I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
by Rachel Caine
Released: December 12th 2017
Series: Stillhouse Lake #2
Published by Thomas & Mercer
“It’s the kind of book you clutch a little to hard as you stare, barely blinking, at the pages dying to know what the hell is going to happen next.”
~ Under the Covers
Melvin Royal has escaped prison and he’s got one thing on his mind: getting to his ex-wife, the woman who he still believes is his, his to control, his to torment. His to kill. Gwen is sick of being hunted, of moving around, moving her kids around, it’s time for the hunter to become the hunted. Gwen is determined to track down Melvin and those aiding him before he gets to her. However, the people assisting Melvin are more dangerous and part of something far larger than she imagined, it seems like they may all be pawns in a larger game.
If you read because you want to chill out with your latest book and relax, then I wouldn’t bother picking up Killman Creek. It’s not something you sit back and relax with. It’s the kind of book you clutch a little to hard as you stare, barely blinking, at the pages dying to know what the hell is going to happen next. It’s not ideal for chilling out. I loved it. Caine has created a tense and at times gut wrenching read that is truly addictive.
Stillhouse Lake did a fantastic job of setting the characters and the story up, in this book Caine utilises this to unleash the hell that is Melvin Royal on Gwen and her family. It was intense and creepy as, even from afar, he manages to play mind games on every member of the family. We get to see how it affects them all in different ways as we get this story from not just Gwen’s POV but from Lanny, Connor and Sam as well. This all combines to give us an emotional book, there were times when I wanted to cry right along with them as the odds stack up and there seems to be no way out.
I continue to love this series, Rachel Caine has offered a thriller that isn’t just dry and dusty police procedure, but an intense experience of ups and downs. The terror of not knowing who your friends are and who you can trust. So if you like your thrillers with an edge and you aren’t looking to relax, I highly recommend you pick this one up.
NOTE FROM RACHEL CAINE: this is a little section told from Sam’s POV as he and Gwen are hunting down clues to Melvin’s whereabouts. You’ll get Gwen, Sam, Lanny and Connor points of view in this book, since each of them is on a separate journey, both physically and emotionally …
“What time in the morning do you want to get up?” Gwen asks me. Her voice sounds a little tight. Nerves. It’s a normal enough question, but it feels like something you ask a spouse, or a lover, and we both feel the implication hanging in the air. I walk to my bed, take the clip-on holster from the back of my jeans, and put it on the bedside table. Gwen’s shoulder holster is already hooked over the bedpost, like a particularly edgy piece of bondage gear.
Yeah, maybe don’t go that way, I tell myself. I lean over and start unlacing my boots.
“Seven’s early enough,” I tell her. “Or whatever time the werewolves attack.”
“I think we’re more in zombie territory,” she says. She’s sitting cross-legged on top of the covers, but she gets up, folds back the sheets, checks for bugs, and then crawls in. “Okay, well, good night.” Sounds awkward. Feels the same.
My second boot hits the floor. I move them under the nightstand, in easy grabbing distance if I need them, and lean back against the pillows. The mattress is lumpy and tired. It matches my mood. “Good night, Gwen.” It sounds ridiculous.
We’re both silent for a long few seconds. The laughter starts deep in my guts, as ridiculous and infectious as shaken champagne, and when I can’t help it anymore, I let it out.
Gwen laughs, too. It feels good, cleansing, and in the aftermath, even the drab room seems brighter. “Sorry,” I finally manage. “It just seems so polite. Fuck, we’re adults, aren’t we? Why is this so . . .”
“Good question,” she says, rolling over on her side to look at me. It silences the last of my laughter. “Why is it?”
“You know why,” I tell her.
“Just once, I’d like to hear you say it.”
“Because there are dead people standing between us,” I say, and instantly, all that brightness is gone, and the truth is so frightening that it feels like a ghost, sending my skin into shivers and goose bumps. “My sister, for a start.”
She doesn’t flinch from it. “And all those women I should have been able to help. Even Melvin’s half brother—he committed suicide, did you know that? Between the small-town shunning and the Internet basement heroes, he couldn’t take it anymore.” She swallows, and I wish I hadn’t started this now. “The last post he put up on his social media said that it was my fault, that if I’d been a good enough wife, Melvin wouldn’t have—”
“That’s bullshit,” I interrupt. I sound angry, and I don’t mean to. “It was never your fault. Blaming you was just petty.” I let a second go by. Then another, because I’m standing on the precipice of admitting something I never intended to. I take the plunge. “I tracked Melvin’s brother. Just like I tracked you. I knew where he lived. I knew where all of you lived.”
Gwen freezes, and I can see that she hesitates. She doesn’t really want to ask, but as always, she doesn’t turn away, either. “Did you send him hate mail, Sam?”
I’m staring at the irregular, rusty water stain on the ceiling. It looks like Australia. My hesitation lasts too long before I work up the courage to say, “Yeah, I did. I sent some to you, too. Seemed easy, at the time. Felt like justice. But all it was doing was destroying you in slow motion, one envelope at a time. And I’m sorry for that, God, Gwen, I’m sorry.”
My voice sounds painfully raw on that last, and I know she can hear that. And know that it’s as genuine as the laughter that started this.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Gwen stand up. She sits on the edge of my bed and takes my hand. In a Hollywood movie, the music would come up, we’d kiss, and all of a sudden, passion would explode and there’d be some soft-porn montage, all gold-lit skin and awkward angles.
But this is real, and it hurts, and instead of that, I just tell her, half in a whisper, about the hate I used to feel. It’s like lancing an infected wound. I tell her about how I obsessed about exacting bloody justice. It isn’t romantic. It’s appalling. But as with the laughter, when it’s done, there’s a strangely clean feeling in the air.
She squeezes my hand at the end and says, “You were hating him all that time. Not me. At least now we’ve both set our targets right.”
There’s a rare grace in what she’s just done. It’s forgiveness, and pity, and understanding, and without even thinking about it, I move her hand to my mouth and gently kiss her fingers. I could sketch every inch of her from memory. The shape of her hand is burned on mine in tactile perfection.
I let her go. I don’t say anything. I can’t.
Gwen waits for a few seconds, and when I don’t move, she goes back to her bed. I hear the covers rustle. Dark takes over when she switches off the light.
I sleep badly, and my dreams are haunted by a figure jumping from the roof of a six-story building in downtown Topeka. I’d read the newspaper articles about the suicide. Melvin’s brother had gone to work, dressed in a brand-new suit. He’d walked up to the roof and removed his tie and shoes. He’d left them in a neat arrangement with his watch, wallet, and a letter apologizing to his boss for the mess before stepping off the roof on a cloudless June day, two years ago.
But when I see the face of the man in my dreams as he falls, it’s not Melvin’s brother.
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