Title: The Stranger You Seek
Hardback: 336 pages
Publication Date: 04/08/2011
Meet Keye Street, the new kid on the crime block. A Chinese-American private investigator with two university degrees, she used to work as a criminal profiler for the FBI before she got fired for her alcoholism. Now she’s in recovery, trying to get her private investigation firm off the ground and working as a part-time bounty hunter to make ends meet. And, just to compound matters, she’s in love with her best friend – a lieutenant in the Atlanta Police Department.
If it sounds like there’s quite a lot going on in Keye’s life then that would be putting it mildly [I might have managed to fit in a very small percentage of her voluminous backstory!]. Weirdly, this was actually one of my only – and biggest – gripes with the novel. There’s almost too much going on in Keye’s life!
But, as a character-driven piece of crime fiction, it really is an amazingly assured debut. Reading the cover copy and press release I was struck by the setting [Atlanta, Georgia] and the theme [serial killer thriller], and immediately assumed that it was going to be in the vein of Karin Slaughter [not a bad thing. There’s even a quotation from Slaughter on the jacket].
But I wasn’t quite right. For, despite the similarities to Slaughter’s oeuvre, I actually found that reading The Stranger You Seek reminded me of Brett Easton Ellis and Jeff Lindsey’s Dexter series [indeed, there’s even a blood-spatter analyst working for the Atlanta PD in Kyle Williams’s novel!]. There’s something incredibly forceful and individual about Keye’s first-person narrative – something that, for me, was very reminiscent of Dexter’s unique voice.
At certain points, the pure amount of things going on in Keye’s life was a bit overwhelming, but there is also something fresh and different about the book and Kyle Williams’s prose that made me fly through the book at a furious rate [which was very possibly aided by the number of deaths in the book – I’m a sucker for a good serial killer novel!]. And the novel evokes the swelteringly oppressive heat of summertime Atlanta brilliantly, and there is a real feeling of suspense and danger throughout the book.
I do have to admit that I did work out the book’s major twist quite quickly, but I would like to believe that this was due to my incredibly good deductive skills [and having read far too much crime fiction!]. But, even then, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the novella and in the end I didn’t get the killer quite right [I missed by a fraction, but it was still a miss!].