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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Stranger Upstairs

Narrator: Fiona Hardingham

Random House Audio

ISBN: 9780593599952

Publisher: Random House

Ballantine, Bantam

Publication Date: 09/12/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)

Most people wouldn’t buy an infamous murder house to renovate for fun . . . but Sarah Slade is not most people.

“This debut novel deftly explores our shadows—the dark parts of ourselves we don’t want others to see. I couldn’t stop reading.”—Julia Bartz, New York Times bestselling author of The Writing Retreat

A therapist and self-help writer with all the answers, Sarah Slade has just bought a gorgeous Victorian in the community of her dreams. Turns out, you can get a killer deal on a house where someone was murdered. Plus, renovating Black Wood House makes for great blog content and a decent distraction from her failing marriage. Good thing nobody knows that her past is just as filthy as the bloodstain on her bedroom floor.

But the renovations are fast becoming a nightmare. Sarah imagined custom avocado wallpaper, massive profits, and an appreciative husband who wants to share her bed again. Instead, the neighbors hate her guts and her husband still sleeps on the couch. And though the builders attempt to cover up Black Wood’s horrifying past, a series of bizarre accidents, threatening notes, and unexplained footsteps in the attic only confirms for Sarah what the rest of the town already knew: Something is very wrong in that house.

With every passing moment, Sarah’s life spirals further out of control—and with it, her sense of reality. But as she peels back the curling wallpaper and discovers the house’s secrets, she realizes that the deadly legacy of Black Wood House has only just begun.

My Review

Lisa M. Matlin's smashing debut, THE STRANGER UPSTAIRS —an author/social media influencer/therapist buys a murder house, and her life spins out of control in this edge-of-your-seat eerie suspense thriller with dark humor/horror.

Want a deal of a house? Buy one where someone was murdered!

Welcome to Black Wood House, a quiet wooded estate in Beacon, southeast of Melbourne—a stunning Victorian Gothic two-story home on lush two acres built in 1889 next door to a 400-acre bushland reserve.

On the morning of 1980, Bill Campbell walked upstairs where Susan, his wife of 20 years, lay sleeping and bashed her skull with a hammer. After murdering her, he drifted downstairs into Janet, his 17-year-old daughter's room, and attempted to do the same, running out the front door. Then Bill locked himself in the bathroom and took a fatal overdose of acid and tranquilizers.

Black Wood House has sat empty and silent for 40 years, but now the new owner, Sarah Slade, does not believe in superstitions. She and her husband, Joe of three years (bartender) look at the project as a business opportunity. They plan to restore it and sell it for a nice profit.

Sarah is a fixer. She does not like broken things. She believes you should not judge anything by its dark past. Sarah is a therapist with a bestselling self-help book: Clear, Calm, and in Control.

Joe is creeped out and not thrilled about living in the house. However, Sarah makes it all social when she touts the renovations will be on her blog website:

However, renovations cannot gloss over every secret. Then bizarre accidents occur, and sinister, creepy things, menacing notes, with mysterious footsteps in the attic. Is someone out to kill her? Her husband, the neighbors, or the house itself?

Through diary entries, we learn the problems of her marriage and the wicked secrets of her past. Sarah cannot have her past come out, which will ruin her reputation. It could be her undoing if people discover what happened to her sister, Lizzy. Will the house get the best of her?

The lies begin to unravel...

Told in three parts with an Epilogue, from POVs Sarah and Emily, THE STRANGER UPSTAIRS is creepy, eerie, atmospheric, and mixed with dark humor and horror—blended with media and commentary, makes for an entertaining read. Perfect for spooky Halloween season.

With themes of mental health, I appreciate the author's note regarding this topic and references. The novel explores the dark areas of our lives we do not want others to see. For fans of authors Lisa Jewell, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz.

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for a gifted ARC in exchange for an honest opinion. #CoverLove

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Sept 12, 2023

My Rating: 4 Stars


“This debut novel deftly explores our shadows—the dark parts of ourselves we don’t want others to see. I couldn’t stop reading.”

—Julia Bartz, New York Times bestselling author of The Writing Retreat

“A fast, fun, gasp-inducing read.”

—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Diamond Eye

“Creepy, crafty, and packing some deliciously dark surprises, The Stranger Upstairs is a dizzying spiral into madness that kept me guessing to its final pages.”

—Taylor Adams, author of The Last Word

“The ultimate spooky-season read! Lisa M. Matlin skillfully infuses every page of The Stranger Upstairs with eerie, evocative imagery, and her (anti)heroine, Sarah Slade, is just as disturbing and compelling as the murder-house setting.”

—Layne Fargo, author of They Never Learn

About the Author

Lisa M. Matlin was a guitarist in a rock band before switching from songwriting to story writing. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, pug, and golden retriever. She’s probably re-watching The Walking Dead right now and trying not to laugh at her own jokes. Matlin is a passionate mental health advocate and your dog’s number one fan. INSTAGRAM



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