Stillhouse Lake: Stillhouse Lake, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
An Amazon Charts and USA Today bestseller.
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.
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|Listening Length||10 hours and 4 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 01, 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #4,777 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#182 in Psychological Thrillers (Audible Books & Originals)
#223 in Women's Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#445 in Psychological Fiction (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2017
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Gwen used to be Gina, with a home, children, and a husband. Admittedly a husband who was a little bossy and needed his “alone time,” but they were happy. Not quite a perfect life, but pretty close. Until the day she comes home at a time she would normally be gone and finds a lot of commotion – policy activity – on her block. Activity that leads right to her garage where a car has gone out of control and broken through the wall - and interrupts her husband the serial killer in the middle of torturing a woman he has kidnapped. Not the first. Wow, can’t get a much bigger shock than that, can you? And nothing will ever be the same.
The police don’t believe Gina was as blissfully ignorant as she claims, but they have nothing to charge her with, so she’s free to get on with her life. What’s left of it. Because the general public doesn’t need proof to arrive at a guilty verdict and carry out a sentence, Gina and her children are trolled on the internet, threatened with physical violence in person and over the phone, and their home is vandalized. Freedom is subject to interpretation. So their life becomes going from town to town, job to job, school to school, and new identities to new identities. Nothing is permanent or normal, there is no future for her children other than just trying to make sure they survive.
The guilt and blame from the public are nothing compared to what Gwen puts on herself. How could she have been so blind; how could she have not known? How many of the deaths are her fault? How could she have let this monster in her life, in her arms, in her bed, let him hold her children?
But in the town of Stillhouse Lake they’ve kind of settled in. Until today, when a body is found in the lake and the threatening letters start arriving. That safe and secure help they thought they were getting? Maybe that helper has sold them out. Maybe her ex-husband has a very, very long reach from prison.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to analyze Stillhouse Lake and wonder how Gina the shy housewife could have become Gena the warrior mom. This book is propulsive, immersive, and exciting. Let it push you forward, pull you under, and suck you in. Go with it. Don’t think, just feel. When your heart stops pounding you’ll be glad you did.
I was sent a free book and am voluntarily leaving this honest review. All opinions are my own.
Meet Gina Royal from Wichita, Kansas. Gina never asked about the garage. That thought would keep her awake every night for years. “I should have asked. Should have known. But she had never asked. She didn’t know. In the end, that was what destroyed her.
Her husband, Mel was charming. Their children Brady and Lily. That day, her husband called with an emergency. She needed to pick up the kids. Mel loved their family life. His second-favorite thing: wood-working in his shop. More than wood-working going down in the garage.
“Normal life. Comfortable life. Not perfect, of course. Nobody had a perfect marriage, did they? But Gina was satisfied at least most of the time.”
However, that day when she arrived home there were police cars, an ambulance, and a fire truck. Their mailbox. Their lawn. Their house. An SUV had crashed into their garage. (Mel’s workshop). Before she knew what was happening Detective Salazar was arresting her.
They were victims. Someone had crashed into their home. Why were the cops mistreating her in front of her own children? This had to be a mistake. Embarrassing. The neighbors were taking videos. They would be uploaded to the internet.
Handcuffs. This could not be happening. She could not understand why someone was driving drunk and now she is being arrested.
The garage. The cops wondered if she knew about the garage. She does not park in the garage. Her husband was going to be upset.
However, the detective wants her to explain the life-size naked doll hanging from a hook in the center of the garage. Except, it was not a doll. It was real.
The day her life changed forever. Her husband was a serial killer.
Fast forward four years later.
Gwen Proctor and her children are living at Stillhouse Lake in Tennessee. Since leaving Wichita, they have changed their identity four times. The weak creature she had left behind. One who had aided and abetted; however, unconsciously. That woman is long dead and she does not mourn her.
Her kids are now Connor and Atlanta (Lanny for short). She has tried to keep them safe from predators and all the hate mail. Their father was a monster. The “good” father with a mask.
If it had not been for the drunk driver, their lives would have gone on the same. It was her fault his true depth of evil had been finally unmasked. He had taken out a storage locker in the name of her long-dead brother. The journal. Each victim had a section.
From abduction, torture, murder. The man will kill again.
There had been a trial. All the women. Mel had infected her like a virus. Then there was the hacker which goes by the name of Absalom. But he helped with the false identities. Finding them safe havens. He controls the online harassment. Strictly business. She pays him.
Ugly, cruel things about her and her children online. Like they had known was a monster Mel was. She keeps a gun. She will not let anyone hurt her kids or her ever again. Alarms, computers, security systems, burner phones. Their lives are spent looking over their shoulders. She is committed to their survival.
Absalom communicates with them (computer guy). Her husband writes letters. There is a mailing address elsewhere. How does he know where she is?
He writes from prison. He describes what he will do to her if given the chance. He’s inventive. Descriptive. Repellently direct. Mel is a contagious, fatal disease.
People think she is guilty. His hobby. The garage. Little did she know what he was doing in the garage and what he was hiding. She knew he used bleach, but it was always a logical reason. She had believed every word.
Then there is a murder at Stillhouse Lake.
The rustic retreat. Upper-middle-class families. Second homes. A woman weighed down. The description sounds familiar to Mel’s victims. Does it have anything to do with Mel’s crimes? Murder practically at her front door?
She owes her children a stable upbringing and safety. From trading cars to houses, always on the move.
Mel had liked his stupid games. “Breath Play.” Cords around her neck. She hated it. She had seen something dark. She had refused. He had never choked her hard enough to pass out, but close. Little did she know while he was starving her for oxygen during sex, he was imagining his women in the garage, fighting the noose as he raised and lowered them off the ground.
He was using her to play out his murders. Chilling and sickening.
Now she had to protect her family with more than a gun. Mentally, emotionally, and logically. She cannot trust anyone. She must break the trail.
Sam Cade. He is new to town. He is supposed to do some work on the house. They both have secrets.
She has money that was Mel’s escape money. The inheritance from his parents’ estate; in the storage shed. It had been a year before she was acquitted. She had spent it on their safety, shelter, and identities before Stillhouse Lake. For their new life.
Slowly she learns to trust Sam Cade and her son likes him. Even Lanny (with her goth and edge). Her son wants to be an architect so he and Sam hit it off. She wants to fall for this guy, but she is cautious. However, does he have a hidden agenda?
Gina has a mailing service. Mel writes her. He has seen her and Sam at the lake house. How is this possible?
She must go to the prison and confront the monster.
From Javier, Sam, Absalom, Lance Graham, Detective Prester— whom can she trust? Enemy or ally?
“Mel is worse than a monster. He’s a smart monster. Mel disposed of women in the water. Now, one trusts her.
Another dead girl found floating in the lake.
People are learning about her past. She will be arrested and she will lose her kids. Her murdering ex-husband. Who is doing this? Who else is keeping secrets? Does Gwen (Gina) have a stalker?Has she fallen for a serial killer twice?
Now there are horrible words on their windows. A life she cannot escape. She has to fix it. But how. The safe room. Threats. Has Mel broken out of death row and someone made his way to Stillhouse Lake without a soul seeing him?
Someone has her kids. . . She needs help, but whom can she trust?
The suspense is riveting! Nerve-racking, heart-pounding! Does Mel have followers? (Mel reminds me of Joe Carroll - The Following - when watching I have to keep one eye closed)
Highly recommend the audiobook narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith (Narrator) for an outstanding and entertaining performance. I purchased the book and audio version.
I can see why STILLHOUSE LAKE has received rave reviews and included in the Goodreads Opening Round of Best Mystery and Thriller as well as climbing the Amazon charts.
So excited to receive an ARC of #2 Stillhouse Lake, Killman Creek (currently reading), coming Dec 12, 2017. For fans of psychological thrillers—compelling, well-written, and twisty plots. Love the covers and titles. With #2, we catch up with Gwen. Mel has escaped from prison with the warning: “You’re not safe anywhere now.” JDCMustReadBooks
Top reviews from other countries
The book starts with a bang, a woman's corpse stripped of its skin is discovered, and from then on we follow the story of Gwen Proctor, formally Gina "Melvin's Little Helper" Royal. Gina was married to Melvin Royal, the person responsible for the corpse. The story follows Gina as she tries to pick up the pieces and move on with her life with her kids, Atlanta "Lanny" and Connor. The book is very descriptive and wordy, and it keeps things tense without much actually going on in the first half. I found myself putting it down several times (life gets in the way!) and thinking about what was going to happen next with Gwen.
What I'm unsure of, is the level of Internet abuse Gwen got (the Sicko Patrol). At first I thought it's a bit too far fetched, but then I properly thought about it, about how people use the Internet to form vigilante groups and spout hate because it's all too easy. Then it came to me that actually, what Gwen was going through was probably a true reflection of what someone in her position in real life would go through. It's far too easy to troll on the Internet. And it can be devastating. It's lucky Gwen has reinvented herself as a stronger woman with a thicker skin to deal with it, anyone with a weaker personality that didn't have the ability to switch off the computer and shut down, almost compartmentalise, would cave.
I enjoyed this book. The second half really picked up in pace and I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed Gwen's interaction with Sam Cade, her children and especially Javier (the gun range owner). I hope he features in the second book, and I hope Sam does too.
What let this down, for me, is that it could've ended at this book. It was perfectly acceptable to have this as a stand alone novel, and it didn't need the extra bit at the end for the second book. That being said, I have pre-ordered the second book, so the author must have done something right, as I am looking forward to seeing how Gwen's battle continues.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes a good psychological thriller, and anyone that likes a strong female lead, also anyone who likes crime books may find this a good read, too.
I give it 3* because of the unneeded twist and second novel which really disappointed me because I didn't feel it needed one. If it wasn't for that, I would give it 5* without hesitation.
Unless you’re prepared to totally suspend reality for a few hours, I’d give this so-called ‘thriller’ a very wide berth. The basic premise of the plot is wholly unconvincing and the contrived ‘coincidences’ woven in to sustain it downright implausible.
When her husband is convicted as a serial killer (he was mutilating and murdering young women in the garage attached to the family home), Gina Royal aka Gwen Proctor is forced to go on the run with her 2 kids, even although she has been acquitted of being an accomplice (she apparently had no idea what was going on right under her nose!). Vigilante groups and Internet trolls are after them (really?), and they have to keep changing identities and moving on, or risk being discovered.
They live in constant fear and are obsessive about security. Their latest home has a panic room, and Gina/Gwen has guns hidden in strategic places throughout the house (yup, suburban mom turned ace markswoman). As luck would have it (yeah, right), a former troll has taken pity on them and become a valuable ally: ‘Absolom’ monitors the dark web for any mentions of the family in revenge forums and alerts them to danger (what a star!). Conveniently, he’s also the one who provides them with their new IDs from time to time ...
Honestly, this wasn’t just unbelievable ; it was plain silly! I finally gave up after 80 pages.
Thanks for reading my review. I hope you found it helpful. You can find more candid book reviews on my Amazon profile page.
I decided to listen to this on audio, Emily Sutton-Smith is a fabulous narrator. I’ll definitely look out for her in the future.
I have tried reading crime thrillers in the past but I never took to them. As soon as I saw Rachel had written a series like this I knew I wanted to read it because I absolutely love her writing, and I was not disappointed.
This book tells the story of a family who have to change their way of life, live under false identities, move constantly, never settling, and never feeling safe, all because Gina was married to a serial killer.
Melvin is warped, so are his followers, and so are the people on sicko patrol who torment her, and her children online. Grief, horror, disgust, disbelief, it doesn’t matter, nothing excuses what they posted about her, and the kids, what they threatened. People like them deserve to be in prison alongside her husband.
When the body shows up at the lake once Gwen finally feels comfortable enough to make roots, that’s when you really start looking at everyone she’s been in contact with. Trusting people becomes more difficult for Gwen and as a reader you’re left suspecting everyone.
I had to stop listening to this a few times, it was intense, and I wasn’t prepared for it to end. It was shocking, twisted, and absolutely brilliant. I cannot wait to continue with this series. Rachel is one of my favourite authors, and she never disappoints.
I’m going to go have a strong cup of tea now and try to truly process that ending.
I confess to approaching Stillhouse Lake with caution knowing of the authors long association with urban fantasy novels which is not a genre that appeals to me in the slightest. Thankfully though, Stillhouse Lake is a straight up thriller devoid of paranormal elements and with a grandstand finish that stays very much on terra firma, well apart from the odd body turning up in the lake that is! The premise of the novel is outrageously over the top and amusingly far-fetched, and along with the melodramatic prologue I nearly gave up on outset! However, within the course of a few short pages I was hooked: admittedly, the writing is frankly overwrought and certainly won’t win any literary prizes, with each and every event dramatically accentuated, but the one woman warrior that was formerly known as Gina Royal is impossible not to warm too. Caine’s intentions are obvious from the outset - this is high drama thriller with an all too-predictable denouement, paving the way for a follow-up and a no doubt shocking return with Killman Creek.
From the opening which sees unsuspecting Midwestern housewife and mother of two, Gina Royal, return home to discover a drunk driver has careered through her garage in Wichita, Kansas to the arrival of the police and the swift repercussions for her and her two children, Stillhouse Lake is a breakneck fight for survival. Gina acknowledges that her marriage to Melvin isn’t always perfect, yet she is largely happy and values her man who loves his family time, woodworking, lemon cookies and hates to put her out! Her rose-tinted view of the marriage smacks of suburban 1950s wives and settling for the first man who showed her any attention at high school, yet with two children she believes they are a happy family. But Mel isn’t quite so perfect because the car crashing through the garage reveals his sideline in serial killing and his predilection for abducting, torturing and flaying the bodies of multiple young women and weighing them down in water to ensure they remained undiscovered. A shocked Gina was subsequently arrested, imprisoned and sent to trial as a supposed accessory to Mel (Melvin’s Little Helper as the internet trolls renamed her) and despite her acquittal and the subsequent four-years of running, changing identities and protecting her kids, she is still fleeing the stalkers who want her dead and the menace of controlling Melvin, from his place of Death Row in El Dorado prison. Despite Gina’s innocence and frankness with the cops, mud sticks and as they say, there is no smoke without fire, hence the niggling doubt as to her innocence amongst everybody she comes into contact with. Gina Royal is running scared: from the internet trolls and from the depraved sycophants who worship Mel and would love to bring her down too, and when you can’t even trust the law enforcement guys, fear takes a whole different level. Gina Royal might have nothing left to live for, but she is damned well sure that Mel won’t ever destroy her kids lives, ten-year-old Lily and seven-year-old Brady.
After a deluge of abuse, addresses being doxed and new identities disclosed, Gina Royal has been forced to reinvent herself and is rightly paranoid and this novel throbs with a discernible tension. Now going by the name of Gwen Proctor, no one is better placed than she to appreciate just how it has changed her children and destroyed their fragile childhoods. With a permit to carry, a safe room in her house, to the daily checking of the online ‘Sicko Patrol’, everything she does is in the best interests of her children who can smell her anxiety. But in remote Stillhouse Lake, Tennessee, Gwen and the kids (now known as Lanny and Connor) are finally making a new life for themselves and things are starting to look up, but working out who they can trust and which, if any, of their new neighbours they have reason to fear is fraught with difficulty. With an array of shadowy figures in and around the locality, Rachel Caine ensure her readers cross-question the action and body language of everyone they meet, from Javier at the shooting range to the mysterious Sam Cade, a strong and silent ex-military man renting a nearby cottage who forms a tentative friendship with Gwen and her children. As the threatening correspondence from am imprisoned Mel implies that he has once again successfully tracked her down and the body of a young girl turns up in the Stillhouse Lake, prepare for things to get very uncomfortable and with all the hallmarks of the modus operandi of Melvin Royal, all eyes start to turn on his former wife. When clearing her name is entwined with finding the real murderer, the risk to reward ratio is stacked odds against Gwen and her instincts are to run like hell, but when the choice of taken out of her hands she finds herself fighting for survival..
Fantastically over the top, everything is done to excess with Gwen having a buried geocached stock of new identities, all provided at a very exorbitant price courtesy of troll turned online protector, Absalom. From running background checks on everyone who comes into the families contact to her multiple security cameras keeping watch on the house, prepare to suspend a large chunk of disbelief for Gwen has acquired a multitude of defence mechanisms. Admittedly Gwen does make some questionable decisions and a rod for her own back on occasions, but with the cops realistically unsympathetic attitude towards her and the kids situation, it is no wonder that she is loathe to trust anyone.
With the first half of the novel focusing on how the Royal turned Proctor family have had to adapt to life after Mel’s imprisonment, readers are introduced to the wealth of precautions they have instituted and Caine conveys how this has affected their personalities and outlook. In this sense there is little actual substance to the story, more a gradual show and tell unfolding. Midway through with the discovery of the body in Stillhouse Lake the novel shifts to an all out action thriller. Some well drawn characters feature and although I would normally avoid pages of prose that detail far-fetched chase and pursuit capers, the characters had won me over and I was invested by then. With the denouement serving as a hook to the follow-up story, Killman Creek, given that I now care about the characters and was highly entertained by Stillhouse Lake I suspect that I will contemplate a return visit.
Nothing deep, meaningful or ultimately credible, but boy this was fast and fun! Excellent eye-rolling escapism - pure and simple!
Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
Stillhouse Lake is a modern tale of stalking and trolls. This novel is from the point of view of an innocent victim of internet and telephone abuse. This is a serious global problem and Rachel has made a thriller out of it.
I enjoyed reading Stillhouse Lake and loved its format, a first person narrative with a linear time frame. I loved the strong character development of Gina and her two children. I loved the rural setting and all the steps Gina took to hide her past. I liked the plot and how it made suspicions about all the people living close to Stillhouse Lake.
I found this novel an entertaining and interesting read. It is similar to many “cabin-by-the-lake” films but is still a solid GOOD 4 star read.