Review: HEARTBREAK BAY by Rachel Caine

Review partner Amber was the lucky one who got to read an early copy of the Stillhouse Lake series finale, HEARTBREAK BAY. Once again, unsurprisingly, Rachel Caine delivered an intense, intriguing winner.

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Author: Rachel Caine
Series: Stillhouse Lake, 
#5
Release Date: 
March 9, 2021
Pages: 336
Review Copy: NetGalley

They’re hunting a killer so silent, so invisible, that his unspeakable crimes are the only proof he exists.

A car submerged in a remote pond. The bodies of two girls strapped into their seats. The mystery of their mother, vanished without a trace, leads Gwen Proctor and Kezia Claremont into dangerous territory.

On the surface, Gwen’s life is good—two children approaching adulthood, a committed partner, and a harrowing past dead and gone. But that past is attracting the attention of someone invisible…and unstoppable. Trouble’s just beginning. So is the body count in this backwoods Tennessee town.

As threats mount and Gwen’s hunted by an enemy who pulls all the strings, Kezia has her back. But working to solve these vicious and unreasonable crimes will expose them both to a killer they can’t for the life of them see coming.

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Review

Initial Thoughts/Expectations

Having read the four previous books in the Stillhouse Lake series, I had high expectations of another intense psychological thriller coming into the 5th installment of Gwen Proctor’s journey for a life of normalcy.  Seeing as how we were going to jump right into the story with a gruesome murder and missing person, there was little doubt in my mind that HEARTBREAK BAY was going to live up to its name.  We left off knowing that Gwen’s serial killer ex-husband was dead, but I just knew the drama would not be over.  I was hopeful that Gwen, Sam, Lanny, and Conner would find some peace when the story was through, yet anxious because I knew that journey would be another long and hard-fought battle. 

What I Loved

True to the Stillhouse Lake Series, HEARTBREAK BAY was high in the creepy factor, which is honestly half the reason why I love this series so much. Being in the mind of a serial killer is both extremely disturbing and fascinating.  While the person(s) behind the recent chaos in Gwen’s life is not revealed until the end, we do get to spend plenty of time learning about their convoluted motives.  Knowing exactly what they intended to do and to the extent in which they were willing to go to see Gwen destroyed was bone chilling.  There were many graphic and heartbreaking scenes, including one at the end that had me needing to set it down and take a break!

The element of the story that balances out all the gore and psychological torture is the family dynamic. Lanny and Conner are growing up quickly, and I loved seeing how mature and capable they are becoming. In the past they still seemed so young and fragile, but now they are working together as a team to track down case information for their mom. I also liked seeing Sam and Gwen’s bond continue to hold strong. They understand each other so well, but you also see them actively working through their past emotional trauma in every interaction. This book serves as proof that no matter what life throws their family, they will overcome it and move forward in life together.

What I Didn’t Love

The family that is all about safety and communication had a serious lack of communication throughout this story, and it drove me absolutely nuts!  To be fair, there was A LOT going on, but I wanted to yell through the pages for them to talk about all the little instances that seemed out of place. In the previous books, Gwen preached about the importance of being hyper vigilant, so it just did not make sense to not disclose what could be pertinent information. Also, true to nature, Gwen just had to try to solve the problem on her own, which is frustrating as a reader.  Thankfully, we had some extra girl power, and detective Kezia teamed up with Gwen to serve true justice in the end.

Final Thoughts

HEARTBREAK BAY had suspense and thrilling twists at every turn of the page and I cannot recommend it enough. In traditional Rachel Caine style, even when you think you have it figured out, there are still pieces of the puzzle left to find and fit together.  The theme of emotional turmoil and torture runs deep, but the theme of family, love, and hope runs deeper. I will admit that I was hoping for a longer look into their future when it came to the epilogue, but I was left with the sense that the family would be moving into a more stable future.  

If you are a fan of the series, I can’t imagine not loving this one too.  If you are new to the Stillhouse Lake series, I would highly recommend picking up the first in the series and diving in.  

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Personal Note:
Rachel Caine spent many, many years writing incredible stories, in multiple genres, for audiences of all ages. She took us on adventures that intrigued us, terrified us, made us laugh, and made us fall in love. She was a genuine force of nature in the writing community — both in her dedication to her work, and in her support of other authors. She was hilarious, and always friendly. Rachel gave us the gifts of her self, her words, and her worlds — and we will miss her dearly.

Rachel Caine Info:
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