#BookReview – STILLHOUSE LAKE by Rachel Caine – Psychological Suspense

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

Release Date: July 1, 2017

Amazon / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

 

My Review

Rachel Caine is a gifted writer. Her storytelling evokes emotion, not just allowing me to feel the characters’ emotions, but ensuring I have no choice. Her ability to weave suspense put me on edge, my muscles tense in anticipation.

I thoroughly enjoyed the originality of this story. We rarely see things from the perspective of the killer’s family in the aftermath of his destruction. This is a fascinating look at human nature, both in the family’s desperation to come to terms with the new reality of their lives and in the way society judges, condemns, and persecutes them.

She has an eerie ability to find and push my buttons. She got it from her father. I see him in the shape of her eyes, in the tilt of her head.

So I should have loved this book. In fact I did, in many respects. But at the end I’m left grumbling with annoyance.

Before I get to what is, for me, the major flaw, there are two minor irritants to mention. First, the prologue is written in third person, from Gina’s perspective, yet the rest of the book is written in first person. I can only assume the reasoning was to put distance between Gina before she knew about her husband, and Gina, who became Gwen, after the event. That’s just my assumption, and the author could have had a completely different reason. I found it odd but not troubling. Some readers, however, might sample this book, find it’s written in third person, buy it, and be irritated to find it’s written in first person. I know some readers don’t like first person storytelling.

I hadn’t realized I was made of glass until now, when it all gives way and the tears come, tears like nothing I’ve felt before, a tsunami of grief and rage and fury and betrayal and horror, of guilt, and I put my coffee cup aside and sob openly into my hands, as if my heart is broken along with everything else inside me.

Second, the entire plot relies on us believing that Gina never, not even once, stepped into her garage, which was her husband’s workshop and, apparently, killing ground. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I wouldn’t, at some point, have the need to go ask my husband something or the desire to see what he was doing. There were also two young children who must have been well trained in leaving dad alone. This part was a bit of a leap for me, but not so much that I couldn’t settle in and enjoy the story.

Gina never asked about the garage. That thought would keep her awake every night for years after, pulsing hot against her eyelids.

What killed this one for me was the ending. Or, I should say, the non-ending. This is not a stand-alone book. We’re left with a major cliffhanger. The story is in no way self-contained, and to know what happens with Gina/Gwen and her kids you’ll have to wait until the next book comes out. There is no mention of this being the first in a series, and so I have no idea when that next book will be released or even if the next book will resolve the cliffhanger.

I’ve noticed, much to my dismay, this trend of cliffhangers forcing us to read the next book, and then the next one after that. I don’t know whether this is coming from the publishers or a segment of authors trying to push the purchase of followup books. Either way, I am not a fan. I love a series, but I also want the main plot to be resolved at the end. Cliffhangers feel too much like extortion – buy the next book or you’ll never know what happens with these characters you’re already invested in.

*This was my Kindle First choice for June.*

 

Thanks for reading. 🙂