Review: Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (Stillhouse Lake #1)

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer on July 1, 2017

Source: Purchased

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children.

  

Rachel Caine’s STILLHOUSE LAKE is a pulse-pounding thriller that follows a mother and her quest to protect her family in the wake of a terrible betrayal, helping them move on from the past. It’s also about the lengths that some people will go to make sure that the past doesn’t stay buried for long…

Gina Royal had the perfect life: two beautiful children, a hardworking husband, and a lovely home. Sure, she wasn’t very interesting or bright, but she got along very well. Until the day she came home early to find the body of a young woman strung up in her husband’s workshop, and the cops at her door. Surely Gina couldn’t have been so blind to her husband’s true nature, could she? Despite being acquitted of all charges, many people who followed the highly public trial of Melvin Royal believe that Gina was his accomplice; she and her children are relentlessly pursued by vicious internet trolls intent on punishing them for their supposed crimes, and they move frequently and change identities to outrun them.

Now Gwen Proctor, the woman formerly known as Gina lives in a small community with her children who currently go by Atlanta and Connor. Gwen puts them through regular safety drills, installs a safe room in their new home, and visits the gun range religiously. But after being constantly uprooted and subjected to media scrutiny and their mom’s hyper-vigilance and paranoia, the cracks in Atlanta and Connor are beginning to show. So when the body of a young woman bearing all the marks of her ex-husband’s killings turns up in the lake just outside their home, Gwen resists all her instincts to turn tail and run. If she’s to have any hope of her children having a semi-normal life, Gwen will have to stop running and face whatever hell is coming her way.

Most of the thrillers I have read tend to focus on either the killer, one of their intended victims, or the victim’s family; having the story focus instead on the killer’s family gives STILLHOUSE LAKE a completely different angle, and brings a considerable emotional weight to the story. As frustrating as I found them at times, I couldn’t help but feel profoundly sorry for the Proctors. While they’re all still breathing, they are unquestionably victims of Melvin Royal’s sickness, and nothing they do seems to help them escape that reality. Gwen especially is wracked with guilt, doubt, and self-loathing, second-guessing and blaming herself for not knowing what her ex-husband really was. Although she’s sheltered them from most of the details of his crimes and the subsequent media coverage, it’s obvious that Atlanta and Connor are also trying to deal with the fallout.

Rachel Caine does a commendable job sustaining the tension throughout STILLHOUSE LAKE. My eyes were practically glued to the page the entire time I was reading, and the suspense was ratcheted up so high that I jumped every time I heard a small sound. The “whodunnit” aspect kept me guessing, and at one point I was convinced that every single character was involved somehow. I think thriller fans and relative newbies (like myself) will enjoy this story equally, especially after that explosive ending. I need the sequel in my hands now!

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  • Greg Hill

    This one has sorta been calling to me ever since I saw that misty, atmospheric cover! And I love a suspenseful read- sounds like this one has plenty of that! Yay! I will definitely be giving this one a shot.

    • It’s not quite a water cover but it’s close, right? 😉 Knowing how much you like thrillers, I definitely recommend you pick this one up! It was really intense and surprising!

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    You’re right: shifting focus from the killer to his family (who are after all victims of a different kind) is a fresh, novel approach – and having enjoyed two of Rachel Caine’s books on her Great Library series, I’m curious to see how she does with a different genre. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • I really enjoyed that angle, and I was quite surprised by where the story ended up. We’re in the opposite situation: I haven’t read Caine’s Great Library series yet, but after reading this I know that I need to. Something tells me she’ll pull of YA fantasy just as well as she does thrillers! 🙂

  • Wow, this does sound like a really cool perspective twist! I totally understand getting jumpy. If I’ve watched a scary movie or read a creepy book, I usually need to hide under the covers for the next few nights, hahahahaha.

    • LOL yeah, it was the same situation with this book! Once I’d finished reading it, I laid awake feeling super paranoid about every little sound, haha. The twists were worth it, though!

  • Karen

    Ok I need to get this! I’ve read so many great reviews but just haven’t had time to read. I didn’t realize it was a series though.

    For What It’s Worth

    • You really do, Karen! It’s sooo good. I think the sequel is coming out pretty soon, actually.

  • Oh this is interesting… so it follows the killer’s family. It’s always a curious thing, how the family of a killer ends up. I’ve not read any of Caine’s thrillers, but I’m interested in this one. I’ve heard good things about it several times now! I’m glad you enjoyed the book, Danya.

    Have a lovely week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Isn’t it though? There aren’t many stories that focus on the killer’s family, for whatever reason. As far as I know, I think this is actually Caine’s first thriller but it was very well done! I’ve heard nothing but good things about Caine’s YA fantasy, so I’m definitely going to snag that series soon.

      Thanks Alyssa, you too! 🙂

  • You’re right, I didn’t think about this before but this book does have a unique angle by focusing on the killer’s family. Do you know if this was Caine’s first venture into the thriller/mystery genre? Either way, she should write more! This thriller/mystery newbie was impressed too, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

    • From everything I’ve heard, this is her first foray into thrillers, which is surprising because she really nailed it. Maybe it’s all those years of writing the mystery subplot of her urban fantasy series, haha. Either way, I’m dying to read the next one!

  • Ahhh! This sounds so amazing, Danya. I need to read it now. I’ve been feeling like reading more and more thrillers lately, and this sounds like exactly the kind of story I need. The focous on the killer’s family is so interesting because like you said, you don’t see that often. And an explosive ending you say?? I’m in!

    • It’s SO GOOD! I know you’ve been on a thriller kick lately (whereas I’ve been in a bit of a fantasy slump, sigh) and I think you’d really like this one. It’s very cool to see such a badass mom in fiction — we don’t get that too often. The ending will totally make your jaw drop!

  • This sounds really good. It’s definitely an interesting angle to take looking at the killer’s family instead but that just makes it more interesting. Your review makes it sound really good. I’m off to beg my library to get me a copy because I’m poor and pathetic. Hopefully they’ll listen.

    • I was actually kind of shocked by how much I loved this one! I think I’d been craving something in a different genre without really knowing it, haha. The Proctors are really interesting characters too. LOL, a very relatable circumstance. At least in your case it’s because of an awesome vacation! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that your library picks up a copy.

  • YAS! The wait for the sequel is going to be horrible! I thoroughly enjoyed how Caine treated the Gwen and the kids, and how they evolved over the book.

    • OMG I know! I’m already dying to read it and it’s barely been a few weeks since I finished Stillhouse Lake. Gwen was insane but also totally badass, and I really liked the kids too (which is sort of rare for me, haha).

  • Okay, so I’ve been telling myself that I’ll read more Rachel Caine after I read her Weather Warden series… And there’s Morganville AND The Great Library series on my TBR because of that…. And now this one… And it’s ANOTHER series… My only reservation is the lack of fantasy in this one and I’m definitely a fantasy junkie…

    • Believe it or not, I’ve only read one or two of Caine’s books and they’re from AGES ago! But they were fantasy (her zombie UF books) and I can say with certainty that she does contemporary settings just as well as fantastical ones. 🙂 Like you, I have *got* to get my hands on the Great Library series as soon as possible!

  • Oh you’re right, I don’t really read thrillers myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across or seen reviews for any others that focused on the killer’s family. That would be an interesting, complex perspective, I imagine. Glad you liked this one!

    • It was such a cool twist on it! I don’t think I would’ve felt any near as emotionally invested in the story had Gwen and her kids had a different relationship with the killer. Definitely a solid read — and it kept me up late into the night!

  • Lynn Williams

    I can’t wait for No.2 – I thought Caine did an excellent job of tension building.
    Lynn 😀

    • Me too, on both counts! I’m very eager to see where she takes the story from here…it could go anywhere.