The Perfect Stranger
Even though I read fairly widely across romance, historical romance and romantic suspense remain my first loves. And I’ve been dying to read some rom susp for a while now. With The Perfect Stranger, I at least got the suspense end of that equation. In this 2014 release, Wendy Corsi Staub explores the darker side of blogdom.
I’ve been online officially since 2003, and I’ve seen many a dustup come and go. I’ve also seen reports of folks being stalked and other creepy behaviors. Even so, the online blog world can often feel like a safe and cozy place. Staub’s book isn’t a perfect read in terms of feeling suspenseful and thrilling, but she does raise interesting questions for the reader. I found it impossible to leave this book without wondering how much of what bloggers put online is real or how well we can really know someone we’ve only met online or how much we really want to trust people. To her credit, the author doesn’t give easy answers to these questions. As readers will see in this book, some folks aren’t at all who they present themselves to be while others are at least somewhat more genuine and their friendships as a result seem to only deepen when they finally meet in person.
As they prepare to travel to her funeral, the women learn that Meredith did not die of cancer as they had originally assumed. Instead she was murdered in her home while her husband was away assisting his elderly mother. Though the suspense drags a bit at this point, the author still kept my interest as she showed the bloggers fumbling their way through their first in-person meetings. In addition, as they meet Meredith’s adult children and other family, one can almost feel the awkward dance of interactions as characters try to figure out how close to the situation they’re “allowed” to feel.
From this point onward, we get parts of the story told from different bloggers’ perspectives. In a way, it’s interesting because readers figure out pretty quickly that at least 2 of the bloggers aren’t who they seem to be. In one case, the deception is not meant to harm anyone, but the other hides deadly secrets.
However, despite the fact that I found the psychology of these bloggers and their world interesting, The Perfect Stranger hits a midpoint where the book just starts to drag slowly along. The suspense has its moments, but it just didn’t play a large enough role in the story to feel truly suspenseful. As a result, this novel ends up being way too slow a read for me. I’d give it a C+ for its more interesting insights, but I can’t quite recommend it.