Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Stranger in the Room (Audio)

Summary: Fresh from her debut, The Stranger You Seek—which Publishers Weekly called “an explosive, unpredictable, and psychologically complex thriller that turns crime fiction clichés inside out”—Amanda Kyle Williams delivers a second thrilling Keye Street novel, perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and Patricia Cornwell.

That bullet was meant for you.

Summer is smoldering through Atlanta on Fourth of July weekend, as fireworks crack through the air and steam rises from the pavement on Peachtree. Private investigator and ex–FBI profiler Keye Street wants nothing more than a couple of quiet days alone with her boyfriend, Aaron—but, as usual, murder gets in the way.

I will find her.

A.P.D. Lieutenant Aaron Rauser is called to the disturbing scene of the strangling death of a thirteen-year-old boy. Meanwhile, Keye must deal with not one but two of her own investigations: In the hills of Creeklaw County, there’s a curious case involving chicken feed and a crematorium, and in Atlanta, Keye’s emotionally fragile cousin Miki is convinced she is being stalked. Given Miki’s history of drug abuse and mental problems, Keye is reluctant to accept her cousin’s tale of a threatening man inside her house late one night. But as a recovering alcoholic herself, Keye can’t exactly begrudge a woman her addictions—especially since Miki drives Keye to near-relapses at every turn. And yet, Miki is family, and Keye must help her—even if it means tempting her own demons.

I always find her.

All hell breaks loose when another murder—the apparent hanging of an elderly man—hits disturbingly close to home for Keye. And though the two victims have almost nothing in common, there are bizarre similarities between this case and that of Aaron’s strangled teen. Is there a single faceless predator, a calculating murderer targeting his prey at random? Only a skilled profiler like Keye Street can help the A.P.D. find him. With the threat of more deaths to come, Keye works on pure instinct alone—and soon realizes that a killer is circling ever closer to the people she loves the most. -- Random House Audio

Last summer, I was excited to "discover" a debut mystery writer named Amanda Kyle Williams. Her first book was called THE STRANGER YOU SEEK, and I was definitely impressed with the many twists and turns in the story. You can read my review here. I was also pretty happy to learn that this novel was the first in a new series.

Fast forward a year and the second book in the Keye Street series, STRANGER IN THE ROOM, was released. Of course, I was anxious to read it and find out what was in store for Keye, but this time I decided to "read" it as an audio book. I'm not sure I enjoyed STRANGER IN THE ROOM quite as much as I did the debut novel, maybe because my expectations were pretty high; however, I still enjoyed it... and it definitely kept me guessing.

STRANGER IN THE ROOM once again takes place in Georgia, and private investigator and ex-FBI profiler Keye Street finds herself smack dab in the middle of some very unusual cases. The first one involves her unstable cousin Miki who swears that she is being followed and then threatened by a stranger. As much as Keye would like to help Miki (she is family after all), in the back of her mind, she questions the veracity of Miki's story. Miki isn't exactly the most dependable of individuals given her history of alcohol and drug use as well as her mental issues.

In the meantime, Keye's boyfriend and Atlanta Police Department Homicide Detective Aaron Rauser is working on a case involving the murder of a young thirteen year old boy. When another murder occurs, this time the hanging of an elderly man, Keye finds herself involved in both cases... both personally and professionally. At first glance, the cases seem to have virtually nothing in common, but Keye can't help but think they are related. Using her skills as a profiler, she somehow pieces together information about both crimes and comes up with a hypothesis!

While Miki's stalker and the two murders were the major plot lines in this novel, there was also another story line; and if I'm being entirely honest, I'm not sure it was all that necessary. This mystery was also a little creepy since it involved a mystery at a crematorium, but it definitely wasn't as intense as the rest of the novel (until the mystery was eventually revealed.) I don't want to give too much away about this storyline, but here's a little hint: it involves chicken feed and cement in place of human cremains. This story involved Keye and her pot-loving co-worker Neil taking a trip to rural Georgia, and it definitely had some quirky characters and funny scenes. While I appreciated that the author was trying to include some humor into a pretty dark story, in many ways, it felt almost a little Stephanie Plum-ish (if that makes sense.)

However, I did think the rest of STRANGER IN THE ROOM was intriguing and enjoyable (not that I didn't like the crematorium story, I just felt like it was dropped in there!) As was the case in the first novel, I appreciated the character development of Keye and how it explored her addiction and recovery issues. In addition, I still liked Keye's spunky personality and the way she bantered with her boyfriend, her cousin, her co-worker, and basically any one who came into her path. While I did think the basic mystery behind the murders was very complex and well constructed, I admit that I initially had some issues with how Keye managed to link the events. It was a little far-fetched to me that Keye even suspected that the crimes were related, but she was a renowned profiler for a reason, right?

I also really liked the pace of the novel. Once the story about the crematorium was out of the way, the action with the murders really took off. I thought the story was suspenseful and full of twists, and I appreciated how Keye began using her skills to narrow the search for the murderer. Many of Keye's ideas about the murderer were "out there" and nothing an ordinary person would suspect; however, I found her thought processes to be extremely interesting. In addition, I enjoyed the different psychological aspects of the story -- the ones pertaining to the crimes as well as the ones directly relating to Keye and her cousin.

The audiobook was read by Ann Marie Lee, and for the most part, I thought she did a good job with her interpretation. I'm not the best judge of Southern accents (for that, you need to talk to Kathy), but I'm not sure about a few of her pronunciations of certain words like "aunt." What I did like about her narration was the variety of voices she used for the different characters and the way she built tension in the story. I also thought she did a good job of capturing Keye's snarkiness and sense of humor.

Overall, I enjoyed STRANGER IN THE ROOM quite a bit especially the parts of the novel that had to do with the murders of the young boy and the elderly man; and I look forward to the next installment of Keye Street novels. Definitely recommended for fans of Karin Slaughter and psychological thrillers with strong female protagonists.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

You had me when you mentioned this book is set in the ATL - I love books that are set in places that are familiar to me.

I do like to think that I know the accents in Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia! lol

Beth F said...

This "it felt almost a little Stephanie Plum-ish" was kind of killer for me. I know I'm in the minority, but I'm not a big Stephanie Plum fan.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Ha ha, loved your comment about Kathy!!!

Serena said...

Sounds like an interesting book. thanks for the review.