Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams

I have first met the heroine of Stranger in the Room, PI Keye Street, in the author’s previous novel The Stranger You Seek (review here) and I really liked her.

Keye is not your usual kind of detective. She’s an ex-alcoholic, still struggling with her addiction, who used to work for the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, and has degrees both in criminology and psychology; she’s tough; and she’s street smart, stubborn and absolutely funny.

And, finally, she believes what she wants to believe, until she’s proven wrong. Alas, in one of the cases that she’s called to investigate in this novel, she’s bound to be proven dead wrong, but perhaps that’s only because it has to do with family.

It all begins when her cousin Miki calls and asks for her help. She thinks that she’s been stalked. She can hear strange noises in and around her house, more often than not she can feel someone watching her, and just the other night she saw a man in her home.

Well, Keye, doesn’t take Miki, who’s a famous photographer, seriously at first, but when the body of a dead old man is found hanging in her house, she has no choice but to admit that she was wrong. But is that the work of a stalker, or of just some sick bastard?

That’s the big question, but as she’s struggling to make ends meet, she can’t spare the time to give it too much thought. For starters she has to visit a mountain community where strange things seem to happen when it comes to the local funeral home and crematory, and she also has to find a “runner”, someone who jumped bail.

While all these things happen, no one would dare say that her boyfriend’s life is less complicated. Aaron Rauser, who’s a homicide detective, has a few open cases on his desk, and as if these are not enough, now he’s also called to investigate the death of the man found in Miki’s home, as well as the murder of a young athlete, a thirteen year old kid.

Given the above, one would expect that their relationship would be complicated, but it’s nothing but. They respect each other’s work and space, and they appreciate each other’s intellect and capabilities. Keye would feel lost without Rauser, not only because, “He thinks I’m gorgeous, so I’m okay with his blurred vision”, but also because she knows that he’ll always be there for her.

Well, as the action starts gathering pace and corpses accumulate, the two of them will have to work together to solve at least the current cases, while at the same time they’ll have to get ready to spend some quality time with Keye’s somewhat unconventional parents and take care of Miki, as well as Neil – her once time employee and soon to be partner, who’s been unlucky enough to get in the way of a bullet.

The plot is great and so is the story, but what I mostly enjoyed in this book are the characters, even when they appear for brief cameo’s, like that old nosy and openly racist lady, Mary Kate Stargell; like Keye and her amazing sense of humor; like Neil, who’s almost always high; like Miki, who’s seen so much death and turned that death into art; and like Rauser, that quiet force of a man who more often than not sets the rules, but never seems to try too hard to impose them.

The crimes may serve as the vehicles, but it’s the passengers that make this book a hell of a ride.

The book comes out August 21, 2012.

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