I've been working my way through the Stillhouse Lake series since around Thanksgiving. It is such an addictive series, and during multiple times throughout the story arc, I found myself literally unable to put the book down, desperate to know what happens next. These would make an excellent miniseries, I think. They have everything that makes up the formula for a successful book: tight-plotting, sympathetic characters, messed up villains, serial killers, cults, crime rings, and much, much more.
Gwen, the heroine, has certainly come a long way. In the first book, STILLHOUSE LAKE, she's very much the broken woman, trying to come to terms with her life after finding out that her husband-- the man she married and loved and had kids with-- was a gleefully sadistic serial killer. Not only that, but there are a number of people who refuse to believe her innocence, and will do anything they can do see her dead or jailed, at any cost.
In KILLMAN CREEK, things reach a fever pitch. Her husband is determined to get his revenge and Gwen and her children are thrown in the crossfire as the moves she makes to root out her husband end up uncovering the sick and very twisted schemes of powerful men with a taste for the cruel and taboo. In this book, everything Gwen built up in the last book is utterly dismantled, and she comes out of it at great cost.
It is, unquestionably, the best book of the four.
WOLFHUNTER RIVER definitely felt like a down-grade after KILLMAN. It glosses over a lot of the more unpleasant parts of KILLMAN, such as Gwen being betrayed by her two ungrateful children. Now, they're all one big happy family again-- except for the fact that an Anti-Gwen League is creating a documentary to show what a bad human being she is. Oh, and that freaks are coming out of the woodwork to call up Gwen about their own problems, including a mysterious woman from a place called Wolfhunter who says she's in serious danger but can't explain how or why.
Now, in BITTER FALLS, Gwen has moved up from phone calls to become a private detective. Her first lead is to follow up on a young man who disappears. What she unearths suggests the presence some truly depraved individuals using religion as the cross for their depravities-- and if you think that this won't drag Wolfhunter River and their sick shenanigans back into the mix, you would be wrong.
I really struggled with BITTER FALLS. I actually struggled with it the way a lot of my friends struggled with WOLFHUNTER (which I personally enjoyed). It feels like an unnecessary sequel, especially since the plot of this story is so similar to the previous book. All the stakes are gone, the Anti-Gwen League is just hinted at but provides no real threat. The only danger that really happens in this book happens because of stupidity, and because Gwen's two dumb children can't seem to stay in the good books for-- well-- more than one book at a time. I swear, the two of them owe Gwen so much groveling at this point. Also, I take issue with making Vee a tag-along main character, as seems to be the case from this book. She's TERRIBLE and I hate her. This whole book reads like fanfiction.
I'm not sure if I'll continue with the books after this, to be honest. Even though I managed to push myself through to the end to see what happened next, I kept comparing this book unfavorably to the three previous books in the series. Honestly, it would work really well as a duology, and if you have to read further, book three gives you all the closure you would need for Gwen and her post-Melvin life. I'm not sure how many more books this series could carry if it continues to pace like this.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars