Kimber Hannon, the narrator of this outstanding thriller from Benedict (the Bliss House series), returns home to St. Louis after four days in Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., to find that the key to her home doesn’t work. A neighbor tells Kimber that she, Kimber, rented the place to a guy named Lance Wilson six months ago. The police refuse to allow Kimber to enter her home after Lance shows a lease she signed. When Kimber accidently knocks him down, he whispers, “I was there. I saw what you did,” and then has her arrested for assault. Those words petrify Kimber, who believes they refer to the death of her sister, Michelle, more than 20 years earlier and the role Kimber may have played in it. The stakes rise when she believes that a nosy neighbor was murdered instead of dying in an accident as the police conclude. Kimber’s complicated personality and unusual family life drive the ever-twisting, surprise-filled plot. Angry and jealous as a child and teenager, and now a cold, prickly adult, Kimber is the epitome of the unreliable narrator. Readers will enjoy vicarious chills in her company. Agent: Susan Raihofer, David Black Agency. (Feb.)
A squatter with an axe to grind throws one woman's life into a tailspin.
Not many folks would be thrilled to come home after a four-day work retreat to find their locks changed and some creepy guy living in their house, and Kimber Hannon certainly isn't when it happens to her. The strangely familiar man calls himself Lance Wilson and claims that Kimber herself rented the house to him for six months. When she calls the police, she's horrified that they don't kick the guy out even after she presents her driver's license with the address on it and her neighbor, the elderly, very nosy Jenny, confirms that she lives there. So, she calls the only person she can think of who might help her: her lawyer ex-boyfriend, Gabriel, whom she did not leave on good terms. Rather improbably, the police claim that Wilson has "established residence" and they can't kick him out unless they can prove fraud. Kimber, understandably, loses it and attacks Wilson, and during the scuffle he says "I was there. I saw what you did," so softly that only she can hear. Kimber goes to stay with friend Diana and her husband, Kyle (with whom Kimber has history), and, as her life unravels, she tries to figure out why, and how, this creeper has taken over her home. The truth leads all the way back to Kimber's childhood and the death of her sister, Michelle, when they were kids. Kimber is no saint, but although she's genuinely trying to be a better person, the carefully woven threads of her life are unraveling at an alarming pace. Readers may not exactly root for Kimber, but it's hard not to sympathize with the helplessness and rage she feels at the general unfairness of her home and life being taken over by a smug, smarmy intruder. Benedict also provides a window into Kimber's combative relationship with her sister and the tragic events leading up to Michelle's death. Benedict is an able writer, but readers will likely guess who Kimber's unwanted house guest is quickly, and the big reveals (there are a few) and final confrontation, orchestrated to be shocking, merely expose the frayed ends of this melodramatic tale.
"Suspenseful and moving, The Stranger Inside gripped me from the first page. Laura Benedict is at the top of her game."Meg Gardiner, author of Into the Black Nowhere
"Reads at breakneck speed; perfect for a thrilling distraction from the everyday.... Fans of Laura Benedict will find themselves stunned by the new depths to her writing this stand-alone unleashes; those coming to her work fresh will almost certainly be instant fans for life."BOLO Books
"Outstanding.... Kimber's complicated personality and unusual family life drive the ever-twisting, surprise-filled plot.... [She] is the epitome of the unreliable narrator."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The Stranger Inside is a twisty, compelling thriller. Laura Benedict takes hold of your throat and doesn't let go until the final page."
Jeff Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of The Three Beths
"Can you imagine the nightmare of a stranger taking over your house? The terror you would feel? With The Stranger Inside, Laura Benedict turns her unique voice in suspense to this elegant scary mystery, where nothing is as it seems and one woman's truth is shattered by the hidden secrets of her past."J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of Lie to Me
"The Stranger Inside is an intense, fascinating character study that will have you rooting for Kimber while she turns her life around and tries to stay alive."
Catherine Coulter, New York Times bestselling author of Paradox
"Benedict spins a story driven by deceit on the part of most of the principals, with tension increasing with the body count and the twists and turns that continue to the very end."Booklist
"Laura Benedict's The Stranger Inside begins with one of the most unnerving premises I've ever read. This is a masterfully constructed thriller about one woman's inability to escape from the complicated web of her past. You won't be able to put it down until every secret is revealed, one breathtaking surprise after another, all the way until the shocking final pages."David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Somebody's Daughter
"Compelling characters, lush settings, complex emotionsall in a clever plot and spiced with a hint of darkness. These are the trademarks of Laura Benedict's writing. I've followed her career for years and she never disappoints. This new book, The Stranger Inside, is no exception. But a warningonce you pick it up, you will yield your life to the power of a great storyteller."Carolyn Haines, bestselling author of the Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries and The House of Memory
What would you do if you arrived home from vacation to find a stranger living in your house? This man has a legal rental agreement you don't remember signing. Neighbors state they saw you with him. When this happens to successful saleswoman Kimber Hannon, she has a large circle of close friends to turn to for help. There's ex-boyfriend Gabriel, who was shattered by their breakup. He's a lawyer and rushes to offer his legal expertise. Or her best friend Diana, whose husband Kimber has had an affair with; Shaun, her ex-husband, now living with his lover; or assistant Brianna, who is always ready to lend an ear. But are any of them trustworthy? When Kimber finally confronts the stranger, he whispers menacingly, "I was there. I saw what you did." Years ago, Kimber was responsible for the death of her sister. As an unreliable, somewhat unlikable narrator, Kimber gives this taut novel an edge. Using flashbacks, strong character development, and strategic red herrings, Benedict ("Bliss House" series) keeps readers eager to unravel the mystery. VERDICT A great addition to the psychological thriller genre.—Marianne Fitzgerald, Severna Park H.S., MD