I would probably read Keye Street narrating a trip to the grocery store, so it’s no surprise I loved the third outing in Amanda Kyle Williams’s series about the flawed, alcoholic, ex-FBI profiler private investigator. You *can* start here –you won’t be completely lost or anything–but I recommend picking up THE STRANGER YOU SEEK and THE STRANGER IN THE ROOM so you don’t miss the fun of experiencing Keye’s growth over the first two books.

Keye herself gives an excellent summary of her life so far: “Neil hunched over his Lucky Charms. His spoon hit the side of the bowl on every bite. I stood there for a minute, sipping my coffee, marveling once again at the turn my life had taken. Five years ago I would have bet good money I wasn’t going to end up running a private detective business with an insubordinate pot-smoking former cyber-criminal and an insubordinate nineteen-year-old potty mouth.”

Her private detective business adds laugh-out-loud comic relief to the suspense. I highlighted a dozen or so passages that made me crack up, but I’ll just put one out here: “Hey, Ronald, you missed your court date. We need to get this straightened out.” “Screw you,” he yelled. Sque woo. He was actually finishing his sandwich while being pursued by a bail recovery agent. You have to admire that on some level.”

This entry takes Keye to Whisper, Georgia, a small town with a dangerously sexy sheriff and two very unwelcoming local detectives. The body of a thirteen-year-old girl has been found in a remote area, along with the body of another thirteen-year-old girl who disappeared over a decade before. Are the two cases related? Sheriff Meltzer has called in Keye to consult based on her background as a profiler, and soon a third girl is missing.

The mystery and suspense are well done, as usual, with plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting. The real gem here, though, is Keye. She’s flawed, funny, and fierce. She knows her own weaknesses very well, and reflects that her attraction to Sheriff Meltzer probably has just a bit to do with her escalating relationship with Rauser. Before she heads out of town, they have a spat:

“He opened a kitchen drawer, pointed down at the contents. “Want to tell me what you felt the need to label the silverware?” He began to read the bright green sticky notes inside. “Knives, small forks, long forks, short spoons, long spoons. What the hell is that, Keye?” So now we were getting to what was really wrong with his mood. I didn’t say anything. “Not only have you labeled the silverware drawer, you’ve dumbed it down. You think I don’t know what a salad fork is?””

This scene perfectly encapsulates Keye’s conflicted feelings about their relationship, and she’s self-aware enough to know that she’s flirting with the cute sheriff partly out of self-sabotage (something she knows quite a bit about). Ordinarily, I have little patience for love triangles, but Williams uses the attraction as character development for Keye, and it works beautifully. In small-town Georgia, she’s an outsider many times over: Chinese-American, big-city accent, former FBI, and the town closes ranks around her.

I recommend this series to readers of mystery and suspense, as well as to fans of early Stephanie Plum – Keye Street is just as laugh-out-loud funny, but with a lot more substance.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher, but I also purchased a copy.