Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"The Stranger Inside"

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of seven novels of suspense, including the newly released The Stranger Inside. On the lighter side of mystery, Benedict wrote Small Town Trouble, a cozy crime novel, for the Familiar Legacy series. Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes: The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family.

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to The Stranger Inside and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Did you take this? When?”

“I went by the house. Walked right up to the porch and knocked on the door, and I asked if I could please get some of your things for you. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request, right?” She shakes her head. “What an ass. He acted like I was crazy or something, when we all know he’s the criminal.”

“Di, we don’t even know if he is who he says he is. Kyle’s going to be pissed at both of us. Tell me Hadley wasn’t with you.”

“Oh no. Don’t tell anybody. Especially Kyle. I was trying to help you!” Her eyes are wide, and it’s obvious she wants Kimber to be pleased. In her pale chambray shirt and white skirt, ponytail, simple silver jewelry, and sandals, she’s the picture of summer efficiency and calm. Who knew she had such a stubborn, wild streak? Though what she did seems to strangely fit. She is loyal. Deeply loyal. The realization piles more guilt on Kimber.

“But what did he say?” She’s talked to him. What if they connect in some way? What if he manages to turn her against me?

“Well, to be honest, he wasn’t nasty at first,” Diana says. “Then I told him what I wanted. I only got his picture because I pretended I was getting a call and was sending it to voicemail.”

Kimber’s fear turns into anger. “You’re lucky he didn’t call the police. Or…or he could have let you inside and then killed you or something and buried you in the basement.”

Diana pales. “He’s weird, but I can’t believe he’s dangerous. Do you think he is?”

“Oh God. Kyle’s going to kill me,” Kimber says. “Dragging you into this. Could you tell what he was doing when you got there?”

“He had a laptop open on the table in the hall, like he was carrying it around, I guess.”
I like this page because it’s primarily dialogue between Kimber, the protagonist, and her best friend, Diana. Lance Wilson is occupying Kimber’s house, so she is staying with Diana and her husband, Kyle Christie. Diana has just announced that she went to Kimber’s house, alone, to try to get some of Kimber’s clothes and belongings from Lance Wilson. Up to this point in the book, Diana has been a calm force for good and good sense. Here, we not only get to see the Kimber/Diana dynamic, but that Diana—much to Kimber’s chagrin—can be unpredictable when she’s on a mission. Their relationship is complex, especially because Kimber is hiding so many secrets from Diana. The page is significant in the book because Kimber likes to be the one with the most information, and here she’s been blindsided by Diana’s casual visit to her occupied house. It makes her wonder what else Diana has been doing when Kimber wasn’t paying attention.
Visit Laura Benedict's website.

--Marshal Zeringue