Review: Stillhouse Lake

Review: Stillhouse Lake

Title: Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1)

Author: Rachel Caine

Published: July 1, 2017 by Thomas & Mercer

Kindle edition, 302 pages

Genre: Thriller, contemporary fiction

Goodreads | Amazon



It’s a beautiful day here in snowy Michigan, absolutely perfect for curling up with a good book (or three) in front of the fire.  If you’re looking for something to keep you glued to the pages while snuggling under the warmest of blankets, look no further than Stillhouse Lake.



From the publisher: 

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.


My review:

This is not the first book by Rachel Caine that I’ve read.  I’ve read 4 or 5 of hers and had completely different reactions each time. Caine is an author that writes a wide variety of fiction: YA, fantasy, romance, paranormal, and now adult thrillers.  I honestly was not sure what to expect with Stillhouse Lake.


I picked up this book while I was home sick last week.  I was on Day 2 of Something Nasty and I just couldn’t sleep anymore, so I figured I would start on a book that needed to go back to the library and the worst thing that would happen is that I would fall asleep anyway.  Well, that did NOT happen.  I started Stillhouse Lake and only got up off the couch to let the dog out and get more tea and tissues. I was hooked from the brutal opening scene.


“Gina never asked about the garage. 

That thought would keep her awake every night for years after, pulsing hot against her eyelids. I should have asked. Should have known. But she’d never asked, she didn’t know, and in the end, that was what destroyed her.”


I’ve read a lot of serial killer novels.  I’ve read a lot of thriller and mysteries.  This one started with a killer hook and ramped up throughout the entire story.  I loved that Caine switched up the focus from the cat-and-mouse game of whodunit and instead took a close examination at the aftermath the killer’s family. After Melvin Royal is arrested on multiple counts of murder, suspicion is thrown on his wife.  How did she not know?  Did she help him? After being exonerated by the courts, Gina Royal become Gwen Proctor and she transforms her family to protect them for whatever comes next.


“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.” 


The most compelling part was Gina/Gwen’s utter focus and drive to do whatever it takes to take care of her family.  Her complete and utter focus on her family while being constantly scared out of her mother-freaking mind made me root for her while she tried to balance being the best mom she could be with shielding them from what’s out there.  Because no matter how many times she says she’s innocent, internet trolls think that vigilante justice is all that Mel’s family deserves.  There are a lot of sick bastards out there, but it’s not always the ones that are behind bars that are the worst.


“But I’ve kept them safe from the wolves, at least: the most basic and important job of a parent, to keep her offspring from being eaten by predators. Even the ones I can’t see.” 


The technical details of the story were tidy and professional. The setting of the story was well captured.  It was well described and perfectly situated for the plot.  Caine’s pacing of both the writing and the story were spot-on. She captured the tension with her clear story-telling.


I have found Caine’s work to be hit or miss for me, but she excelled in Stillhouse Lake. It was easily one of the best mystery/thrillers I’ve read in a while.  Caine balanced closing out the story in a satisfying way while still hooking you in to read the next one.  I’m already looking forward to devouring it and I’m certainly not waiting for a sick day to do so.


Grade: A-/4.5 stars

Suggested drink pairing: A hot toddy, heavy on the whiskey


Buy your copy on amazon here:

About the author:


Rachel Caine’s rich, diverse bibliography of more than 50 books in print covers many categories and genres. She started out writing horror and fantasy as Roxanne Longstreet (Stormriders, The Undead, Red Angel, Cold Kiss, Slow Burn) before switching to the name Roxanne Conrad and publishing romantic suspense and mystery (Copper Moon, Bridge of Shadows, Exile). By 2003, she began to publish under her current pseudonym, specializing in urban fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal young adult fiction.

She has been writing original fiction since the age of fourteen, and professionally published since 1991. She graduated from Socorro High School in El Paso Texas (where she was a UIL all-state champion in music and journalism) and went on to earn an accounting degree from Texas Tech University. She played professionally as a musician for several years once out of college, but ultimately gave up the music for writing.

She’s had a varied “day job” career, including web design, graphic arts, accounting, payroll management, insurance investigation, and (most recently) corporate communications and crisis management. (It all counts as research.)

Rachel loves reading, writing, and mild amounts of arithmetic when required … but she has a special place in her heart for history, music, and science, and you’ll find those themes in many of her works.


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