Header collage featuring the cover of Strangers by Danuta Reah (originally written under the name Carla Banks)


A woman faces disturbing enigmas in a strange and unsettling land.

“A complex and satisfying thriller, set against a backdrop of exotic nightmare.” – The Guardian

DANUTA REAH originally writing as CARLA BANKS

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After a whirlwind courtship, Roisin and her new husband, Joe, move to Saudi Arabia. But Joe has been here before, and is hiding dangerous secrets. Is Roisin’s life in danger?

Seal: Nominated for the CWA Gold Dagger award
Seal: Nominated for the CWA Steel Dagger award


Strangers is a dark, psychological thriller with an international setting. Part of the book is set in London, part in Saudi Arabia among the expatriate community.


Joe Massey, a British expatriate working in Saudi Arabia, witnesses the execution of his friend, Haroun. Appalled by what he witnessed, he leaves the kingdom and returns to London; but he made a promise to Haroun, and knows he must keep it. This promise draws him back to the desert kingdom and into mortal danger.


Roisin’s life is in chaos. She and her partner set up a language school together in Warsaw, but when their relationship broke up, the business fell apart as well, her partner having embezzled most of the capital that Roisin put into the business. She is now back in London, living in a run-down flat in the yet-to-be gentrified Kings Cross area.

She and Joe meet and are instantly attracted to each other. They have a whirlwind romance and marry, so Roisin can accompany him as he returns to work in Saudi Arabia.

A different culture

Saudi is a challenge to Roisin. She feels distanced from the expatriate community and is more drawn to the Saudi women she meets in the course of her work as an English teacher in the university of Riyadh.

Roisin is facing threats she knows nothing about from people who are able to act with impunity. She wants to help the young postgraduate student, the rebellious Yasmin, who is pregnant and seems to be trapped in an abusive marriage in Saudi. She wants to re-connect with her old schoolfriend, Amy, who is working in a Riyadh hospital. Also, Joe has changed. He is distant and withdrawn, and Roisin begins to wonder if their marriage was a mistake.

Dangerous secrets

Joe is keeping secrets, and the things he knows are drawing both him and Roisin into danger. Damien O’Neill, the representative of the company employing Joe is also aware that Joe is moving into dangerous territory, but he is also aware of undercurrents within the always complex Saudi society that Joe may be unaware of.

Strangers is about the bonds that hold sisters together, and the abuse of power. In the maelstrom of danger that surrounds this disparate community, Damien cannot keep everyone safe.

How I wrote Strangers

I first became interested in the expatriate community in Saudi Arabia when family members went there to work. It quickly became clear that in such a situation, apparent familiarity can be dangerous. The expatriate community lives largely within townships where western customs and values prevail: women can drive within these communities, wear what they like; alcohol, though not legal, is easily available.

Restrictions on women’s lives

But outside these places, different rules apply. Women must cover themselves; they are not allowed to drive; they must live within a range of restrictions that are unfamiliar to the western mind. We can be strangers without realising it. The ideas behind Strangers began to develop.

Women in Saudi Arabia

I wanted to write about women who lived between these two extremes. Saudi women who travel move with ease between the different systems; women who must remain within the Kingdom live very different lives. Rebellion can be dangerous.


Having two sisters, I also wanted Strangers to be about the complex relationships that exist between sisters: the orphaned Roisin who wanted, as a child, to believe Amy was her sister; Amy, whose close relationship with her sister draws her into danger; the sisterhood that exists between the Saudi women.

Strangers took me into a very different community and culture. By the time I finished writing it, I could understand a man like my character, Damien, who is drawn to and loves the desert kingdom, despite everything.

Strangers was originally published under the name Carla Banks, as was The Forest of Souls.

Some foreign editions of Strangers

Here are some of the foreign editions of Strangers. These may or may not be currently available – check your favourite bookseller.