Monday, July 28, 2014

"Don't Talk to Strangers"

Amanda Kyle Williams burst on the thriller scene in 2010 with her first crime novel, The Stranger You Seek, which was hailed by Publishers Weekly as an “explosive, unpredictable and psychologically complex thriller that turns crime fiction clich├ęs inside out.” Stranger In The Room (Bantam 2012) is the second book in the Keye Street series, and book 3 is Don’t Talk To Strangers (Bantam 2014), which has been called the strongest, most exciting book in a series that keeps getting better. Williams has been shortlisted for both the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, and the Townsend Prize for Fiction. She is currently at work on the 4th book in the series, A Complete Stranger.

Williams applied the Page 69 Test to Don’t Talk To Strangers and reported the following:
It’s that moment every investigator hopes for, that moment when he or she understands something vital about a scene and about an offender. A pivotal scene on page 69 in Don’t Talk To Strangers, the 3rd Keye Street novel, involves my detective and police consultant deep in the Georgia woods at a crime scene that has grown cold. Understanding what happened there, all the terrible, chaotic interaction between victim and offender, is like a road map into the killer’s brain; Keye Street would later tell the Sheriff she’s consulting on the disappearance and murder of two teenage girls. And so we find her in the woods where a killer used to murder and dispose of his victims, retracing his steps according to original evidence recovered, trying to figure out why he had veered away from the disposal site, and why evidence was recovered in a nearby creek.

From page 69:
Spatter. That was it. He’d come to the creek to rinse off Melinda Cochran’s blood. He didn’t want to walk out of the woods and drive away with blood on his face and hands. And that’s when he’d dropped the blouse. Had he come in the night and worked his way up tangled paths with a flashlight and a weeping girl? Or was he comfortable enough to come in daylight? How bold was this killer? Did he know the area and the routines so well that he could walk out here just like I had? He’d made mistakes last time. He’d dropped the blouse and as a result a crime scene I didn’t think he ever wanted exposed was uncovered. Maybe we’d discover he’d made other mistakes too. But he wasn’t stupid. That much I knew.

I knelt down, cupped my hands in the clear, cool water, splashed it on my face, raked my hair back with wet fingers. I imagined his hands rinsing off Melinda’s blood in the creek, him splashing his own heated face, the evidence tinting the water and trickling downstream. I closed my eyes and breathed in the mossy banks, let myself feel it, feel the serenity of this place falling down around me like rain, feel him kneeling here as I was now, his knees pressing into the soft soil at water’s edge. My ticking pulse, the blast of adrenaline that shoots through me when I’m learning a killer, was as welcome and familiar to me as this place must be to him. It felt good. I don’t know how else to explain that moment when you know you’ve understood something about a scene, something intimate about the dark, veiled movements of a psychopath. All those tiny moments, all those little actions—they add up, one stacked on top of another, building a tower that would sooner or later come tumbling down.
Visit Amanda Kyle Williams's website.

--Marshal Zeringue