I'm always on the lookout for a great murder mystery series. I love them...they are my brain candy. But more often than not, I find a whole bunch of blood and guts, but nothing really distinctive to help make it memorable. I have been reading books from this genre for 20 years, so it is really tough for authors to have a hook that works for me.
But hark! Two respected bloggers, Swapna and Caite, made a fuss over Amanda Kyle Williams and the first book in her new series, "The Stranger You Seek". What is this? New series? Great protagonist? They were effusive enough to inspire me to order it on audio from my library.
Synopsis: Keye Street is a divorced Southern Belle, an adopted Chinese-American, a recovering alcoholic, and because of the drinking problem, an ex-FBI profiler. She currently works as a private investigator and bond enforcer to make ends meet, loves shoes and Krispy Kremes, and is apt to grab her crotch and offer a rude sentiment (or offer tampons) to any man giving her shit.
Street has been called into help with a particularly disturbing serial murder case by her best friend and Atlanta Police Department lieutenant Aaron Rauser. The killer is not only leaving horribly gruesome crime scenes, he or she is messing with the cops and the press by sending taunting letters and e-mails. It also appears that based on the killer's modus operandi, a number of unsolved murders from years prior may be the same handiwork. In the dense, oppressive Georgia heat, Street must unravel motivations and psychoses to help solve the crime without losing herself in the process.
My thoughts: Holy cow this was a fun ride. This book had the perfect combination of elements to entertain even the most critical murder mystery lover.
The mystery itself was not all that difficult to figure out, if you are adept at these things. The first time I "met" the character that was to be the killer, and I heard the description of the person, I knew who it was. But Williams kept it vague, making the reader even question whether the evil-doer was male or female. It was good fun, and I had a ball following the plot all the way through to the end. There are plenty of red herrings in there just to keep you guessing.
There was a love interest thread, and that was completely satisfying. I know Williams doesn't want her street cred tarnished with me telling you she has a soft side, so I reassure you that it isn't overwhelming. A romantic I am not. But I completely bought into everything going on here in the love department. (And want more. Now.)
Completing the whole multi-dimensional package, we also get to see Street chase down the occasional bail skip (a thinking woman's Stephanie Plum if you will), find a missing cow, and even get a glimpse of a few same sex relationships.
But really, details. The main attraction here is Street. She is so lovable, yet so flawed. She sucks at managing her personal life but is so good at her profession. She is a tiny little Southern Belle that can take down a 250 pound convict. I couldn't get enough of her, and she is the reason that you will not be able to forget this book after you have finished it.
A few words about the audio production: This audio is narrated by Anne Marie Lee, who has also narrated a number of Lisa Gardner and Lisa Unger novels (which I listened to frequently before blogging), as well as "Maine" by Courtney Sullivan. Anne Marie has a very girlish lilt to her voice, and has an excellent southern accent. She initially seemed perhaps a little too girlish for Keye, but she soon showed her mettle by blasting through the most hard core scenes, and she became the essence of Keye. I hope she comes back for future installments!
4.5 out of 5 stars