Book Review: The Stranger Inside by Jennifer Jaynes

by - 6:26:00 PM

Title: The Stranger Inside
Author: Jennifer Jaynes
Pages: 269
Genre: Adult Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: 09 May 2017

From Goodreads: "After mystery author Diane Christie loses her husband to suicide, she and her son move to the small coastal town of Fog Harbor, Massachusetts. Her daughter is attending college nearby, and Diane hopes that her family can now begin to heal. But rebuilding their lives after the tragedy isn't so simple. Diane's depressed college-age daughter, Alexa, still avoids her, critical of everything Diane does, and even her generally amiable teenage son, Josh, has started acting out. Diane pushes forward, focusing on her writing and her volunteer work at a local crisis hotline. She knows that healing takes time. But then a girl from Alexa's college is found strangled. Worse still, the murderer uses the crisis hotline to confess to Diane . . . and claims she is the only one who can stop the killing. And just when the glow of new love from an attractive admirer begins to chase away some of the darkness, more girls turn up dead, and Diane races to solve a mystery she fears will hit terrifyingly close to home."

Thank you to Thomas & Mercer and Ashley Vanicek for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for review! All opinions are my own.

I have a lot to say about this book and I don't quite know how to put all of my feelings into words just yet. It showed up in my mailbox thanks to the wonderful Ashley Vanicek not too long ago and I finally picked it up and could not put it down. To say I flew through this book would be an understatement as I picked it up at roughly 2PM and finished it just before 8PM. I'm not sure if I've ever read a book that fast before, but I just got so into The Stranger Inside that I wanted to get to the end as quickly as possible! Unfortunately, once I reached the end, I found myself slightly disappointed with how things wrapped up.

Plot:
The Stranger Inside follows Diane Christie, a mystery author who has lost her husband to suicide and relocated to a small town in Massachusetts with her son, Josh. Her daughter, Alexa, attends college nearby and Diane hopes that the move will help to heal her family. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as Diane had hoped it would be. Alexa avoids her mother constantly and even Josh is beginning to act out. But Diane tries to push forward by focusing on her writing and volunteering at the local crisis hotline. Then a girl from Alexa's college is found strangled to death and the murderer is calling the crisis hotline claiming that only Diane can help stop the killing. With new love stepping into her life and more girls turning up dead, Diane races to solve the mystery and realizes it may hit closer to home than she realized.

This book was very fast paced and something that was very up my alley in terms of the genre and content. I was all aboard for a good murder mystery, and The Stranger Inside definitely did not disappoint. It leaves you guessing with every turn of the page and the big reveal is not what you're expecting! I loved the tension that followed you throughout the book and had you suspecting every person that Diane encountered. Is it the police officer that's a bit too flirty? Is it the guy at the grocery store that's always hanging around far too long? With Diane being a mystery writer, you'd think she would have it all figured out from step one, but even she can't see this twist coming. 

I was so pleased with everything to do with this book plot-wise. It was just what I needed and I found myself unable to put it down because I just had to know what happened. But when I finally got to the end, I found my face scrunched up and a disappointed feeling overall. The twist is great, but everything after that just felt...wrong. I couldn't suspend disbelief enough to allow myself to accept the ending because none of it felt like it could actually happen in real life. I did understand the underlying theme of one woman trying to keep her family from falling apart, but that still didn't make the ending feel right to me. I was so upset because up until then, I was loving this book. It had such a strong, creepy opening and was so fast paced and enjoyable, but that ending just killed it for me. 

Characters:
Diane was easily my favorite character in The Stranger Inside. I thoroughly enjoyed following this mother who was basically just trying to keep her family together the best that she could. I don't typically read stories like this, but I felt such a connection to Diane in almost no time at all despite me not being a mother in any way. She was just so well written and so human that I could relate to a general struggle that she was experiencing on a fairly basic level and I just loved her. It was also really cool that she was an author and she was able to kind of use her skills to help solve what was happening to her! Hands down, Diane just made this book for me.

I also really enjoyed being able to read small portions of the book from the perspective of the killer. It was such a cool aspect of the book that I'd like to see in more books I read in the future! Having the small inserts every so often really amped up the creepy factor because you got a bit of insight into their thoughts and kind of see what they were thinking and feeling at various points in the book. It definitely keeps you guessing as to just who the killer really is and believe me, it's a pretty interesting surprise!

The other characters such as her children Alexa and Josh, Rick the mysterious newcomer to town, and Lance the police officer were also really well written. They all had such unique personalities and I enjoyed how they all stood out on their own with their own thoughts and feelings. I definitely spent all book with Rick and Lance at the top of my "potential killer" list and I think I can attribute that to the fact that they were both written in such a creepy manor but also written incredibly well! They both just had something about them that never felt quite right and I just couldn't get enough of the creepy vibes I got from both of the characters.

I felt so bad for Alexa and how she was struggling to deal with her depression and that was definitely something I could relate to on a personal level. It was hard to see her lock herself up in her bedroom and try to drink and drug herself in all of the wrong ways in order to try and deal with it. But she was able to kind of turn things around and it was a great thing to see her try and better herself by going to therapy and making sure she eats better and gets exercise outside of the house daily. It really is the little things when it comes to dealing with depression and Alexa definitely started with the baby steps on her way to recovery, which was so wonderful to see. All in all, each character was written so well and I enjoyed them in their own ways. I just want to high five Jennifer Jaynes for writing such wonderfully realistic characters that I couldn't get enough of!

Writing:
As I read the opening of this book, I was sitting alone in my kitchen and as soon as the intro was over, I found myself beyond creeped out and saying, "Nope nope nope nope nope!" I knew from then on that this was going to be a winner. Everything about this book just screams thriller and you really get those intense thriller feelings from each and every page you read. You don't know who the killer is or why they're calling Diane and you spend essentially the entire book trying to figure out whodunit. I loved how realistic the characters were, but also how realistic the setting and even the plot was. This is a small town that's experiencing something that, while scary, is also something that could potentially happen. The writing was so easy to just sit down and fly through and I absolutely devoured each page. It was (again) realistic, descriptive, creepy, and just an all around enjoyable read.

The Stranger Inside is a dark and wild ride with a twist that you won't see coming. It has some very incredible characters that readers will definitely be able to connect to and understand and writing that will send chills up your spine. The ending left me feeling kind of disappointed, but the rest of the book was strong and enjoyable enough that I was able to almost look past the ending. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick and easy thriller that would be a perfect rainy day read!


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