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The Stranger Upstairs by Lisa M. Matlin
Thriller

The Stranger Upstairs

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Lisa M. Matlin, on your first book!

by Lisa M. Matlin

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Quick take

Misleading omens and untrustworthy figures abound in this chilling tale about a couple who move into a murder house.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unreliable

    Unreliable narrator

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MarriageIssues

    Marriage issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SuburbanDrama

    Suburban drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_HauntedHouse

    Haunted House

Synopsis

Sarah Slade is starting over. As the new owner of the infamous Black Wood House—the scene of a grisly murder-suicide—she’s determined that the fixer-upper will help reach a new audience on her successful lifestyle blog, and distract her from her failing marriage.

But as Sarah paints over the house’s horrifying past, she knows better than anyone that a new façade can’t conceal every secret. Then the builders start acting erratically and experiencing bizarre accidents—and Sarah knows there’s only so long she can continue to sleep in the bedroom with the bloodstained floor and suffer the mysterious footsteps she hears from the attic.

When menacing notes start appearing everywhere, Sarah becomes convinced that someone or something is out to kill her—her husband, her neighbors, maybe even the house itself. The more she remodels Black Wood House, the angrier it seems to become.

With every passing moment, Sarah’s life spirals further out of control—and with it, her sense of reality. Though she desperately clings to the lies she’s crafted to conceal her own secrets, Sarah Slade must wonder. . . was it all worth it? Or will this house be her final unraveling?

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of suicide.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Stranger Upstairs.
The Stranger Upstairs

Want a great deal on a house?

BUY ONE WHERE SOMEONE WAS MURDERED!

Here’s the killer truth: A brutal murder can slash the price by as much as 50%. But would YOU do it? Bestselling author Sarah Slade Would!

By Whitney Roach [@KeepingItWeirdWithWhitney]

Welcome to Black Wood House! The stunning Victorian Gothic, built in 1889, lies right next door to a 400-acre bushland reserve. The two-story house comes with four generous bedrooms and a library and sits on two lush acres in a quiet wooded estate in Beacon, southeast of Melbourne.

And on the morning of February 4, 1980, Bill Campbell walked into the upstairs bedroom where his wife, Susan, lay sleeping and bashed her skull in with a hammer. After murdering her, Bill drifted down the hall into his seventeen-year-old daughter’s bedroom. Janet Campbell was getting dressed for school when her father walked calmly into her room and beat her with the bloodied hammer. She fled out the front door. Neighbors heard her screaming all the way up the road, “Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!”

When she was gone, Bill locked himself in the bathroom and took a fatal dose of acid and tranquilizers.

For 40 years, Black Wood House stood empty and silent. But on a quiet night, some people say they still hear the cries of Janet Campbell ringing out through the neighborhood.

Don’t kill me. Don’t kill me. Don’t kill me.

But new owner, Sarah Slade, doesn’t believe it.

“Oh, we’re not superstitious!” Sarah laughs, leaning against her husband of three years, bartender Joe Cosgrove. “I see it as a business opportunity. Black Wood House has great bones, and we’re confident we can restore it and make a tidy profit.”

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Why I love it

“Want a great deal on a house? Buy one where someone was murdered!”

So begins The Stranger Upstairs, with one of my new favorite first sentences. Reading this book feels like riding an ever-accelerating rollercoaster. Debut author Lisa M. Matlin drops one dizzying twist after another until reality threatens to disintegrate before our eyes—and like the best haunted-house tales, the true monsters may have been living inside us all along.

When we first meet therapist and social media queen Sarah Slade she has just taken on a doozy of a house-flipping challenge: Melbourne’s infamous Black Wood House. Sarah doesn’t mind that the prior occupants perished in a grisly murder-suicide, or that her new neighbors would rather see the place razed than renovated. And she is hardly just the house’s next innocent victim—behind her polished persona, Sarah carries disturbing secrets of her own. In this matchup from hell, pinning a fascinating question-mark of an antiheroine against a house straight out of classic gothic horror, who will prevail?

The Stranger Upstairs is everything I want in a psychological thriller: it’s spookily atmospheric, genuinely surprising, and even delivers some dark humor (#murderhouse) with a welcome mean streak. I had a blast with this book, and I think you will, too.

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Member ratings (21,459)

  • Maria G.

    Bronx, NY

    A page turner perfect for bringing in the spooky season. I loved the little snippets of articles throughout and really enjoyed the ending. Not AT ALL what I was expecting. 4/5 stars for me ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Rachel O.

    Canfield , OH

    This book surprised me in a good way. *mild spoiler* Halfway through I was a bit concerned it was going to fall back on (really tired!!) mental health tropes as plot devices. It didn’t. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Jennica G.

    Cedar, MI

    Fast pace thriller that kept me guessing. The main character and her unhinged vibes give me chills as much as the creepy house. I wouldn’t be sad if there’s a sequel about this house.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Julia S.

    Richardson, TX

    I’m only on chapter 7 but I absolutely love it and I feel like I’m reading a much more awesome version of the tv show “a haunting”. This book is very captivating and I’ve been hooked since chapter 2!

  • Debra L.

    Medina, OH

    This story was creepy enough to keep me hooked! I had to find out what was causing the change in the main character’s personality… And the cat…I worried about the cat… Read it! With the lights on…!!!

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