book review – The Stranger Upstairs by Lisa Matlin

The Stranger Upstairs

By Lisa Matlin

Random House Publishing Group

Releasing September 26, 2023

Synopsis: Sarah Slade is a self-help writer and therapist but she’s a woman of many secrets. She and her husband purchase a mansion in a tight knit community called Black Wood House. She plans to renovate it with her progress followed online to keep up her social media engagement while she writes her next book. The problem is her neighbors don’t want her there and nobody wants to work on the house. Within weeks, her entire life begins spiraling out of control and it all has to do with the murder house. And is it just Sarah or is someone living in the attic?

Review: I wanted to love this. I read several reviews that were glowing, and I got excited. I generally don’t like haunted house novels–they all feel the same to me–but I allowed myself to hope this one would be different. Unfortunately, this one could not hook me. I felt like a lot of the elements were cliche to the subgenre (as I’d feared) and the tension was never there for me. Though the psychological angle was promising, its execution was messy. There were things that were never rightfully explained, and the things that did get answered were underdeveloped or rushed. The finale had some interesting aspects to it and the writing was solid, but sadly I just couldn’t get into this book. It needed to be darker and more detailed. Flashbacks might have made a big difference. There was just too much missing to make this novel feel complete and ready for it’s ambition.

Bottom Line: The Stranger Upstairs tries to be a psychological hit but fumbles the elements, making for an uneven ride that never really lifts off the airstrip.

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Wintry Monsters Press publishes the work of Aiden Merchant and Wesley Winters, as well as the occasional issue of WMP Dark Fiction Magazine, featuring reviews, interviews, promotions, previews, and more.


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