Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Book Review: STILLHOUSE LAKE by Rachel Caine

Author: Rachel Caine
Thomas & Mercer
July 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

Book Description (Goodreads):

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.

My musings:

After reading some raving reviews about Stillhouse Lake, I just couldn’t resist requesting it on Netgalley, even though my TBR pile has taken on the dimensions of a small mountain range and I am supposed to be studying. But that cover! Simply irresistible! I was fascinated by the premise of a woman living with a serial killer, cooking him a meal every night, raising their two children, unaware that he is next door in the garage torturing his next victim. Eeek! What a horrific thought. A million hot showers would not wash away that stain, and Gwen (aka Gina) certainly has to deal with a few demons and guilt issues borne from the memories of living with a monster.


Stillhouse Lake was certainly original, fast-paced and easy to read, and it sucked me in very quickly. However, as the story progressed I started to have mixed feelings, and after closing the last page, I am still a bit torn. There were sections of the book that got my heart pounding and made me want to read more, but overall, I found I really struggled to connect with Gwen / Gina and found she perhaps needed a bit more character development. Some of her actions made sense, driven by her sheer desperation to get away from her old life, but a lot of her decisions seemed questionable and a bit far-fetched to me. Alas, if I could just suspend disbelief a bit easier, I would be able to enjoy these type of stories a lot more! But the gun-wielding Gwen with her connections to underworldly figures supplying her with a never ending supply of fake identities just didn’t marry well with the shy girl from the Midwest who for years lived with a serial killer without suspecting anything. Where did all her wealth come from? And why would you torture yourself with reading all the comments the internet trolls post about you and your kids, if you really wanted to fully get away from your old life? Let alone accept letters from your monster ex-husband – really?

As I am writing this, I can hear my daughter’s frustrated voice in my head: “Mum, it’s FICTION!” and she is right. But I didn’t fully buy it, and I never managed to “get” Gwen. She talks a lot about her fears for her kids’ safety, but the emotion just wasn’t there for me. So perhaps my old cynical self doesn’t make the perfect audience for this story, especially when the end wasn’t an ending at all but simply a “to be continued” (don’t you hate that?). Unfortunately, I didn’t care enough about Gwen / Gina to feel compelled to pick up the next book and see how it will all end for her and her psychopath ex-husband. I’m sure there will be a lot of twists and turns and danger to Gwen / Gina and her kids before he gets his just deserts, but I’m not invested enough in any of the characters to spend four more hours finding out the details. Sorry! I know I am in the minority here, and that’s ok (you can’t win them all), but whilst I enjoyed parts of the book it’s probably not going to be a memorable read for me in the long run. 


All in all, Stillhouse Lake is a well written mystery with an original premise that will appeal to readers who love a serial killer story and are able to suspend disbelief (even a little bit). I wouldn’t classify it as a psychological thriller, as for me it lacked the necessary subtle tension and messing with my mind component, but with a good cat-and-mouse game and a strong female lead I am sure that many readers will find all the elements of danger and suspense they are looking for in an action thriller.

Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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