Keith Miles is probably best recognised by readers under the pen name of Edward Marston. He writes several well-received historical mysteries spanning the 11th century through to the 19th century. His website is www.edwardmarston.com
Stranger in the Room is the second in Williams’ series featuring Atlanta-based PI Keye Street; apparently there are more in the pipeline. Not having read the first I was at a slight disadvantage – always a problem when you miss the first novel. However, I did have problems I wouldn’t have expected – I didn’t realise which gender Keye Street might be, let alone her ethnicity. Neither should have mattered, of course, but there’s no profit in irritating a reader at the outset.
For the first hundred pages I doubted if I’d get further: there was a sense of déjà vu about much of the writing – the leisurely if sassy language; the Southern mother who’s a great cook; Street’s fatal flaw (alcoholism); Street’s job as a PI (for all this is actually based on the author’s experience). I felt I’d been there and done that many times already, particularly as the plotting seemed a bit hazy. But just as I was about to give up, I got hooked, though I’m not sure in which plot. It was as if Williams had at last found something she really wanted to say about crematorium fraud – but where that led in terms of the harvesting of organs I’m not sure, because then we rushed back to the serial killer plot, one I found a tad far-fetched in terms of the psychological back-story. But at least by then I was cheering on the characters and the pace had hotted up.
Everyone says that the second novel is the hardest to write; in Williams’ case, since she’s got other novels under her belt with smaller publishers, perhaps it’s just the second in the series. I hope that she trusts her editor to yell and scream at her when the plotting drifts at the beginning – two-thirds of the novel says she’s an excellent writer well worth reading.