Sunday, December 31, 2017

Book Review: "Stillhouse Lake" by Rachel Caine

Stillhouse Lake is a great book. I mean, stay-up-until-2:00-a.m.-to-finish-it great. I read the whole thing in just a few hours, and my heart was pounding pretty fast for a while afterward!

"I'm glad I've escaped a hell I had hardly even recognized when I was burning in it. Glad that I've pulled the kids out, too."

Gina Royal had your typical, everyday life. Her marriage to her husband Mel had its ups and downs, but for the most part, they were happy, and she felt comfortable raising their two children, Lily and Brady, together. They were the family she had always wanted.

One day, a seemingly innocent car accident totally derails Gina's life, as it reveals that her husband has been a serial killer for a number of years. He used his garage workshop to commit the murders and store the bodies, and Gina had no idea. Mel always said that he had some expensive tools in his workshop, so he kept it locked. How could she have missed the signs, spent all of this time thinking her life with her husband was normal?

When Mel went on trial for the murders, Gina found herself in the public eye as well, and on trial. It didn't matter how many times she swore her innocence and her ignorance of Mel's crimes, there were many in the press, in the neighborhood, across the world, and even within her own family, who believed she had a hand in the murders. Mel's supporters on the internet criticized, bullied, shamed, and threatened her in droves, enough that she had to take the kids and run, creating new identities and starting all over again—several times.

Now Gina is Gwen Proctor, and her kids are Atlanta (Lanny) and Connor. In a remote town called Stillhouse Lake, they finally feel comfortable after so many years of fleeing when people started asking too many questions or Mel's minions found them. The kids are weary of giving up their lives in the blink of an eye, of having no friends, having to set and reset the house alarm, and of watching their mother driven to the brink of violence and fear in an effort to keep them safe. All three of them start to think about fixing up their house, making friends, building a life again.

And then the body of a young woman is found in the lake near their house, and the similarities to Mel's crimes are eerie. Gwen's first instinct is to flee, but how can she do that to her kids again? Should she finally let her guard down and let someone know the truth about who they are, or is there someone who already knows it? Who is behind this murder? Does she still need to fear Mel, even though she's left no trail?

One thing is for certain: she is no longer a victim. If it comes to defending her children or herself, she will fight to save them. No matter what that takes.

This was one hell of a thrill ride! Rachel Caine reels you in on the first page and doesn't let you go until you've read the last word. Gwen is one badass mom, although I, too, wondered if she really was as innocent as she claimed she was. But having read other books in which characters have to run away when their identity is exposed, I felt as if Stillhouse Lake was one of the strongest in depicting how that split-second decision affects the children involved, those who've never had a say in what happened to them.

As I've remarked before, my general MO when reading thrillers is to trust no one. I really was wondering how Caine would resolve everything, and while I felt like I had to stretch my disbelief a bit, it didn't frustrate me that much. Caine is an amazing storyteller—there aren't a lot of books that would keep me reading late into the night, desperately needing to see how the book ended!

If you're a thriller fan, you'll want to grab this one—I know I'm ready for Book #2!

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