At the start of Amanda Kyle Williams' "The Stranger You Seek," readers are in the head of a serial killer ready to strike. It's a short passage made all the more powerful by the information it conveys: The killer plans these crimes meticulously, and can gain access to just about anyone.
By the time ex-FBI profiler Keye Street arrives at the crime scene, readers have learned two more things: The killer is extraordinarily sadistic and spends a good deal of time writing a knife play fetish blog, in which past and present crimes are recounted.
And we're off on a creepy, suspenseful, breathtaking ride as Street, now running a PI business and tracking bail jumpers on the side, assists the Atlanta police in finding the killer dubbed "Wishbone" by the media before the death toll rises, and it's not long before the killer starts taunting and threatening Street herself.
Street is a unique and worthy addition to the rich tradition of damaged and tough private detectives: She's an adopted Chinese-American with typically Southern parents; is dealing with a failed marriage and an ex-husband who still has a hold on her; and is a recovering alcoholic - the cause of her dismissal from the FBI.
Williams dispatches each of the crime-scene descriptions with a flair for the graphic and grisly. "The Stranger You Seek" is not a book for the squeamish, and the fetish blog entries in particular may include triggers for survivors of sexual assaults. There's a romantic subplot that doesn't quite have the right buildup for its ultimate payoff, and the mystery's solution might be a bit of a letdown for eagle-eyed readers, but these are slight criticisms for what is otherwise a fantastic mystery-thriller debut in what will assuredly be a successful series.