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The Stranger You Seek: A Novel Hardcover – August 30, 2011

239 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Guest Reviewer: Tess Gerritsen on The Stranger You Seek

Tess Gerritsen is a physician as well as the New York Times best-selling author of medical thrillers and the Jane Rizzoli crime thrillers. Her latest book in the Rizzoli & Isles series, The Silent Girl, is available now.

Southern crime novels are a breed apart because of the weather. The heat is always a little more sweltering, the humidity always making everyone sweat just a bit more than their northern counterparts. There are the great New Orleans novels by James Lee Burke, and there is the Florida gang. There are even a few who set their most terrifying thrillers in the backwoods and bayous. For genuine heat, though, nothing beats Atlanta, a jewel of a city and the setting for Amanda Kyle Williams’s blistering debut thriller, The Stranger You Seek.

Keye Street immediately puts herself in the top echelon of suspense heroes. She’s a mess of fascinating contradictions—effortlessly brilliant on a case, totally inept in managing her own life. She is brutally funny and powerfully human. Williams has created one of the most realistic protagonists in crime fiction that I’ve had the thrill to read.

Of course, a southern crime novel needs a great villain, someone who amidst all this heat gets people running. The Stranger You Seek has a heck of a monster on the loose, a killer who is terrorizing Atlanta, taunting the police, and who seems a little too close to Keye to be just the stranger she seeks.


Advance praise for The Stranger You Seek
“She is the best fictional female P.I. since Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. And with its shocking triple-twist climax, this is the best private eye debut since Dennis Lehane's "A Drink Before the War." Grade: A  —Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“This is a character-driven, nonstop thriller with flashes of wit and romance that
builds to a harrowing climax; fans of the genre will want to get in at the start.”  —Booklist
“Williams (Club Twelve, 1994, etc.) creates a frightening and occasionally witty novel, perfect for those who can sleep with one eye open. Think Mary Higgins Clark with an edge.”  —Kirkus (starred review)

“An explosive, unpredictable, and psychologically complex thriller that turns crime fiction cliches inside out….Those looking for a strong female protagonist not a sexpot and as intelligent, tough, and flawed as any male thriller hero will be richly rewarded.”  —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An exceptionally smart, harrowing, and funny character-driven debut by a welcome new thriller writer.”—New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter
“There’s a new voice in Atlanta, and her name is Amanda Kyle Williams. A dark, gritty thriller, The Stranger You Seek is a sensational debut. Readers will relish this story’s many captivating, powerful, and compelling layers.”—New York Times bestselling author Julia Spencer-Fleming

The Stranger You Seek is a page-turning thrill ride from a writer with a sure hand, keen psychological insight, and a devious imagination. Keye Street is my kind of detective: complicated, savvy, flawed, and blessed with a sharply observant dark wit. This is a great read from a powerful new voice.”—New York Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson
“From its chilling first page, The Stranger You Seek hurtles heroine Keye Street into a race against time that crosses the finish line with a satisfying twist, leaving readers breathlessly waiting for the next installment.”—New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub

The Stranger You Seek is filled with rich, evocative prose that transports you straight to the South and right into the psyche of new heroine Keye Street. She’s formidable, but poignantly human as she struggles to navigate her present while battling shadows of her past. You can almost feel the Georgia humidity when you read this book, but you’ll definitely feel the heat when the victims of a calculating, relentless serial killer start stacking up. This book burns rubber to the end, so carve out some downtime, because you won’t want to leave Keye hanging.”—PJ Tracy, author of the Monkeewrench series
“Keye Street is a kick-ass protagonist! Strap yourself in for a twisting, turning carnival ride of a plot through the New South—this is compulsive reading!”—Vicki Lane, author of The Day of Small Things
The Stranger You Seek is a riveting debut with rapid-fire pacing, expert plotting, and an introduction to the memorable and winning Keye Street. Both Williams and Street should be around for the long haul, so discover them now from the start.”—Alafair Burke, author of Long Gone

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; First Edition edition (August 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553808079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553808070
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,073,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Praise for THE STRANGER YOU SEEK (Keye Street 1)

"An explosive, unpredictable, and psychologically complex thriller." Publishers Weekly

"The best private eye debut since Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War."-The Plain Dealer


"The tension buzzes like cicadas on a hot Georgia night and the pace is relentless." -Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Williams keeps the suspense taut and the humor snarky." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


"An explosive read... Amanda Kyle Williams sets the classic private eye novel on fire." -Lee Child

"Readers will empathize with this flawed but gutsy detective." Publishers Weekly

"All the twists and turns readers of Williams have come to expect..." Kirkus Reviews


"Keye Street immediately puts herself in the top echelon of suspense heroes. She is brutally funny and powerfully human-one of the most realistic protagonists in crime fiction that I've had the thrill to read."-Tess Gerritsen

"Street is a unique and worthy addition to the rich tradition of damaged and tough private detectives."-Associated Press.

Amanda Kyle Williams returned to writing after some small press books and a break of more than a decade. "It takes time and practice to find your own voice as a writer and for that voice to reach pitch. It takes time to bring to life that special character. For me, Keye Street is that character. She's flawed. She jokes as a way to avoid intimacy. She wrestles her own demons, her past with alcohol, losing her job at the Bureau. And she's a total Krispy Kreme doughnut addict. She feels real to me. She's the voice in my head."

The Stranger You Seek is Amanda's first mainstream crime thriller and the first book in the Keye Street series. In order to lend authenticity to her Keye Street series, she took courses geared to law enforcement in practical homicide investigation and criminal profiling, worked with a PI firm in Atlanta on surveillance operations, became a court appointed process server and consulted with professionals in bond and law enforcement. Ms. Williams lives near Atlanta, is active in the humane community as a founding director for Lifeline Animal Project in Atlanta, Georgia.

Amanda is currently at work on the next Keye Street thriller. Please visit for more information on this explosive series and the fabulously flawed protagonist Keye Street.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on August 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one book you need to plan for in advance. Because once you read the first few pages, you'll be glued to the book until you finish.

Williams has previously written a number of lesbian detective novels. I should mention also that more sensitive readers may be offended by the book, given the language and certain scenes. However, Williams juggles character, plot and tension--not to mention supplying plenty of twists and turns--as well as any other suspense writer you've read.

Keye Street, the protagonist, is a flawed but likeable former profiler for the FBI. Although she's of Chinese ancestry, she was adopted as a baby by a Southern couple. Keye loves the South as only someone who grew up there can.

At one point, Keye was tossed out of the FBI because she was an alcoholic. And not only that, but her marriage came to an end. Four years later she's sober, if somewhat shakily, and works at chasing down bail jumpers.

Summer in Atlanta can be about two degrees cooler than hell itself. But what really disturbs the citizens is when a serial killer begins a frightening cat and mouse game with the media.

Keye has extensive experience at profiling, but she is no longer Special Agent Street, and so hardly expects to be drawn into the case. Yet as the bodies begin to pile up, she finds herself on the hunt for the killer, drawn in by her friend, Lt. Rauser, who heads the investigation.

And the problem with giving you any more information is then I will spoil some of the surprises. And I hate, hate, hate it when other reviewers do that. So just let me just sum the book up: yes, this is one serial killer thriller that does stand out and that is worth the price.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In the real world, when they aren't stating the obvious, criminal profilers are wrong about as often as they're right. In thriller world, profilers have a miraculous ability to understand the criminal mind. That is certainly true of Keye Street, the former FBI profiler turned private investigator who stars in The Stranger You Seek. Fortunately, profiling is a relatively small part of the story.

The Stranger You Seek is a novel of old and new. The old: Keye reacted to the ugliness she saw while investigating crime by turning to alcohol, eventually losing her job (hence her gig as a private investigator). Keye employs an anti-establishment, counterculture computer hacker who can break into highly secure computers (thriller world is full of them and they all seem to work for private investigators). Keye's best friend is a police lieutenant who needs her help to find a serial killer. Soon after Keye joins the hunt, the killer starts writing letters to her police lieutenant friend, taunting him with clues to the next victim. And, of course, the hunters eventually become the hunted.

The new: The serial killer writes a "fantasy" blog on a website for knife fetishists. Keye does realistic bread-and-butter work (serving subpoenas, performing background checks, finding people who jumped bail) when she's not chasing the killer. Keye's Chinese mother worked as a stripper. Keye puts yellow mustard on her jalapeño-infused hash browns.

Yes, I'm grasping at straws: the novel is more old than new. I liked it anyway. Amanda Kyle Williams gives her primary characters interesting personalities and crafts a well-written story that, if not entirely original, is more entertaining than most.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. Burian-Mohr TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Keye Street is a dry alcoholic,a passionate believer in Krystal cheeseburgers and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and a former behavioral analyst for the FBI. Adopted as "a scrawny Chinese American with questionable genes", she grew up in the south where she had "the distinction of looking like what they still call a damn foreigner in most parts of Georgia and sounding like a hick everywhere else in the world."

Those descriptions were enough to hook me into reading Amanda Kyle Willams' "The Stranger You Seek."

Keye works as a P.I. in Atlanta, mainly as a process server and bail recovery agent, despite her skills and experience, which the world has downgraded after her expulsion from the FBI. But there's a serial killer on the loose, specializing in knife play, and old/best friend Lt. Aaron Rauser of the Atlanta P.D. needs Keye's help.

Keye, of course, leaps into the case, while continuing to run her office with computer geek Neil and frequent visits from developmentally disabled Charlie, who was run over long ago by an armored bank truck, leaving him permanently damaged and coming off as a big goofy kid.

So as psycho bail jumpers and wife beaters and embezzlers vie for her time, Dr. Street (yep, she's a doctor) starts looking into the killings, where the serial lust killer leaves no trace - no DNA, no fingerprints, no fibers, no weapon... nothing. And no apparent connection between the victims.

Things heat up when the killer (by then dubbed the Wishbone Killer) starts sending emails to Rauser and Keye, and starts looking at Keye very personally, too.

That being said, here are the Top Ten Things That are Great About "The Stranger You Seek."

10. Keye's cases. One nut job after another.
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