The Stranger's Obituary is the second book in Jessica L. Randall's Obituary Society series, which may or may not be the last book in the series--so far #2 is as far as it goes. It takes place in a town called Auburn, Nebraska where weird things happen. There's a little girl named Juniper who can find lost things, some very spooky happenings that affected the heroine of the first book, Lila, and now we get to see some more weirdness. Mina Fairchild is linked to music; when she hears a song associated with a person, she can see what happened to that person when they listened to it. And her mother had strange abilities of her own. Oh, and there's a ghost plaguing Mina's starlet sister, Bernie, who has returned to Auburn after a bad breakup with her Hollywood boyfriend, who is a real piece of work.
Mina and Bernie have other problems, too. Mina is a shut-in; she writes a travel blog, but she has never actually been to any of the places she writes about. In fact, she hasn't left Auburn since her mother brought her and Bernie there ages ago. Bernie might be a starlet, but she left in a bit of a rush after stealing from her brand-new fiance for reasons that she's never been able to really explain to anyone. Now that she's back, she wants to try to make amends, but things are, of course, a little more complicated than that. Meanwhile, a body has turned up in quiet Auburn, which has also been swamped by tourists and journalists trying to get a glimpse of Bernie living a small-town life.
My thoughts on this book are similar to my thoughts on the first book. It needs another light round of line edits; I saw a few words that I think were supposed to be other ones, and then there were a couple of instances where it seemed like Randall got confused with or forgot who was supposed to talking, which made some of the dialog not really make sense. I would point to the specific instances of these, but I can't, because I think that, much like Auburn, this book is haunted. It possessed my Kindle and, once I opened it, literally wouldn't let me read another book. It took away all the functionality of the Kindle except turning the pages. I couldn't go to the menu, or even change how my progress was displayed on the bottom of the screen. If I wanted to get out of the book, I had to hard restart the Kindle to get back to the home screen. I thought this might have just been a problem with the download, so I deleted the book and re-downloaded it, but it kept happening, so I think it's something up with the actual file on Amazon. This isn't Randall's fault at all (I presume something went wrong with the file conversion on Amazon) but it certainly made me reluctant to re-open the book after finishing it in order to pull specific examples.
The other thing that I also didn't love was the romance. Bernie's romantic plot is great, with the revival of something with her former fiance, even though she's not ultimately sure what she wants from it. Their interactions were wonderful, and you can tell that there's definitely chemistry between them even if they still might want different things. Mina's romantic plot, on the other hand, seems to have been added just for the sake of it. Her interactions with her romantic interest are few, and he does come off as stalker-y. Again, I think this could have been remedied with the book being just a tad longer so their interactions could have been both more numerous and more nuanced. The few prolonged scenes they did have were sweet, but overall I didn't think it worked.
Unlike the first book, I think the supernatural element fit in well here. It was more fully woven into the story, and the feel of Auburn was better flushed out with it. The things that happen in Auburn aren't big, grand supernatural things; they're small, cute ones that can still manage to be a little creepy, but they really fit in perfectly with Auburn's small-town, slightly-outdated vibe. The Obituary Society itself makes a reappearance, too, and gives us a tiny bit of insight into how the events of the first book are still resolving themselves, and the members help Mina start to re-integrate herself into society. She's not really an agoraphobe, as is suggested by one character; she's more like an extreme introvert, but with some motivation behind it which comes out later. She's not actually afraid of going outside, and she does; she goes out, and talks to people, she just...doesn't like to. I think Mina and Bernie both grew a lot as characters in this book, and Auburn was, again, very well-developed.
Like The Obituary Society, this was a very solid book. 4 stars out of 5, and I hope she writes more in this wonderful town.