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The Stranger Upstairs by Lisa M. Matlin

The Stranger Upstairs


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

by Lisa M. Matlin

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


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.

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 (15,547)

  • Rachel O.

    Poland, 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.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Lisa G.

    Broken arrow, OK

    The story line keeps you guessing! Just when you think you have it figured out - you quickly realize you don’t. I also very much appreciated the author’s note at the end. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Erin W.

    Sparta, WI

    Fast read, unlikeable main character but I was enthralled. The ending was a bit…rushed? Implausible? I can buy the CM poisoning but switching up identities without money? Unlikely. Still loved. 4/5⭐️

  • Wanda B.

    Greenville, NC

    I’m not crazy. You are. Right?!? Can you trust the events in this book? You start pulling for one character, but is it misplaced? You then start questioning yourself. But, you aren’t mad at this book!