This was a buddy read with Sage. We were actually reading a book about vampires before this one, but since we both hated it, we decided life was too short to stick with a bad book and ended up reading STILLHOUSE LAKE instead. Whoa. What can I say about this book that hasn't been said by others already? It's a book that manages to be unique in a genre that's oversaturated by various tropes. Imagine if the love of your life turned out to be a very talented, very sadistic serial killer and you only found out by accident. That's what happens to Gina Royal when she's coming home with the kids one day to find the entire road to their house blocked off and surrounded by cops. A drunk driver crashed into their garage, revealing her husband's hidden murder haven.
Years later, Gina-- now Gwen-- is still scarred by that horrific revelation. Her husband's criminal trial has put her through hell and back, and even though he's now safely locked up, he still sends her mail to remind her that he hasn't forgotten. Neither have her enemies, who remain convinced that she was her husband's willing little helper. They stalk and harass her online, demanding blood and justice, forcing Gwen to jump from town to town with her kids to protect her from the online mobs.
Now, in a small, Southern lakeside town, it seems like Gwen may finally have found a safe haven. Nobody knows who she is, the neighbors mind their own business, and her kids are slowly starting to make friends. All of that goes up in smoke, though, when a body shows up in that pretty lake, killed in the exact same way that her husband used to murder his victims. And just like that, Gwen is thrown back under that white-hot spotlight, throwing herself and her kids in mortal peril.
I loved this book a lot. Rachel Caine is an author I'm familiar with because I loved her Weather Wardens series; it was one of the more original takes on the paranormal genre, back in the day. I was less fond of her vampire series (an understatement), but we all have our misses, and overall I really admired her ability to write. She seems to have really hit her stride with crime fiction. The pacing of this book was excellent and she really gives you a solid character to empathize with in Gwen. Poor Gwen. A page didn't go by when I ached for her. There are no easy answers in STILLHOUSE LAKE, and even though Gwen wasn't at fault for what her husband did, you, like her, are constantly shocked at what she was forced to do to survive, and the guilt that she must feel at being accidentally complicit. She was essentially the beard for her husband's crimes; the accessory to make him seem normal.
STILLHOUSE LAKE deals with a lot of tough concepts, like the charm and manipulation that make psychopaths so successful, the dangers of vigilante mob justice online, and guilt and survivalism and what the extremes of those look like. It's a fast-paced mystery novel that handles its subject with care, and it's got a kick-butt playlist in the back, too. (She did that with Weather Warden, as well, which introduced me to one of my favorite 80s songs, "Red Rain.") If you enjoy mystery/crime fiction, you'll really enjoy this book, especially if you like strong heroines who roll with the punches.
3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars