STRANGER IN THE ROOM by Amanda Kyle Williams is her follow-up to THE STRANGER YOU SEEK, the critically and commercially successful debut that introduced private investigator Keye Street. As Street informs readers in the first few pages of her new novel, she runs a “little” detective agency consisting of just her and her computer guy. What this complex and intriguing personality may lack in business size is more than made up for by the complexity of her cases and the tenacity she brings to each one, which concerns a relative with a troubled past and checkered career which exceeds Keye’s own.
"STRANGER IN THE ROOM is exceptionally well-paced and plotted. The book’s main strength is in its fine balance between Keye’s professional life and the personal demons she deals with on a daily, if not hourly, basis."
The family member in question is Miki Ashton, Keye’s cousin. Both women live and work in the Atlanta area, and as the city begins its Independence Day celebration, Miki finds herself under siege by an unknown assailant.The first manifestation takes the form of a threatening stalker, an event that sends Miki to Keye begging for help. It’s not Keye’s first rodeo with Miki. Keye is used to unusual situations: she is a recovering alcoholic, a Chinese orphan adopted by white parents, and has a gay black brother living on the West Coast. Miki is an addict who doesn’t quite have the “recovering” part down and is somewhat “high maintenance” to boot. When a particularly grisly and unexpected discovery is made in Miki’s house, it becomes clear that Miki has a legitimate concern. Miki’s stalker is much more than an erstwhile suitor with inappropriate intentions; he, in fact, may well be a serial killer who is being sought by the Atlanta police.
Miki is not the only case on Keye’s mind, either. While attempting to protect her cousin, Keye must also juggle another case, this one involving a man who had his deceased mother cremated but who got more --- and less --- than he expected. Keye’s prior experience as an FBI agent --- she was summarily dismissed from the agency, which put her on the road to getting her life in order --- hold her in good stead, and the fact that her boyfriend is a member of Atlanta law enforcement does her no harm professionally, either. Keye’s concern for her cousin places both of them in peril, and as her investigation brings her closer to the killer’s identity, she finds that her cousin may well be a dangerous hindrance that will doom them both.
STRANGER IN THE ROOM is exceptionally well-paced and plotted. The book’s main strength is in its fine balance between Keye’s professional life and the personal demons she deals with on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Her battle with alcohol addiction is exceptionally well-presented, especially in a scene near the beginning of the book where she struggles to resist Miki’s entreaties to sample the temptations that she fights against. Although she is only two books into the series, Williams establishes that this is a canon to dive into, head-first, and to anticipate with each new installment.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 12, 2012