Hailed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “one of the most addictive new series heroines,” Keye Street is the brilliant, brash heart of a sizzling thriller full of fear and temptation, judgments and secrets, infidelity and murder.
He likes them smart.
In the woods of Whisper, Georgia, two bodies are found: one recently dead, the other decayed from a decade of exposure to the elements. The sheriff is going to need help to track down an experienced predator—one who abducts girls and holds them for months before ending their lives. Enter ex–FBI profiler and private investigator Keye Street.
He lives for the struggle.
After a few weeks, Keye is finally used to sharing her downtown Atlanta loft with her boyfriend, A.P.D. Lieutenant Aaron Rauser. Along with their pets (his dog, her cat) they seem almost like a family. But when Rauser plunks a few ice cubes in a tumbler and pours a whiskey, Keye tenses. Her addiction recovery is tenuous at best.
And loves the fear.
Though reluctant to head out into the country, Keye agrees to assist Sheriff Ken Meltzer. Once in Whisper, where the locals have no love for outsiders, Keye starts to piece together a psychological profile: The killer is someone who stalks and plans and waits. But why does the sociopath hold the victims for so long, and what horrible things must they endure? When a third girl goes missing, Keye races against time to connect the scant bits of evidence. All the while, she cannot shake the chilling feeling: Something dark and disturbing lives in these woods—and it is watching her every move.
Praise for Amanda Kyle Williams and Don’t Talk to Strangers
“There’s a new voice in Atlanta, and her name is Amanda Kyle Williams.”—Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author
“One of the most addictive new series heroines since Stephanie Plum.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Keye Street is my kind of detective—complicated, savvy, flawed, and blessed with a sharply observant dark wit.”—Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author
“Both Williams and Street should be around for the long haul, so discover them now from the start.”—Alafair Burke, author of Long Gone
“The exciting thing about Williams’ writing is how easily she draws the reader into the drama of the story . . . and she adds enough twists and turns to keep the reader off kilter to the very end.”—The Huffington Post
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I squinted through about a million tiny crystal--like dings as the late--day sun landed on my windshield. I’d been sitting here for an hour. Waiting. I do that a lot. I had an address and a hunch. That was about it. That’s about it most of the time.
My name is Keye Street. I am a detective, private, a bail recovery agent, a process server, and a former criminal investigative analyst for the FBI. And when I say former, I mean fired. Capital F. The Bureau likes their profilers sober.
I dropped the doughnut in my hand into the green--and--white Krispy Kreme box on the passenger’s seat and peered through the smoggy dusk of another hot August night. The house, like the others on the street, had been stamped out sometime in the 1960s with a builder’s cookie--cutter eye, a starter home—-one--story brick, two bedrooms, one bath, a thirty--six--inch picture window to the right of the front door, bedrooms on the left end, a quarter acre of grass with poured concrete driveways. The trees that must have been saplings when the neighborhood sprang to life now shaded the street and rooftops against the unyielding southern sun. But they didn’t do anything to take the steam out of the air. Like most neighborhoods this time of year, the whir of condensing units fighting to push cool air through the ductwork was the background music.
I let the sun sink lower, slipped out, closed my car door quietly, and headed down the sidewalk. Four doors down, I veered left and worked my way along a driveway lined with droopy hydrangeas. They looked like they could use a drink. I know the feeling.
A light clicked on inside the house, and I saw him through the picture window. He was sitting in his living room, a Styrofoam box in his left hand, a remote control in the right, facing a television that was too big for the room. I edged closer to the house, saw him push back in his La--Z--Boy. On the big TV, the Braves were playing the Dodgers at Turner Field. There was a ’69 Dodge Charger in the carport, orange and black. The muffler needed a little work. He’d rumbled past me a few times this week. Hot vehicle, though, if you have an eye for muscle cars. I do. I’d grown up with them and the guys who drove them hard on Friday nights in Georgia.
I moved around to one of the bedroom windows. The house looked empty except for Jeremy Coleman. I was hoping his bail--jumping brother would be here. Ronald Coleman was charged with shooting a man while stealing his car in the parking lot of a Krystal hamburger joint. He then held up the drive--thru for five cheese Krystals and an order of fries while the car’s owner staggered through the lot begging for help. Great guy, that Ronald Coleman. Coleman’s court date must have slipped his mind. A little thing like aggravated assault with the intent to kill, armed robbery, and carjacking can do that. I’d been watching Jeremy on and off for the last week, hoping Ronald would show up. The family history told me the brothers were close. It was Jeremy Coleman who had pulled together ten percent of the $140K the state required for the bail money. Not easy for a working--class guy with a two--stall garage and a Monday--through--Friday classic auto restoration business. I was betting if anyone knew where Coleman was, it was his little brother Jeremy. About a week ago I would have bet the burger--eating creep would have shown up by now. So much for hunches.
I passed overgrown shrubs to a weedy backyard with grass tall enough to have gone to seed, the perfect environment for the mosquitoes to come out to play. Nice and dark and moist. I held on to a brick ledge and tiptoed to see inside the back bedroom. Jeremy slept in the front, I knew. If he had a guest, this would serve as the guest room. The bedroom door was open, and just enough light seeped in to let me know the room was empty. The bed was made. Everything looked exactly like it had the other five times I’d peeked inside. My hands and neck were stinging. Mosquitoes like dark clothes and dark hair too. I had both.
I headed back down the side of the house. The front door opened as I turned the corner. I stopped cold. Movement is what pops out at you at night. The eye catches it when it misses everything else. I stood dead--still in the shadows. Jeremy was on the front porch locking up with a fat, jingly key ring. He was still wearing his work clothes, navy--blue pants and shirt, mechanic--style with a name patch over the left breast pocket. I watched him get in his car. As soon as the engine started, I hightailed it through the yard and up the sidewalk to mine, a dingy Plymouth Neon with a dent in the hood—-you don’t want to spy on a guy who restores vehicles for a living in something flashy. So my white--on--white 1969 Impala convertible was at home in the parking garage. Missing me, I thought warmly. I’d had the car since high school. And my mother says I can’t commit.
Jeremy was braking at the stop sign at the end of the block when I pulled out. I switched the headlights off until he turned. And then I kept my distance. An old orange--and--black Charger allows you that luxury. The taillights are distinctive—-two long red bars. Also, this guy was about as unpredictable as the Golf Channel. Mostly he watched television in a recliner with a take--out carton in his lap he’d brought home after work. But tonight it looked like my diligence was going to pay off. He drove right past the liquor store on the corner, the bar up the street, and the grocery store—-the only places he’d been all week other than work and his own living room.
I tailed him to a convenience store and watched him buy a carton of cigarettes. Jeremy didn’t smoke. My hopes were high. I followed him down Ponce de Leon to a Wendy’s on Scott Boulevard and watched him go through the drive--thru. Next stop: a motel off Church Street sandwiched between car dealerships. It was the kind of place the Bureau put their agents on assignment—-stucco façade, two levels of crappy carpeting, and a great view of the parking lot. He got out with the cigarettes and a bag of fast food under his arm and climbed concrete steps at the corner of the building. He stopped at the fourth door. I picked up binoculars and checked the number. Two Twenty--Eight. Maybe I’d play that one in the lottery tonight.
I couldn’t see who was behind the door when it opened, but I was feeling fairly confident it was Jeremy’s fast--food--eating brother, Ronald. I slipped into a Kevlar vest and a lightweight black jacket that identified me as bond enforcement in big yellow letters and walked into the management office.
“My name’s Keye Street. Bond enforcement.” I slapped my identification on the counter. “Mind telling me who’s in Two Twenty--Eight?”
“I don’t want any trouble.”
I smiled, took my ID back. “That makes two of us.”
“We just renovated,” the clerk told me.
“Understood,” I said. We exchanged a long look. I waited him out. Finally, he fingered his keyboard.
“Coleman,” he said. “Jeremy.”
Just as I thought. Jeremy had gotten the room for his brother and now he was delivering food and cigarettes. A lot of cigarettes. Either Ronald was a chain smoker or he was about to take off. “When’s he checking out?”
“Tomorrow,” the clerk told me. “You’re not going to shoot up the place, right?”
“Right,” I said. I left the office, followed the concrete steps to the second level, and went down the breezeway to Room 228. I pressed my ear against the door. A noise from Room 232 got my attention. A tall, scrawny guy with a scruffy goatee came out. I hoped he’d go the other way, but some people just cannot mind their own business.
“Can I help you with something?” he asked.
“Bond enforcement,” I whispered. “Keep moving.” He hesitated. He was going to be trouble. “You been hanging out with Ron?”
“I don’t know no Ron,” he said. He was lying. Paranoid eyes darted from me to the parking lot.
I could hear the television inside, the occasional murmur of male voices. I reached for my Glock and made sure he got a good look at it. “Get him to the door.”
He glanced at my gun, knocked lightly, raised an unsteady voice. “Hey, Ron, wanna hang out, man?”
“I’m busy,” a voice yelled from inside. I gave him the signal to keep talking. “Um . . . Ron, man. It’s kinda important,” he said, talking into the closed door.
“Go fuck yourself,” his pal Coleman yelled.
“Okay, just go,” I told him and looked over my shoulder to make sure he was leaving, then tried the door. Locked. I knocked loudly.
“Goddamnit, Trevor!” Coleman yelled. I felt the vibration of heavy footsteps. The door swung open and Ronald Coleman stood there shirtless in jeans holding a half--eaten chicken sandwich.
“Bond enforcement, Mr. Coleman. Put your hands behind your head and step out of the room, please.”
Coleman made a backward dive for the bed, rolled over a white paper sack that had a blob of ketchup and some oily fries spilled out like he’d been using it for a plate. But he held on to his sandwich. I heard him hit the floor with a thud on the other side. The bathroom door slammed.
Oh boy. I was clearly dealing with another genius. The chemical smell in the room was undeniable. I saw a tiny piece of foil with a crack rock about half the size of a marble on a table at the window. I looked at Jeremy. “He still carrying that thirty--eight he used in the carjacking?”
I gestured at the drugs, the small brass pipe, and a cigarette lighter. “Are you smoking that shit too? You need to get a grip, Jeremy. Or you’re going to lose more than the fourteen grand.”
Jeremy’s glassy eyes looked away.
“Get out,” I told him. He didn’t hesitate. He headed for the door while I moved slowly into the room and around the bed, weapon trained on the bathroom. The unpredictability factor is pretty high with these guys anyway, but when there’s a crack pipe in the room, it goes into orbit. “Hey, Ronald, you missed your court date. We need to get this straightened out.”
“Screw you,” he yelled. Sque woo. He was actually finishing his sandwich while being pursued by a bail recovery agent. You have to admire that on some level.
I pressed into the wall on the other side of the door in case he wanted to do to me what he’d done to the guy in the Krystal parking lot, and double--checked my vest. “Open the door and kick the gun out. I want to see your hands on your head. I’ll give you to three. One . . .”
“Leave me alone or I swear I’ll fuck you up.”
“Two . . .”
Bang. Ronald discharged his weapon. The bullet tore through the cheap hollow--core door and shattered the mirror over an oak veneer dresser. So much for the renovation.
“Still here,” I told him.
Bang, bang, bang.
“Jesus.” I pressed in hard against the wall. “You realize how stupid this is, right? You’ve trapped yourself in the bathroom. Now just come on out.”
I heard fast shoes hitting the concrete breezeway, shouting. The manager/clerk showed up at the open door, red--faced and raving.
“You need to stay back,” I ordered the manager loudly.
“I called the cops,” he yelled. “You’re gonna pay for the damage.”
In that case, I aimed for the space between the bathroom doorknob and frame and fired. One solid crack and the door swung open. I pressed back into the wall and waited. The hotel manager glared at me like I’d just dropped his ice cream in the sand.
“You need to clear out,” I told him again.
Bang. Shot number five was followed by a guttural yell, the kind you imagine coming out of someone who’s just thrown himself off a cliff. Ronald Coleman came blasting out of the bathroom with his head down like a defensive lineman. He rushed right past me, leveled the manager at the door with one shoulder, and sailed over the balcony.
I rushed out the door and peered over the railing. Coleman was spread--eagled on the hood of a Buick, facedown. I leapt over the manager and took the steps two at a time. A Decatur police car was pulling into the lot. I holstered my weapon, grabbed Coleman’s arms. He was groaning, trying to move. I cuffed him and ran a zip--tie through the cuffs to his belt loop.
The officer approached. I held up my ID. “Bond enforcement,” I announced. “And this is Ronald Coleman. Jumped on aggravated assault with intent, armed robbery, and carjacking.” I put my ID away and reached into my jacket for the paperwork. “I think we need an EMT.”
The officer eyed me skeptically. “Ya think?” Cops don’t like to see criminals get away. But they don’t have a lot of affection for bail recovery agents either. At least not ones in their jurisdiction. He looked over the paperwork, then at Coleman, whose cheek was pushed into the hood of the car like it was a really soft pillow.
“He threw himself off,” I said.
“Seriously. He’s high as a kite.”
“You see drugs upstairs?”
I nodded. “Crack.”
“Anyone with him?”
“Nope. Just Ron and the crack pipe,” I lied, and glanced at the orange Charger sitting in the parking lot. I thought Jeremy must be behind the wheel, though it was too dark to know. Maybe he’d been waiting for his brother to make a run for it. Maybe he was ready to mire up even deeper in his brother’s crash--and--burn life. Maybe he wanted to be sure Ronald was okay. Maybe he just needed to sober up before he drove. Whatever it was, I decided Jeremy had had enough trouble already. He’d veered off the path. Who hadn’t? This is what happens when you watch someone for a few days. Empathy kicks in. You begin to feel their life. I’d seen Jeremy spend long days at work and come home with a take--out carton to an empty house. I’d been there. I’d watched him risk too much for family. I’d been there too.
Excerpted from "Don't Talk to Strangers"
Copyright © 2015 Amanda Kyle Williams.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Read this book in one sitting. Like her other books, once you start you CANT stop reading. Wish I could have given more than 5 stars. Highly reccommend to all who like suspence. Look forward for more from this author.
This was a book given to me from Goodreads. Loved this book. Keye is an interesting person as well as investigator. Like how she thinks and has problems. I have not read the previous books but came into this one with no knowledge of the previous ones and was able to follow what was going on with Keye. Girls are disappearing and ending up dead when the sheriff calls on Keye to help profile. Quite a good one and can't wait to read more!
This is a must read book for fans of mysteries/thrillers. A well crafted and tightly written tale with bits of very funny humor tucked in. This non stop thriller captured my attention quickly and held it until the very last page. Once more, Dr. Keye Street consults on a case that requires her special skill set as she struggles to solve a horrific crime. Keye is an imperfect heroine and the author allows us to see her with all of her flaws as she struggles to do what is right. Keye is a very likable character and one that has kept me engaged over the course of three books. I'm already looking forward to book four in this series. Thank you to netgalley for proving an ARC for my review.
When I read a book and keep looking at the current page number because I don't want to get to the end, it's a sign that it is a great book. She captured me from the first page hooked me in and put me on a screaming train to the end. I don’t know what else I can say except BRAVO!
Sometimes you worry that an author writing a series will not be able to maintain the flow of character development, intensity of the mystery and suspense. Amanda Kyle Williams does not disappoint in this third installment of the Keye Street series. If you like strong but flawed characters with quirky lives, Keye Street is the PI for you. Set in the South (Atlanta), Keye street deals with life, love, and murderers not necessarily in that order.
This was my first book by Amanda Kyle Williams, and was delighted to discover a newfound author in Atlanta and freelance for AJC----WOW, what an impressive writing style; hooked immediately and a new dedicated fan! How much fun is this new Keyes Series (loving it) – A 5 star WINNER! A thriller with lots of secrets, action, murder, and sizzling temptation. Keye Street is my kind of detective -----love, love, love this character! Complicated, tough, complex, smart, sexy, witty, savvy, and of course flawed! An investigative consultant who has worked serial killer cases, former FBI profiler, a recovering alcoholic, and a self-destructive personality, who messes up all the good things in her life. Latisha, the wise-cracking office manager (reminded me a bit of the dynamic duo in the Stephanie Plum series. Bail bond enforcer, Stephanie with her side kick Lulu, with the same love for donuts, mischief, and her famous Glock --from Janet Evanovich Plum Series)-- a huge fan, as have read them all! Deep in the woods of Whisper, Georgia (population 2,884), Lake Oconee area-- two bodies are found: one recently dead, the other for quite some time ago like ten years at the same site. The local sheriff needs help tracking down the murderer and investigator, Keye Street is called in to assist. She picks up, and temporarily moves into (not the Ritz), but a small hotel to solve this case, with bad coffee and plenty of attitudes to deal with, in the boonies of Whisper. Not exactly a warm welcome by the local good ole boys and detectives, threated by this tough female with southern jealousy, small town prejudice, and a flawed system are just a few obstacles, combined with the attraction to sexy Meltzer, and of course a killer to find. The victims are two teenage girls, Tracy Davidson lived about twenty miles away from Melinda Cochran, second victim, who lives in Whisper, and the disappearance of a third heats up the investigation. An immediate attraction and some flirting between Sheriff Ken Meltzer (quote: “Keith Urban, hot”); however, she has to fight temptation since she is relationship with Atlanta’s PD tough Aaron Rauser (like Stephanie and Joe/Ranger trio)—share a condo while Rauser’s house is being rebuilt, due to a tornado. Of course the duo, with cat (White Trash) and poodle (Hank), maintaining a drama yet humorous zone. As the investigation get underway, and suspense builds, Keye begins to put together a psychological profile of a killer who stalks, plans, and waits. The question is why the wait? As the killer zeroes in on Keye, with creepy notes “Figure me out. Catch me if you can. Listen to me”, the suspense becomes intense, as her life is threatened. A well written riveting crime thriller, which keeps you guessing until the end. Amanda Kyle Williams most definitely knows the South and speaks their language; expert plotting, rich character development, and so loving her crisp writing style! Fans of Lisa Jackson, Tess Gerritsen, Karin Slaughter, Karen Robards, and even on a humorous note southern writers---Mary Kay Andrews (Kathy Hogan Trocheck), Joshilyn Jackson, Wendy Wax, Susan Rebecca White; or perhaps, Janet Evanovich (Plum Series) will relate and love, DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS, as well as the riveting Keyes series. A special thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Bantam Dell and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.
Don't Talk To Strangers is every bit as exciting and gripping as Stranger in the Room. I love this series and the characters have so much personality and charisma that their interaction makes the book even more enjoyable. The story line is intense and intriguing and keeps the reader hanging on the edge right up to the end. It also has a light humorous quality that sometimes makes me laugh out loud. I will be watching and waiting for the next book in this series.
Fast paced story with a bundle of suspenseful thrill added to its crime drama. The author managed to have ex-FBI female profiler with smarts and a long list of experiences become the heroine in this story. No one is perfect and her past, well let's just say needed to be polished. The cast of characters are colorful which made the story tantalizing and very interesting. But the seriousness of the subjects in hand was no laughing matter. Series of child abductions, rape and murder with a seriously deranged and unbalanced killer on the loose. Keye, the protagonist (ex-FBI female profiler) played such a good role in this book with action galore. A local county sheriff office hired Keye's to assist with two murders in their Georgia county of Whisper. Believe you not the local authorities were not the happy campers to that fact, even the town's people. Duh! Female and Asian now you know where this is going? So now she has to work harder and prove she is more than competent to take them all on. Boy, the anticipation and tension fluttered throughout the story which got me so anxious. The author managed to write a clear path to all the emotions you should feel reading this kind of who done it kind of thriller mystery. Awesome plot , I found myself thinking and wondering, always second guessing my way of thinking. The author caused the doubt in my head which is why this book is awesome. Oh, you cannot leave out a bit of an attraction here with Keye and Sheriff Ken Meltzer. Isn't it funny how a serious drama needs a bit of a distraction to an, "Aha" moment. Fantastic read! Won this book on Goodreads, First Read Giveaway. Thank you, Darlene Cruz
Page turner but light enough to read anywhere
Great book for a weekend at the beach.
A must read book