a secret? When husband and wife Paddy and Finny are offered dream jobs in a charming Scottish village, it seems too good to be true. When they make a terrible discovery on their first night there, they find that saying is true. A series of poor decisions draws them deeper into the mystery and threatens to drive them apart. It's a dark mystery that will keep you guessing up to the end.
Profile Image for R.L..
Author 5 books43 followers
June 29, 2021
I was impressed with how the author takes a strange and complicated storyline and makes it believable. I wasn't really impressed with the deacon. She hardly believes in God at all, seems callus, and unforgiving, but she's supposed to be the hero.
October 7, 2022
Wow! Stayed up past midnight last night to finish reading this terrific mystery. Catriona McPherson is a wonderful writer and kept me hooked until the last page--many twists and turns that kept me guessing (both right and wrong!), and thoroughly enjoyable.
Profile Image for Susan.
761 reviews13 followers
November 26, 2021
Convoluted, somewhat implausible happenings. A promising start, downhill from there, characters, meh, was glad to be finished with it.
Profile Image for Mia.
1,241 reviews7 followers
November 3, 2019
Creepy but a little too ridiculous for me.
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