The Stranger Within, by Kathryn Croft
This is a British mystery written in the first person. Callie Harwell is the narrator, admitting from the first few sentences that she’s a murderer and describing her life as the wife of a man (James) with two sons from his first marriage. That marriage ended with his wife’s death. It’s her second marriage, too. Her first marriage ended in divorce.
Callie is unhappy in her marriage. She loves her husband but the two sons, particularly the older son Dylan, make her life miserable. They’re abusive to her, both emotionally and also physically in minor ways with sly kicks under the table and the like. They also lie to their father regularly about Callie in an attempt to put a wedge between them. Even the elderly neighbor lady doesn’t like her. She and the sons seem to believe James could have done better.
Her only solace is Reese, Dylan’s older friend from school who begins to develop a strong attraction for Callie. Feeling depressed and distant from those in her house Callie begins to have at least physical feelings for Reese. They begin a tryst but Callie soon regrets her actions and tries to withdraw from Reese but the boy is now in love and will not call it quits.
From the first paragraph we know someone dies. Part of the mystery is figuring out who the victim will be, and were I to give much more of a summary it would serve as a spoiler for anyone wanting to take on the book.
It’s a well-written novel. Callie is a realistic character. The narrative switches between her carrying the story along and segments in which she’s interviewed by detectives. These interviews usually open up a new part of the story line.
There’s a secret twist at nearly the last page of the book and as much as I liked the book I found the twist a little hard to take. I don’t think the ultimate unveiling was realistic and for me it was a disappointing ending. The murder is solvee but there are things that just don’t seem to fit with the rest of the book. For a mystery fan it’s a good read but beware the last page.