Author: Rachel Caine
Series: Stillhouse Lake, #2
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Publication Date: December 12, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨ (4.5 stars)
Every time Gwen closed her eyes, she saw him in her nightmares. Now her eyes are open, and he’s not going away.
Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text…
You’re not safe anywhere now.
Her refuge at Stillhouse Lake has become a trap. Gwen leaves her children in the protective custody of a fortified, well-armed neighbor. Now, with the help of Sam Cade, brother of one of Melvin’s victims, Gwen is going hunting. She’s learned how from one of the sickest killers alive.
But what she’s up against is beyond anything she feared—a sophisticated and savage mind game calculated to destroy her. As trust beyond her small circle of friends begins to vanish, Gwen has only fury and vengeance to believe in as she closes in on her prey. And sure as the night, one of them will die.
“We’re not hiding,” I tell him. “We’re hunting.”
I am so in love with this series. Killman Creek is an incredibly strong follow-up to Stillhouse Lake, which was a one-sitting read that reminded me just how much crazy, heart-pounding fun a well written thriller can be. This next installment is just as un-put-down-able, and within pages I was again swept up into Gwen Proctor’s world as she decides to face her worst nightmare head-on.
Again, the premise is intriguing, centered around a family that has been to hell and back thanks to the machinations of Melvin Royal, the convicted serial killer they once knew as a loving husband and father. Following his escape from prison at the end of the previous novel, Gwen Proctor vows to hunt him down before he can get to her first. She’s no longer the naïve Gina Royal who had no idea of the atrocities unfolding in her own garage – she’s a force to be reckoned with, especially against anyone who dares threaten her children.
What I love most about how Rachel Caine has crafted this series is the careful balancing of non-stop pacing and character-driven plot. The narrative alternates between the perspectives of Gwen, Lanny, and Connor Proctor, as well as Sam Cade, which is a surprising but much-enjoyed deviation from the first book, told solely by Gwen. I found it so easy to connect with each of them, even when the action was at its peak.
My heart has ached for Lanny and Connor’s stolen childhoods since the start of Stillhouse Lake, and they each have great coming-of-age arcs in this story, battling different identity crises and protecting different secrets while still trying to hold together the tattered threads of their family.
Sam’s perspective was also a treat. I’ve been fascinated by his complicated relationship with Gwen since his true motives were unearthed in the first book. They’re constantly on the precipice of becoming something more but still so haunted by the past that simultaneously ties them together and threatens to tear them apart. Their ups and downs are written just beautifully, and I found their near misses to be poignant and realistic.
Finally, Gwen is very much the wonderful warrior I first fell in love with. In Stillhouse Lake, we see how much strength Gwen draws from the people around her, even when the shadows are darker than ever. This time, we see her stripped down to her core and at her most vulnerable when her support base is yanked cruelly away. It’s raw and it’s poignant, and I love her and respect her now so much more.
Killman Creek maintains high tension all the way through and does a wonderful job of building up to the culmination of Sam and Gwen’s journey finding Melvin Royal and Lanny and Connor’s journeys finding themselves. Yet again, Caine’s cinematic writing transported me right there into the thick of it and kept me on the edge of my seat. My sole complaint is that Gwen’s showdown felt like too quick a climax after the sustained tension throughout the novel, and the epilogue felt almost rushed coming right after. It seemed a shame not to dwell a little longer in the aftermath and spend more time shedding light on the closure of the other characters’ arcs from their own perspectives, but that’s really only a minor nit-pick
I still absolutely loved Killman Creek. Hard-pressed, I’d have to say that Stillhouse Lake still has a place in my heart as my favorite, but Killman Creek definitely holds its own. The characters are just as real, the action just as epic. I was so excited to hear about plans for the conclusion of Gwen’s story in Wolfhunter River later this year (fingers crossed); I can’t wait to be transported once more into this thrilling universe Caine has created!