“Stillhouse Lake” by Rachel Caine

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Mel infected me like a virus, and I have an unhealthy surety deep down that I’ll never get completely well again.”

This book was unexpectedly good — gripping, tense and wonderfully suspenseful. I don’t usually read many thrillers, but books like this are enough to redeem that genre for me. The audiobook hours flew by, and I loved it.

“Gwen Proctor is the fourth identity I’ve had since leaving Wichita. Gina Royal lies dead in the past; I’m not that woman anymore. In fact, I can hardly recognize her now, that weak creature who’d submitted, pretended, smoothed over every ripple of trouble that rose.”

Gina’s comfortable suburban life gets turned upside down in a horrifying turn of events when she discovers one day that her husband Mel is a sadistic serial killer. Tried as an accomplice and then acquitted, she’s on the run from psychos that still believe she used to be the monster’s “little helper”, trying to protect her children from harm. Four years later, she’s living as Gwen Proctor, a tough woman without any illusions, always in the state of perpetual alert. But as she comes to Stillhouse Lake, she finds a place where she feels she may be able to at least temporarily settle down. That is, until a couple of dead women surface – literally – and everything points at Gwen.

“In the morning, there’s another girl floating dead in the lake.”

But it’s not the murders that are the focus of this story. Instead it’s a justified paranoia of Gwen that anxiously keeps you on the edge and reminds you constantly how absolutely insane her life has become because of taint by association and a bunch of people blinded by hatred and revenge, aided by easy internet anonymity. The hatred that does not spare anyone, even children. The hatred that blindly and obsessively demands blood.

Gwen Proctor’s narrative voice was delightful. She’s tough, smart and disillusioned — and I really wanted her to succeed, to force the world to give her and her children something most of us take for granted: safety and presumption of innocence. She is afraid to trust anyone. She’s been fighting so hard and has been strung so tightly you know she’s this close to snapping.

“Gina’s long dead, and I don’t mourn her. I feel so distant that I wouldn’t recognize the old me if I passed her on the street. I’m glad I’ve escaped a hell I had hardly even recognized when I was burning in it. Glad that I’ve pulled the kids out, too.”

But have you really escaped, Gwen? And will you ever? With that ending, the answer is yet to come.

4 stars.

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