book review: The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict

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THE STRANGER INSIDE by Laura Benedict
★★☆☆☆
Mulholland, February 5, 2019

 

The Stranger Inside has a pretty enticing premise: Kimber Hannon returns home from a week away only to find herself locked out of her house. When she notices someone inside she calls the police, who get him to open the door; he produces the paperwork complete with Kimber’s forged signature and insists that he’s renting the house for six months. Overcome with frustration, Kimber rushes inside her house, only to have the man grab her and whisper in her ear ‘I saw what you did.’

So that was a great opening, but it’s all downhill from there, I’m afraid. Which was more of a mess, the plot or the characters? Let’s start with the latter: Kimber has to win some kind of award for being the most insufferable protagonist in literary history. I truly do not believe that a protagonist needs to be ‘likable,’ but they sure as hell need to be interesting or sympathetic or something to hook the reader, especially in a thriller. I could not have cared less about Kimber: she’s selfish, remorseless, and emotionally immature, and why should I care that it all stems from a troubled adolescence when none of it is satisfactorily examined. At one point she befriends the wife of a man she had an affair with just because she thinks it would be funny to get back at him, without a second thought about the wife’s feelings, and we’re supposed to sympathize with her when she starts to realize this woman is actually a person? I really did not get the impression that Kimber was deliberately constructed to be a compelling antiheroine; I think she was supposed to be a flawed person who still deserved our sympathy, after everything. It didn’t work.

The plot itself was all kinds of ridiculous, with varying degrees of success; at times it was ridiculous and fun but at other times it was just ridiculous and boring. There were just too many convenient plot devices and moments that demanded suspension of disbelief. The pace at which information was revealed was haphazard at best, and it was a shame, because even the moments that should have been shocking were neutered by weak storytelling.

Now I’m going to end this review by going into spoiler territory, which I don’t often do, so that just goes to show how much the ending pissed me off.  [HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER] Regarding the twist that Kimber didn’t actually kill Michelle: Why does Kimber deserve this narrative absolution?! She hasn’t displayed an OUNCE of guilt throughout the entire book; at one point when she’s accused of being a murderer, this is Kimber’s reaction: “[S]he has never imagined her sister’s death to be a murder, herself an actual murderer. In her head it’s always I killed Michelle or I accidentally killed Michelle or I took my sister’s life.” … how does that make it ok?! You literally pushed your sister off a cliff?!?! I’m pretty sure if I killed my (nonexistent) sister I’d be eaten up with guilt, regardless of how ‘accidental’ it was? Maybe the potential emotional impact of this ending could have been earned if there were even a hint of a possibility that Kimber cared anything for Michelle, but it felt like (literally) handing a get out of jail free card to a person you desperately want to see go to jail. Not even remotely satisfying. 

Also, love that the mentally ill character turns out to be evil. Real original, that!! [END SPOILER]

Thank you to Netgalley and Mulholland Books for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

17 thoughts on “book review: The Stranger Inside by Laura Benedict

  1. Knowing from your review that I’d be best to avoid this anyway, I read the spoilers and ughhhh, I hate a convenient loophole that solves the protagonist’s problems right at the end; especially if they haven’t earned a break.

    Oh, and yay for more mental health demonisation! 🙃

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was SUCH A MESS. Spoilers in this comment because apparently I’m not done complaining:

      The whole book we’ve known that Kimber accidentally killed her sister Michelle when they were teenagers, by pushing her off a ravine, but then at the last second we learn that she didn’t actually die on impact, after Kimber fled Michelle was approached by her demonic half-brother who bashed her over the head with a rock. I mean, there’s a lot to unpack here about how that shouldn’t exactly absolve Kimber of her nonexistent guilt, given that she still pushed her sister off a cliff and everything, but more importantly, HOW WAS THAT OVERLOOKED IN THE AUTOPSY?!?!?!?

      Also, the mentally ill character was Kimber’s ex-boyfriend who attempted suicide during their relationship and then was abandoned by her (again, remind me why I am supposed to care about this person), and then he decides to get back at her by giving the aforementioned sociopathic half-brother information that will help him ruin her life. OKAY.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Utterly daft indeed. Sometimes I’m just craving a good mindless thriller, ‘good’ being the operative word. No clue but I hate it! I do like the color of the font on this one though.

      Like

  2. Yikes, this sounds dreadful. What a disappointment after that intriguing premise! I’m really hoping for some better thrillers this year. (Your negative reviews are so fun to read tho…)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That sounds truly awful. Also, thank you for the spoilers at the end because I do love knowing how thrillers end without actually having to read them (I realize this sounds sarcastic but it truly isn’t. I love being spoiled for books I don’t want to read [and, as you know, sometimes for books I am still reading].)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m the same! I remember it took me ages to figure out the spoiler for Behind Her Eyes because everyone kept talking about how crazy it was without actually saying what happened. And I had no desire to read that when it came out so I had to do a lot of digging.

      Anyway, I’ll definitely keep you apprised of the spoilers of all shitty thrillers I read this year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Of course. I think the next thriller up for me is The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, and I’m breaking my rule about not reading thrillers by men because it just sounds so good and was apparently partially inspired by Greek myth. So, how can I resist. Anyway, if it ends up sucking that’s the next ending you’re getting.

        Liked by 1 person

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