Rachel Caine and her main character Gwen Proctor know how to create tight-as-a-drum tension throughout this series based in rural Tennessee. In the first book, Gwen moves to Stillhouse Lake, near the small town of Norton, TN after leaving a long string of other places. Yes, she’s been on the run, but not because of her own criminal past. She’s the ex-wife of Melvin Royal, a convicted death row inmate who killed countless women in repulsive ways. Problem is, those crimes happened in his workshop—attached to their house. And people just can’t believe she wasn’t involved, even though she was acquitted of charges leveled on her.
Gwen is also protecting her young teen kids, Atlanta (Lanny) and Connor. She’s fierce as a mama lion and wants them to be safe but also to have a relatively normal life. Which isn’t easy when you move and change names at the drop of the hat. But Gwen hopes things are under control and that they can stay in Stillhouse Lake.
Unfortunately, the huge host of Internet trolls think the Proctors don’t deserve that. And these trolls have been getting closer and braver as time passes. Plus, Melvin doesn’t want to let go. Basically, the world goes to hell in a hand basket for Gwen and the kids.
The main reason I like this series is the way Caine pulls Gwen into the worst situations. They’re honestly unspeakable, which can be tough for characters (and readers) to swallow. Despite everything life throws at her, Gwen is a strong, resilient woman who won’t let the bogeymen get her. Even so, there’s always something worse around the corner and she just can’t catch a break.
Caine knows how to balance the careening plot line with good character development. Gwen works hard to build a small support group among the people of Norton. But it’s never 100% clear which side these folks are really on. But as we get to know them all, we understand their back story and motivations.
I held my breath from beginning to end of the first book, Stillhouse Lake. And the tension didn’t let up in book two, Killman Creek. I rarely read two series books in a row, but these grabbed me and haven’t let go. Once I finished Stillhouse putting Killman off wasn’t an option. And—spoiler alert—I’m listening to book three right now. The series is just that good. Plus, it’s an invaluable distraction from real-life stress.
I recommend this series to all-around thriller fans. It’s part psychological, somewhat procedural, and fully edge-of-your-seat excitement.
Pair with other books in the series because you won’t be able to stop.