Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release: July 1st 2017
Warnings: Torture/murder, mentions of rape
I’ve read Rachel Caine’s fantasy series, and I liked them decently. I always thought something was missing though, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with Stillhouse Lake, as it is her first foray into the thriller genre. I’ve got to say, she found what was missing in her previous novels. Stillhouse Lake is everything I would expect from a thriller novel, and I can safely say that readers will not be disappointed. That being said, I feel it’s important to mention (spoiler alert) that the novel does in fact end with a cliffhanger. I didn’t find it to be an agonizing one, but many readers may not be happy with a cliffhanger for an ending, so be aware of it if you’re debating about this for a read.
Warnings first: If you’ve read the description of this novel, you’ll know that Mel Royal is a monster, and he did things that only a monster would do. These things include rape and murder. Neither are seen/done by the main perspective, but they are mentioned. There’s also some mention of uncomfortable sexual experiences between Mel and his wife, the main character. She didn’t call what happened sexual assault, but considering she didn’t want what he did – I would argue that it is exactly that.
I was immediately drawn into the life of Gina Royal. In just one moment, her life and the lives of her children were changed forever. An accident caused Mel Royal’s horrible secret to be revealed to the world, a secret Gina didn’t know about. Nobody but her children believe that Gina didn’t know about it (and this is likely because they didn’t know either). When the public and the victim’s families started to get too threatening, Gina took her children and ran with them (after she was acquitted on all charges – she did not run as a guilty woman, at least not in the eyes of the law). She changed their names, hers becoming Gwen Proctor eventually (after many moves and name changes).
As first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the concept: a wife on the run from internet strangers who were furious about her connection to a malicious murderer. One whom she happened to be married to, but had no idea of what he had been doing? It’s a bit of a hard sell, I’ll give you that. But it was hard not to feel for Gina/Gwen and her children. At a certain point you just start rooting for them, even (perhaps especially) when you know that everyone around them is going to suspect first and ask questions later. It was oddly compelling.
I think what I loved the most was not the threat that Mal presented (in jail, he didn’t feel terribly threatening to me, at least not right away). It was the threat of all the people online; the ones who felt she got away with murder (literally), the ones that felt they had the right to fix what the law failed to recognize. The ones that were okay with vigilante justice. It was an interesting twist on the whole thing, one I greatly enjoyed.
As for the cliffhanger? I didn’t love that part, and I would like to see what happens next, obviously. I don’t think it’ll turn me off fro reading the rest, but maybe a longer wait for the sequel will change my opinion on that matter, cliffhangers can do that sometimes.