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City of Strangers

A Novel

About The Book

From the author of Accidents Happen, The Hidden Girl, and The Playdate—called “a supremely accomplished debut thriller by a writer to watch” (Booklist, starred review)—comes a new, heart-pounding novel about a journalist set on discovering the identity of a stranger who has turned her life upside down.

When Grace and her childhood sweetheart Mac come home from their honeymoon in Thailand, they’re shocked to find a dead body beside their pile of unopened wedding presents. The police are unable to ID the man, so it is assumed that he was a burglar who died from natural causes. Little do they know that evidence for a rather different story is hidden right beneath their apartment…

Three months later, Grace finds a card that, in place of well wishes, bears the message: “That man was Lucian Grabole.” A newspaper reporter fearing for her job, Grace lands on an idea that could answer some questions, and save her career as well. She’ll pitch a story to her boss called “Who was the man in my kitchen?”

Soon Grace is trekking across Europe, talking to strangers and piecing together clues as she tries to unravel the mystery of who Lucian Grabole was, and why he met such a macabre end. Suddenly, with two more deaths linked to the case, it becomes clear that Grabole most certainly did not die a natural death. And the answer to the mystery of who the killer is, and why, lies back in Grace’s apartment...


City of Strangers 1
Now, where to start?

Probably the shoes.

They were the style businessmen wore, but scuffed, as if the dead man who wore them had been dancing in dust. The white powder had burrowed into the decorative arcs on the toes, creating lacy caps. Gaps at the heels suggested a poor fit.

Someone else’s shoes.

Grace Scott knelt, careful not to disturb the crime scene, and photographed his feet. The heels were square and stubbed, and sported identical worn half-moons at the edges.

No socks.

Her lens trailed to the shoelaces. Brown, lying mismatched against parched black leather, plastic aglets split or missing, but each loop equal in size. Tied with care.

A gap of ankle, with dark, coarse body hair, then the suit.

She moved her lens upwards.

It was navy, pinstriped and, like the shoes and the yellowed business shirt underneath, poorly fitting, suggesting a previous owner. Thin threads dry-cleaned into submission. A shine that suggested a thousand journeys in traffic jams and meetings in baking-hot rooms, sweat infused with stress hormones, and last night’s pint and takeaway curry. A hint of buttercup paint on one knee. Perhaps a DIY paintbrush picked up late at night by someone too tired to change after work.

Grace moved her camera lens along the dead man’s limbs.

Black gloves. Fingers stiff.

No watch.

No belt.

Light broke into the kitchen. The thunder had subsided, and now a freakishly bright beam blasted between the storm clouds and through the window of the Edinburgh apartment. It lit up one sliver of patchy, lucent skin, visible between the strands of brown hair that masked the face. The hair was luxuriously thick, dried like bracken. A substance was spattered across it: tarry and foul-smelling, like the stain on the pale granite worktop.


A milky eye stared through two strands.

Trying to keep her hands steady, Grace focused her lens. No hint in it about what had happened. No suggestion that he knew life was about to end.

She widened her angle, shooting the whole body now in the context of where it had fallen. The head below the sink, the feet protruding into the dining area, the kitchen cupboards framing him like a coffin.

Then, for an even wider perspective, she shot from the kitchen door, catching the eerie light and igniting the puddle of broken glass by the smashed back door.

Then the man’s black shoes poking out from behind a cupboard.

The wedding presents in the corner he had been trying to steal.

To steal.

Grace lowered the camera.

What was she doing?

Tiptoeing across the scene, she unstacked the dining chairs and sat. The only sounds were her breath and rain dripping onto the oversize white floor tiles, creating mud-colored rivulets in the new grout.

Outside was the fire escape he must have climbed. The backyard of the newsagent’s below, and the gate beyond.

The kitchen cupboards were open, as if he’d been looking for food.

They were brand-new cupboards. There had never been any food in them.

That was sad.

She replaced her camera in its bag, checking to make sure she’d caught every angle. He looked like he’d been here for days. A family must be worrying somewhere, hoping for a call.

Undoing the T-shirt she’d tied over her face to fight the acrid smell, she walked to the hall and rang 999.

“Yes . . . Hi. My name’s Grace Scott. I live at 6A Gallon Street by the Crossgate Tower. I’ve just come back from holiday and found a man dead in my kitchen. . . . Yes, lying on the floor . . . No, no idea . . . He looks like he’s been here awhile. . . . Maybe a burglar, the back door is smashed . . .”

Instructions were given. Grace ended the call.

Mac would be at the door any minute, with bags full of shopping from Morrisons that no one would eat.

“Don’t worry,” she said into the empty room. “I’ll stay with you.”

About The Author

Photograph by Steve Millar

Louise Millar began her journalism career in various music and film magazines and spent seven years at Marie Claire as senior editor and contributing editor. She has written for Mojo, Marie Claire, Red, Psychologies, The Independent, Glamour, and The Guardian, among others. She lives in London with her husband and daughters.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Emily Bestler Books (November 1, 2016)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476760131

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Raves and Reviews

ONE OF THE BEST THRILLERS OF 2015: "Millar tells the story of Grace Scott, who goes on a chilling hunt to find the man’s killer. A poignant spine-shivering moment occurs when she finds a clue pinned to a wedding gift in her own flat."

– Marie Claire (UK)

"An eminently satisfying thriller."

– Booklist

"From the land of Agatha Christie comes, instead, a suspense writer worthy of Patricia Highsmith."

– Suspense Magazine

“Exciting and impossible to put down—this beautifully-written thriller is packed full of danger, surprises and a heroine to root for.”

– Mark Edwards, Author of The Magpies

“A twisty heart-stopper of a thriller.”

– Red magazine

“Compelling...original and satisfying.”

– The Daily Mail (UK)

“A page-turning thriller.”

– The Sunday Times (UK)

“An engrossing, exhilarating ride. Pacy, action-packed, brilliantly written and with THE HOTTEST leading male character *fans self*.”

– Tammy Cohen, Author of Dying for Christmas

“It does a really exciting thing, which is to take us from domestic noir to international thriller... fast paced, full of heart and with a central character who is discovering herself as she uncovers a labyrinthine international mystery.”

– Julia Crouch, Author of Cuckoo

"A deliciously disturbing read, with paranoia seeping from every page."

– Alex Marwood

“Taut, chilling and utterly brilliant- my thriller of the year.”

– Lisa Jewell

"As Millar makes truth elusive and builds suspense, she is establishing herself in the top tier of writers of psychological thrillers."

– Booklist (starred review)

"Louise Millar’s Accidents Happen is everything I hope for in a suspenseful read – chilling, complex and intense. Millar’s riveting novel,with its frightening premise and twists and turns kept me frantically turning pages late into the night."

– Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence

"This seriously creepy psychological thriller set deep in the Suffolk countryside is Louise Millar's best book yet. With a twist I did not see coming, it will make urbanites dreaming of bucolic bliss think again."

– Alex Marwood, bestselling author of The Wicked Girls and The Killer Next Door

“Louise Millar possesses an awesome talent for penning menacing tales. THE HIDDEN GIRL is a tightly penned thriller with fully fleshed out characters, interesting and intelligent dialogue, and stellar plotting.”

– Reader to Reader

“[An] intriguing psychological thriller…emotionally compelling.”

– Publishers Weekly

“Millar turns the typically cozy village setting into something malevolent, generating considerable suspense in the process and adding a psychological thriller element reminiscent of Ruth Rendell.”

– Booklist

“Millar does a great job of building slow, psychological suspense... I highly recommend that you give this one a try,”

– Book Hooked Blog

"A must read. This is in my top 5 books read in 2016. It was superbly crafted . . . I couldn't put it down because it was fast paced from beginning to end. I will definitely read more from Louise Millar."

– NetGalley, 5 Stars

"Full of twists, and it travels around the world beautifully, unraveling a story from town to town, person to person; Louise Millar has crafted a psychological thriller with an unforgettable, chilling tone that intensifies until all the pieces come together in a shocking reveal! NOT TO BE MISSED!"

– The Lovely Pages

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