There was plenty left up in the air at the end of CK McDonnell’s second Stranger Times book This Charming Man. So for fans if this urban fantasy meets comedy meets horror series, the third volume Love Will Tear Us Apart could not come soon enough. Being the third book in a series this review is likely to contain some minor spoilers.
As with the previous two volumes, the action of Love Will Tear Us Apart is set around the offices of the fringe Manchester newspaper The Stranger Times. When the book opens, curmudgeonly editor Vince Banecroft is trying to find a new assistant editor as Hannah, a lynchpin of the previous two books, has taken off and checked herself into a kind of wellness facility known as the Pinter Institute. Banecroft himself is not doing well as he has come to believe his wife is talking to him through the ghost of an ex-employee. Before long all of the staff are involved in trying to make sense not only of Hannah’s departure and Banecroft’s behaviour but of a kidnapping and an impending audit.
Suffice to say that this precis does not cover half of what is going on in Love Will Tear Us Apart. While the action takes a little while to set up, once it gets going McDonnell effortlessly juggles his huge cast of regular and returning characters. The intersecting plots build on and go some way to resolving events set up not only in this book but in previous books. It does mean that this volume is not the best place to start, these books almost demand to be read in order.
Love will Tear Us Apart is another great entry in this series. McDonnell does some impressive world building and deploys a range of types of humour, including some great one liners, and some (at times intense) body horror. But at the heart of this series is McDonnell’s great compassion for the crew of The Stranger Times. On top of plenty of ongoing mysteries, this is the not-so-secret ingredient that will keep readers coming back for more.