Fresh Meat: Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams

Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams
Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams
Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams is the second novel in the Keye Street private detective thriller series (available August 21, 2012).

The Atlanta Police Department needs Keye Street’s profiling skills on a bewildering investigation in which a killer is targeting seemingly random people. The temperature is already high, but it reaches a sweltering point when Keye’s cousin is being stalked and is convinced she’s the next victim. Keye is fighting the distractions of a grisly discovery in upstate Georgia, of turmoil in her relationship with Aaron Rauser, and in her struggles to stay sober. This case will lead Keye through the twisted mind of a killer, into a labyrinth with an explosive finale at its center.

Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams is second in a new series of novels about private detective Keye Street, following The Stranger You Seek. A third novel is upcoming in 2013. Having not read the first in the series, I still had no trouble navigating this one, as Street is a first-person narrator who is quick to bring new readers up to speed.

The series is set in Atlanta, Georgia. It mingles the hard-bitten, wisecracking detective hero, this time female, and a terrible murder with a lighter side:  quirky private cases and plenty of humorous banter. There are also elements of a police procedural because of the murder case.

Detective series of any subgenre live or die by their protagonist, and Williams made sure to make Keye Street intriguing on a number of levels. Street’s wry, self-deprecating voice keeps things entertaining.

My name is Keye Street. I run a little detective agency in Atlanta called Corporate Intelligence & Investigations. And when I say “little,” I mean it’s just me and my red-eyed computer guy, Neil Donovan. And when I say “red-eyed,” I mean he probably smoked a joint with his scrambled eggs this morning. My background is in law enforcement, criminology, psychology, and, well, drinking. I was once a criminal investigative analyst in the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) at the Bureau. But I set fire to that and to nearly everything else in my life back then . . . .

I’m a Chinese American recovering alcoholic with a southern accent, white parents, and a gay African American brother. Neil is convinced there’s a way to cash in on this—reaching minority status on so many levels. A government program, perhaps. But that’s what happens when you combine Neil’s Generation-Y sense of entitlement with his subversive stoner’s brain. Neil handles most of the computer searches and I collect the human intelligence, which means I trail around behind certain folks, search their trash, take unwanted pictures of them, listen in on their conversations when I have the opportunity, and generally intrude on their private affairs. It’s all very glamorous. There’s a pile of Little Debbie wrappers and Starbucks cups in my car to prove it.

Street is in a romantic relationship with a policeman, which opens a door for her to learn about and become involved with the occasional more dangerous case, in this novel the murder of a young teenager. Her relationship with Aaron Rauser also offers yet more complexity to the characterization and plot.  The two of them together must deal with both the emotional hazards of their jobs, and how the terrible events they encounter daily in the course of their jobs spill over into their personal lives. 

However, they’re not a depressing couple to read about, at all, even when they’re under stress, because they’re depicted as supportive of each other.  Some of the best banter in the novel happens between them.

I woke to Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” coming out of my phone—Homicide Lieutenant Aaron Rauser’s ringtone. I fumbled for the clock. Two a.m., just one of the hazards of dating a cop. I’d been asleep for exactly an hour. “Long day, huh? You get all the bad guys?”

“Uh-huh,” Rauser said in that slow, drawn-out way meant to express his cynicism. “Be more likely Lisa Ling would wanna make out.”

“You have a thing for Asian girls, don’t you?”

“I gotta thing for you.”

I enjoyed Stranger in the Room mostly for its characterization, but the humor also contributes to the novel’s entertainment value. I was quickly swept into the story, and Williams’ deft hand kept me involved. I’m looking forward to reading other books in this new series.


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Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories.  Her World War I-set Spice Brief is titled “Under Her Uniform” and is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at

See Victoria Janssen’s other posts on Criminal Element.


  1. Lakis Fourouklas

    I just finished reading this a few days ago and I can say that I really enjoyed it. The author does have a great sense of humor and I particularly liked the character of that old nosy woman living up in the mountains.

  2. Victoria Janssen

    Neil was my favorite!

  3. Lakis Fourouklas

    Neil is quite a character too, but I’ve met him already in The Stranger You Seek.

  4. Victoria Janssen

    I had missed the first book in the series. I’m glad I found it with this one.

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