Review: When a Stranger Comes to Town

Editor: Michael Koryta
Authors: S.A. Cosby, Amanda Witt, Smitha Harish Jain, Michael Connelly, Jacqueline Freimor, Joe R. Lansdale, Emilya Naymark, Lisa Unger, Bryon Quertermous, Tilia Klebenov Jacobs, Lori Roy, Paul A. Barra, Michael Koryta, Elaine Togneri, Jonathan Stone, Steve Hamilton, Tina deBellegarde, Joe Hill, Alafair Burke
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Released: April 20th, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

When a Stranger Comes to Town is a collection of mystery and thriller short stories and was edited by Michael Koryta. Though I imagine it’s the promise of another Joe Hill short story that will have caught many reader’s attention (as well as all of the other amazing authors in this anthology).

This anthology includes a variety of short stories, including Solomon Wept by S.A. Cosby, Relative Stranger by Amanda Witt, Seat 2C by Alafair Burke, Kohinoor by Smitha Harish Jain, Avalon by Michael Connelly, Here’s to New Friends by Jacqueline Freimor, Room for One More by Joe R. Lansdale, Now by Emilya Naymark, A Six-Letter Word for Neighbor by Lisa Unger. Howard’s Heart by Bryon Quertermous, Perfect Strangers by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs, Do You Remember by Lori Roy, Assignment: Sheepshead Bay by Paul A. Barra, P.F.A. By Michael Koryta, Genius by Elaine Togneri, Russkies by Jonathan Stone, A Different Kind of Healing by Steve Hamilton, Tokyo Stranger by Tina de Bellegarde, and Last Fare by Joe Hill.

“There are nineteen dark treats ahead for you, and my job is to shut up and get out of your way so you can get on to the main event.”

Solomon Wept by S.A. Cosby
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Solomon Wept was a decent read and a pretty solid start to this anthology, all things considered. It read as more of a classic mystery than anything else, which isn’t a bad thing by any means.

“That’s what happened when you were a pimp and one of your girls stabbed a date who was the son of a Richmond city councilman.”

Relative Stranger by Amanda Witt
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

If you’re looking to get creeped out, then you should probably read Relative Stranger (and if creepy strangers freak you out, you should probably just stay clear). It’s an intense read, with characters that really came to life despite such a short time on the page.

“Glory’s heart gave a startled thud; her cheeks flushed hot.”

Seat 2C by Alafair Burke
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

This was an interesting read! Maybe it’s just the reader in me, but I kind of loved the premise of it all—a widow who travels to the same place at the same time every year. Only to get targeted by…someone. I won’t spoil it.

“I swore I’d never give up my beloved hardbacks.”

Kohinoor by Smitha Harish Jain
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Mystery meets morality in Kohinoor, as police war against the darker parts of the world, all while raising questions about lines in the sand.

“I stood outside the prison’s massive iron gates, waiting for the warden to arrive.”

Avalon by Michael Connelly
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Avalon read so perfectly like a mystery novel that I was surprised when it ended so quickly. That’s how you know a story has sunk its claws into you! I wouldn’t have mind seeing more of this tale, though what was here was complete and interesting.

“Watching the strangers was an exercise. It kept his skills sharp.”

Here’s to New Friends by Jacqueline Freimor
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Coming back around to that creepy stranger concept but with a few different twists this time around. I really liked Freimor’s writing style and will probably check out more of her work in the future.

“I’m an observer, as both my profession and my avocation have trained me to be.”

Room for One more by Joe R. Lansdale
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

This story is the perfect example of why you do not stop and pick up hitchhikers, no matter how desperate they may seem. Need I say more?

“If they stopped, he was going to rob them.”

Now by Emilya Naymark
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I really enjoyed the setup for Now, as it took the time to set the tone before throwing us into the mystery of the world/plot. It gave us plenty of time to appreciate the character and their nuances.

“His GPS lady had an Irish accent and reminded him of his aunt Maura, who also loved issuing directions.”

A Six-Letter Word for Neighbor by Lisa Unger
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

This is an odd yet compelling read and is probably not the best one to read if you’re already feeling inclined not to trust new neighbors. I love Lisa Unger’s writing and am adding her to the list of authors to check out after this.

“Great. New neighbors.

They left the dog.”

Howard’s Heart by Bryon Quertermous
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Howard’s Heart was another interesting addition to this anthology, though if I’m brutally honest, it’s largely forgettable. I remember liking it, but I didn’t remember anything about it after the fact.

“Howard told me three things before he died.”

Perfect Strangers by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Looking for a robber story? Check out Perfect Strangers. It’s got robbery, planning, the works, which made for a fun and thrilling read.

“I am not good at armed robbery, but when Dougal told me about the new cannabis dispensaries, I figured third time was the charm.”

Do You Remember by Lori Roy
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I’m conflicted about Do You Remember. On the one hand, I really did enjoy the writing. On the other hand, this was another short that I had to look up and double-check before sitting down to write about it.

“I wonder if it brings you job to know she’s dead.”

Assignment: Sheepshead Bay by Paul A. Barra
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Assignment: Sheepshead is arguably the story with the most intriguing name out of the entire collection. It was a thrilling read and gets bonus points for including an adorable dog named Ethyl (I’m a sucker for dogs in mysteries, so sue me).

“She was Fletcher’s home, facilitating his peripatetic life as an assassin for hire.”

P.F.A. By Michael Koryta
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I feel like the pull quote for this short will do a better job than I could of explaining the dark and intriguing nature of it.

“Janice was swell at putting on a smiling mask when her heart was a cold black fist and her mind a whirlpool of red tides.”

Genius by Elaine Togneri
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I loved the premise of this one, a man trying to kill a genius? It was oddly funny, come to think of it. I’m not sure if that was intentional, but it certainly was the end result.

“How smart do you have to be to kill a genius? I’m about to find out.”

Russkies by Jonathan Stone
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Russkies felt like the most traditional thriller of the bunch, which can be considered either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

“Well…why don’t you tell me first how you happened to be there in the bomb shelter?”

A Different Kind of Healing by Steve Hamilton
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

I really liked the different perspectives and takes for A Different Kind of Healing. It isn’t every day you see a mystery from the other side of the hospital room (er, an emergency room, in this case, I guess).

“By the time the stretcher bangs through the doors, the attending physician and three nurses, including Charlotte, are already gowned and masked.”

Tokyo Stranger by Tina deBellegarde
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

If you’re looking for a short that has you on the edge of your seat while you try and put the pieces of the puzzle together, it’s got to be Tokyo Stranger. There’s an air of mystery surrounding this one, no pun intended.

“Konbanwa, Saksaki-san.”

“Konbanwa, Yuki-chan.”

Last Fare by Joe Hill
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

Last but not least, we have the Last Fare by Joe Hill. I enjoyed the narrative and the writing for this one, though I do still have a question here and there. I’m okay with some lingering questions from a mystery, though; it gives me something to ponder once I’m done.

“I hope you’re on your way somewhere safe,” he said, “I hope there’s someone to take care of you.”

Thanks to Hanover Square Press and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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