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Stranger Room: An Ike Schwartz Mystery (Ike Schwartz Series) Hardcover – August 10, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two locked-room murders, nearly 150 years apart, confound Sheriff Ike Schwartz of Picketsville, Va., in Ramsay's suspenseful fourth regional mystery (after 2007's Buffalo Mountain). Schwartz discovers that both crimes, with sinister undertones of Poe, occurred at the antebellum-era Lydell mansion. The estate's owner, Jonathan Lydell IV, is distraught to find his renovated stranger room (a guest room with its own outside entrance) soiled by death and the intrusion of law enforcement. While Schwartz and acting deputy Karl Hedrick (on loan from the FBI) contend with Lydell's condescension and racism, they're soon distracted by a growing meth epidemic, vandalism and even another death in Picketsville. Ramsay skillfully weaves historical fact into his story, all the while blending brisk action with excellent characterization. Schwartz has matured throughout the series, and readers will eagerly await his next adventure. (Aug.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

From Booklist

A “stranger room” was an addition attached to the main house but with a separate entrance, allowing travelers not wishing to stay at an inn to stop without disturbing the privacy of the family home. In Picketsville, Virginia, two murders a century and a half apart in the same stranger room offer Sheriff Ike Schwartz much to unravel. Mr. Lydell, owner of the house, lives in the past, where people knew their place, and seem unconcerned by the deaths, even though one of the victims was his daughter. The unraveling of the mystery is done at a leisurely pace, allowing time for romances among the characters and for plenty of sometimes awkwardly introduced asides on prejudice, race relations, southern small-town mores, and Civil War history. All in all, this is an engaging enough small-town mystery with plenty of local ambience. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido
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Product Details

  • Series: Ike Schwartz Series (Book 4)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; First Edition edition (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590585356
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590585351
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,001,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author



Dr. Frederick Ramsay was born in Baltimore. He is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and received his doctorate in Anatomy from the University of Illinois. After a stint in the Army, he joined the faculty of the University of Maryland, School of Medicine where he taught Gross and Micro Anatomy and Embryology. Collaborated and did independent research in the immunological system and its relation to cancer. He is the author of several scientific research and general technical articles.
During this time he also pursued studies in theology and in 1971 was ordained an Episcopal priest. After leaving the University, he served two congregations in the Baltimore area full time and several part-time.
He is now retired from full-time ministry and writes fiction.
His first novel, Artscape, was published by Poisoned Pen Press and launched July, 2004. His second, Secrets, (Poisoned Pen Press), was published in August of 2005 and Impulse, July 2006, was cited by Publishers Weekly as one of the one hundred best books 2006. He is the author of the Ike Schwartz mysteries, A series beginning with Predators set in Botswana, and a stand alone, religious historical fiction-Judas the Gospel of betrayal.
He is an iconographer, an accomplished public speaker and once hosted a television spot, Prognosis, on WMAR-TV, Baltimore. He currently lives in Surprise, Arizona with his wife and partner, Susan.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Elder Jonathan Lydell III is proud of his Southern history connections - connections which don't seem to matter to the current generation. Nearly 150 years an unexplained murder took place inside the Lydell's locked stranger room - and the murderer was never caught. When an identical murder is committed in the newly restored room, historical knowledge takes a dangerous turn in this gripping mystery.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was one good read.

Ike and his guys and gals have a murder to investigate.

Not just any murder. One done behind a locked door that no one can open. A room that has only that door as an entrance. No windows and no other way to get into said room. Seems the key is stuck in the lock from the inside and it takes a pretty hefty peice of wood to break the door down.

It also seems this murder a copy of another murder that took place 150 years ago during the waning days of the Civil War.

The owner of the property is named Lydell. His family has owned Bellmore, the property for generations.

Lydell is anything but a nice grandfatherly type. He's a racist stuffed shirt who thinks everyone is beneath him. He takes his supposed aristocratic lineage to disgusting heights.

Ike is not impressed.

Shortly after the police arrive to investigate the murder, a man shot behind that closed door, the owners daughter is killed in an "accident." Ike now has two deaths to investigate.

So begins one pretty good whodunit with loads of twists and turns.

Theres murder, attempted murder, drugs and some very serious criminals. Some of whom turn out to be deputies Ike fired when he became Sheriff.

Ike also has to try to help Ruth. Ruth is having problems at Callend College. Seems another college wants to move in and make it a university. Loads of problems for Ruth and she and Ike are taking things day by day in their relationship.

Theres also the problem of a replacement for the murdered Whaite Billingsly. Billingsly was a deputy that Ike had nothing but respect for and he will be very hard to replace. Ike has hopes in that department. Only time will tell.

Just a really good read and well worth those five stars.
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Format: Paperback
Im going backwards in this series. I started with Ramsay's book 'Choker'. Both 'Choker' and 'Stranger Room' have the same flaws and the same strengths in my mind.

First, Ramsay has a few story lines going on here. I didn't feel like any of them were explored to the extent that would have made them satisfying. Though Ramsay does an adequate job of telling them, the struggle to unearth the mysteries here are not very challenging. They all sort of unfold without passion.

The book gets its name from the primary mystery. If you have read a lot of old Agatha Christie books along with her contemporaries, you will have come across the locked room mystery. Every author of that period seemingly had to write at least one. This one has a very 2 dimensional old family with a 100% despicable old man who hates every one as the primary suspect.

The second mystery deals with an old deputy from the police force that Ike has taken over. That deputy is intent on taking control of the town again and Ramsay manages to get in a few altercations before ending things quickly. Nothing original here.

The third mystery isn't really a mystery but a couple of short asides that deal with Ike and his lady friend & other short episodes involving the deputies on the force.

I would give the stories here 1 star. They are pretty bad and unfold with no passion from the author.

The second thing I did not like at all was the multiple first person's here. I think the book must have jumped into the mind of a dozen characters. All of them were very very very similar. The only time they were at all different was when Ramsay would make a caricature of a character like with the prime suspect of the locked room mystery here.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have met the author, so have really enjoyed his books. Good mysteries, good stories, no bad language, fun read.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1864, The Staunton Spectator newspaper reported that a traveler Mister Franklin Brian was found murdered in the stranger room attached to the Bolton home of Captain Jonathan Lydell, Now a century and half later, elderly Jonathan Lydell IV informs the local sheriff department that someone murdered guest Anton Grotz in his restored antebellum mansion's stranger room with the key inside sealing shut the room.

Picketsville, Virginia Sheriff Ike Schwartz with the able help of FBI loaner acting deputy Karl Hendrick investigates the apparent modern day locked room homicide; they find a connection to the cold case Civil War era killing and eerily Poe. As they dig deeper while working other crimes, Jonathan displays his outrage that the cops are turning his estate into a crime scene as he overtly displays his racism and his superiority, but fails to deter Ike or Karl from performing their job.

Using the STRANGER ROOM historical concept of a place attached yet totally separated from a house as the basis for a contemporary locked room police procedural, Frederick Ramsay provides a fabulous investigative tale. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jonathan and his bed and breakfast employee Mrs. Antonelli fail to rouse the guest and never slows down. The cast is solid especially the "Old Virginian" Jonathan with his don't call me Jon instead call me Mr. attitude. Fans will appreciate this strong regional police procedural (see SECRETS and BUFFALO MOUNTAIN for Ike's previous Virginia cases).

Harriet Klausner
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