After reading this I am going to be on high alert-code orange, for any signs my darling husband is a deranged serial killer.
I mean, he has a serious deep-rooted hate for bunnies, so that’s got to be red flag number one. All I need now is to find a locked room in our house that I’m never allowed to go in, and it’s all but basically confirmed. I’m going to have to kill him.
But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine is a different twist on the usual serial killer thriller. This time the killer is behind bars and the star is his ex-wife.
For the duration of their marriage, Gina Royal had no idea her seemingly doting father of a husband, Melvin, was stringing women up in the garage and doing things with the skin (Hannibal Lecter shoutout!) until a drunk driver rams into their house and reveals his last victim.
Usually, that kind of coincidental happenstance to bring about an event comes across as cheap to me, but the sheer drama of the reveal was so unexpected that it worked and was a perfect hook to open this thriller up. No one reads about a body hanging in a garage and thinks, nah this isn’t really exciting. Next!
Years later, Melvin is on deathrow and Gina, along with her two children, have been on the run – new I.D.s, new cities, never settling – because of determined internet trolls who believe Gina knew exactly what her husband’s after work hobby was. To them, she’s guilty of his crimes as well, and has escaped justice. She must be punished as well.
“I’m not on the run from the law. Just from the lawless.”
I will admit this part of the story – which was a pretty big element – was kind of ridiculous. Granted, I don’t have any experience with being the wife of a serial killer (that I know of), and I’ve never been affected by internet doxing or the dark web, but I feel like I’ve witnessed the internet’s wrath with some regularity – that dentist who shots a lion, that white woman who thinks she’s black. And I’ve witnessed the general public’s wrath towards women who escape the justice some feel is warranted. Casey Anthony, Karla Homolka.
The internet has a mighty fury, but also a short attention span.
Casey Anthony sure as shit isn’t running from state to state trying to escape her internet stalkers. Bitch is just laying low, getting away with murder – you know, living her best life.
So, excuse me if I find it a little bit too far fetched that Gwen Proctor has been on the run for years and the internet’s fury had been consistently unrelenting in the most vicious possible way.
“…female accomplices are hated so much more. It’s a toxic stew of misogyny and self-righteous fury, and the simple, delicious fact that it’s okay to destroy the woman, where it’s not okay to destroy others.”
Gwen thinks she’s finally found safe haven, at least for a little while, in a quiet Tennessee town. The kids are making friends, coming out of their shells, finally feeling relaxed enough to attempt some connections. Gwen herself has even made a friend, someone she might be able to confide in. But, of course, just when things are feeling alright for the first time in a long time, a body turns up in the lake right outside her house – a woman killed using the same signature of Dear Melvin. And suddenly the life Gwen had just only just dared to cultivate, begins to unravel at breakneck pace and she scrambles to keep her kids safe and her secrets buried.
In letting go the ridiculous parts, this was a thumbs up book for me.
Gwen’s dedication to the safety of her children – so much so that it often made her do crazy things – was turned up to the perfect temperature. Her struggle with flight or fight was too real. You want to protect your kids, but is it really protecting them if they never have the semblance of a normal life? Can you run forever? What happens if you stay and fight, but lose? Who can you trust when everyone hates you?
I will say that if I had to hear MY CHILDREENNN!!!!! from Gwen one more time I might have barfed.
The atmosphere, the setting and tension of Stillhouse Lake was A+. Though I did find it a little slow for the first 40% – which I chalk up to an over-explanation of how Gwen was running away and what her “routines” were. But once you get passed that point, there is no return. There is never a moment of calm again. As Smashmouth says, the shit starts coming, and it don’t stop coming.
Okay, that might not be the exact lyric but how can you pass up a chance to include Smashmouth in a book review?
Gwen’s character development went exactly the way you wanted it to. You know by the end that she’s definitely not a victim any longer.
“…everyone runs from the monster. Everyone except the monster slayer…”
Bonus: it ends in my favourite way possible…a cliffhanger!!!!!
It’s suspense right up to the very last sentence.
book source: Thomas & Mercer via Netgalley in exchange for a review