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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