McDonnell packs jokes into every layer of his writing — narration, description, dialogue — and they always propel, rather than hold up, the business of storytelling, which is the real test of a comic author ... He’s also got an enjoyable sense of the macabre; these dark forces are not messing around. There’s no disgrace in being formulaic when the formula is good, and The Stranger Times is ripping entertainment from start to finish.
As in the books of the great Mancunian YA fantasy writer Alan Garner, it’s one of these fantasy novels set in the real world rather than a fantasy world: Manchester ain’t no Narnia.They are my favourite kind of fantasy books – where the supernatural threads must be woven into the everyday rhythms, architecture and rain (this being Manchester) of the real world. This requires a creation of believability that must straddle the two worlds – the natural and the supernatural – and McDonnell achieves it effortlessly ... It is obvious that McDonnell loves creating characters and loves the characters he creates, and soon we are rooting for this quirky and eccentric multicultural bunch ... Combining these elements – fantasy, comedy and police procedural – so expertly is McDonnell’s great achievement. As the story progresses, there are so many inventive reveals and devices and character revelations, all paced perfectly, that the story drags you along like some beast with superhuman power.
McDonnell did an absolutely splendid job at telling the story from alternative perspectives, gradually revealing the darker forces that are happening in the alleyways of Great Manchester. An evil plan is hatching and possibly only the people at The Stranger Times are able to stop them ... McDonnell’s style of writing is whimsical, the dialogues are hilarious, and the characters are certainly entertaining enough ... This story contains a mixture of dark humour and fantasy elements, and you can always get a good laugh while reading it. It’s funny but not cringey and you could get hooked on right from the start. The next one in this series comes out next year and I certainly can’t wait to read more about the strange things that happen at The Stranger Times.