"A Stranger at the Door" by Jason Pinter; Thomas & Mercer (392 pages, $15.95)
Jason Pinter confidently delivers a solid police procedural and an emotional domestic thriller in the outstanding “A Stranger at the Door,” his second novel about Rachel Marin, a single mother of two who works as a forensic consultant to the police in Ashby, Illinois.
“A Stranger at the Door” strikes an impressive balance, illustrating how the intelligent, resourceful Rachel handles the challenges that motherhood and her job bring. A widow whose husband was murdered, Rachel knows how dangerous the world can be. When her family is in jeopardy, she becomes an unapologetic honey badger, ready to do anything to protect her children.
Her family — especially her 14-year-old son, Eric — are indeed threatened when one of his teachers is murdered shortly after sending Rachel an email stating that he suspects several high school boys are being exploited. As Rachel joins the police investigation, she learns that several at-risk boys are recruited to a group that promises big money.
Mourning his father, Eric, is a prime target as he is locked in “an emotional prison,” withdrawn with few friends. Plus, the adults behind the group think bringing Eric in will help them control Rachel, and any police investigation. Obviously, they don’t know what a woman of action Rachel can be, willing to do anything to save her son, even compromising her new relationship with police detective John Serrano.
Pinter, founder and publisher of the much-respected Polis Books, delves deep into his characters while creating credible, realistic suspense and terror.
“A Stranger at the Door” explores Eric’s ennui at feeling powerless and alone, both at school and at home, no matter how much he is loved by his mother and his optimistic younger sister, Megan. Rachel’s emotional and physical strength grows from the love for her family and her desire to protect them, even, if at times, she overdoes it.
Strong plotting, sharp dialogue and believable characters elevate “A Stranger at the Door.”