The basics: Set in Atlanta, The Stranger You Seek introduces Keye Street, a former behavioral analyst for the FBI and current private investigator. Street, an Asian-American adopted by a white couple (who later adopted a black boy, who turns out to be gay), witnessed the murders of her grandparents as a child. After years of being a functioning alcoholic, she's sober, divorced and trying to build her business. When a serial killer begins terrorizing Atlanta, her longtime friend (and head of homicide), Rauser, calls Keye in to consult.
My thoughts: If I have a quibble about first in a series mystery novels, it's that the main character is always far too close to the action. Here: it works. The Wishbone killer is savage brutal, and he's exactly the kind of person who would reach out to those working the case and amp up the fun and challenge. I also have a soft spot for novels set in Atlanta, a city I spent almost half my life in, and Williams nails the details and the spirit of the city (she lives there.) Atlanta's backdrop added a depth to the story I quite enjoyed, and it's one even those not familiar with the city will appreciate. Seeing these characters visit some of my favorite restaurants was a particularly special treat.
Beyond the pleasant setting, this novel is dark. The Wishbone killer is seriously demented, and I appreciated how Williams broke the tension with the more mundane aspects of Keye's work: bond enforcement and serving subpoenas. I always like characters working on multiple things at a time, as it adds a richness and dimension to them. I also really enjoyed the character development of Keye. She has a wicked sense of humor and her share of flaws, and this combination works beautifully. She's a complicated, likeable character, and she has the heft to carry a series.
Favorite passage: "I am less a part of the South than it is a part of me. It's a romantic notion, being overcome by geography."
The verdict: The Stranger You Seek is a smart, thrilling debut. The mystery was tightly plotted and Keye Street is a wonderfully complicated character I can't wait to read more about. In fact, now that I've finished this review, I'm sitting down to start the second book in the series, The Stranger in the Room.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: August 30, 2011
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