Wednesday, October 23, 2013

book review: Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams

The backstory: Stranger in the Room is the second in the Keye Street series. I raved about the first, The Stranger You Seek, last week

The basics: Miki, Keye Street's globe-trotting photographer cousin, comes home to see a man in her house and bolts. She's felt someone watching her off and on for years, but given her history of drug use and psychiatric hospitals, the police may not have followed up properly. Meanwhile, Rouse is investigating the death of a thirteen-year-old whose body was left in plain sight. Keye is also keeping busy with her P.I. business and treks to North Georgia to investigate a crematorium.

My thoughts: I tend to approach the second novel in a series with trepidation. As a reader, I seek out series partly for elements of the familiar, but I also seek them out with a desire to keep being surprised. If the structure and end are too similar, I fear other books will only include more of the same. Delightfully, Stranger in the Room is a very different novel than The Stranger You Seek. In some ways it's a more polished, conventional mystery. The police case took center stage for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them figure out the crimes. I was also thoroughly creeped out that the thirteen-year-old boy was murdered on the block I last lived on in Atlanta. Williams uses Atlanta perfectly in these novels, and my familiarity with the city adds an extra layer of enjoyment.

There were also elements of a psychological thriller, and I loved that Keye's connection to Miki was unintentional. It was a wonderful way to make the story personal without another main-character-in-peril trope. What was somewhat less successful for me was Keye's investigation into the crematorium. Although it was nearly ten years ago, I remember the details of a similar case in the news. Being familiar with the details made the twists unsurprising, but I did appreciate the role of this case in providing more insight into Keye.

When reading a series, even this early on, the inevitable question is "Do I have to read them in order?" As hard as it is for me to understand why you wouldn't want to do so, Amanda Kyle Williams masterfully references events from the first book vaguely. If you were unaware of the first book, you wouldn't necessarily guess. This book does not spoil the mysteries at the heart of The Stranger You Seek, but Keye Street's love life has moved on. I'm incredibly appreciative that Williams is letting Keye grow and change as a character too.

Favorite passage:  "Memory is not a recording device. It’s corrupted by our own bias. We want to fit the pieces together. So we do. And then we convince ourselves it’s true."

The verdict: Stranger in the Room is a smart police procedural and a twisting psychological thriller. Keye Street is a flawed heroine to champion, and I'm eagerly awaiting her third outing in July 2014.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 321 pages
Publication date: August 21, 2012 (it comes out in paperback Nov. 26)
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Stranger in the Room from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Amanda Kyle Williams' websitelike her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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