The Perfect Stranger
by Megan Miranda
Running from a sketchy past as a journalist in the crisp confines of Boston, Leah Stevens is searching for a fresh start. Things turned ugly when she went too far on a story concerning suicides at the local college, and she found herself needing to get out of town fast. After hooking up with an old friend she knew from school, the two women decide to start over in the sleepy suburbs of western Pennsylvania.
It doesn’t take long for trouble to follow Leah, but it doesn’t come in any way that she expected. On her way to work as a schoolteacher at the local high school, she notices a barrage of police cars and onlookers clustered together like so many penguins huddling together against a cold winter storm. Curiosity has killed more than cat it seems, and Leah discovers the source of everyone’s whispering gossip and craned necks — a body has been found along the trail near the lake, and the body of the woman just happens to look a whole lot like Leah. The woman is still alive, but just barely, and has been beaten within an inch of her life.
With the cops sniffing around Leah’s place of business and one of the suspects named is someone who she had previous contact with, Leah is in a panic. Things get even worse when Emmy, her roommate, doesn’t turn up for a few days. It’s not unusual for the gypsy spirit that is Emmy Grey to spend a few days off the grid, but when Leah probes into her friend’s work and private life and seems to come up with nothing more than a few slivers of dead-end information, she begins to worry. What if Emmy had something to do with the attempted murder? What if she’s been taken herself? And why can’t anyone find anything concrete on this woman no matter how deep they dig? Police involved begin to question whether Emmy even exists, as there is literally no proof that she shares her life with Leah in the slightest.
Leah finds that Emmy’s life is lie built upon lie in a veritable house of cards, and her desperation to find the truth before she is irrevocably wrapped up in something sinister means a race against time and logic.
The Perfect Stranger is the second adult thriller by Megan Miranda, an author previously best known for her work in the YA genre. A follow up to the popular All the Missing Girls (a thriller told in the reverse narrative), The Perfect Stranger keeps right in step with its predecessor. Unique twists on common thriller backdrops appears to be Miranda’s new take on writing, and I am a fan. With flawed main characters and spellbindingly deviant villains, Miranda is making an impression of an author who is clever and successful in the art of creating an easy “must-read.”
Miranda keeps her reader off-balance by creating false senses of calm in an otherwise dark storm. I was turning the pages as fast as I could read them with both of her psychological thriller novels, and I was not disappointed with the climax. The Perfect Stranger gave just the right amount of closure to make you feel as if you got the bulk of the story but also left an appropriate amount of room left for speculation. Giving the book 4.5 out of 5 stars, I recommend it to readers of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, and lovers of an easy mystery read or readers who want to curl up with something that messes with your mind a bit during these chilly months of winter. This book is delightfully creepy and one that I can honestly promise won’t disappoint.