The third instalment of the The Stranger Time series, Love Will Tear Us Apart, is a rather complicated affair. Eccentrically intriguing, undoubtedly engaging, and often laugh-out-loud funny, but complicated, nonetheless. For this book, author C. K. McDonnell has upped the number of plotlines to weave an intricate web of interconnecting threads that demand focus from the reader. No late-night chapter skimming here; this is a book that requires and also rewards close attention.
Things have moved on since the events of the previous entry, This Charming Man. Hannah has suddenly quit as assistant editor and gone back to her ex-husband, her replacement Betty is ‘odd’ even by the standards set by this team, and editor Vincent Banecroft’s obsession with his dead wife is reaching epic, overwhelming proportions. Each member of the team is pursuing their own leads, everyone they encounter seems to have an ulterior motive, and, of course, people are still disappearing.
It is difficult to delve too deeply into Love Will Tear Us Apart without the risk of revealing spoilers, but this is very much a story set within McDonnell’s world, the MLU (McDonnell Literary Universe) if you will. While you could pick this novel up without having read the previous entries, you probably shouldn’t. Knowledge of these characters, the journey you’ve shared with Ox, Reggie, Grace, Stella and the myriad of fantastical characters inhabiting this version of Manchester enhances the experience greatly.
And to be honest, if you haven’t yet read any of this series, then you’re in luck. McDonnell’s writing is witty and warm, a joyful fantasy allowing the ultimate escape.