Thriller Thursday: Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Series: Book 3 of Stillhouse Lake
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (April 23, 2019)
Length: 330 pages
This series is so addictive, I just don’t want it to end! Initially believing Stillhouse Lake to be a trilogy, I put off reading this third book for ages until I recently found out there will be a fourth installment incoming, which promptly motivated me to catch up (funny how that works).
Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine takes readers back to the small Tennessee town of Stillhouse Lake following Gwen Proctor, formerly Gina Royal, as she tries to make a new life for herself and her children after finding out that her husband was a notorious serial killer. But even though it has been years since Gwen was cleared of being his accomplice, the family of some of Melvin Royal’s victims still refuse to believe she had nothing to do with his murders. In particular, the mother of one of the women he killed has been leading a harassment campaign against her, making Gwen’s life a living hell. Worse, now it appears there will be a documentary made about the women Melvin murdered, dashing all hopes of privacy for her and her family. Still, Gwen is determined to do her best to protect her daughter Lanni and her son Connor, shielding them from the worst of the harassment, both online and in the real world. But as it turns out, the threat might be even closer to home, as Gwen’s boyfriend Sam has plenty of secrets in his past that he wishes to keep hidden even as their relationship deepens.
One day, Gwen also receives a cryptic phone call from a frightened woman named Marlene Crockett who lives in the nearby town of Wolfhunter. At the time, Gwen is unable to offer much help while her situation in Stillhouse Lake is so uncertain, but not long afterward, Marlene ends up dead and the main suspect is her teenaged daughter. Feeling concern for the girl and a bit guilty for not having done more, Gwen decides to travel to Wolfhunter to investigate, bringing Sam and the kids along because of a sudden need for all of them to get out of town. But when they arrive, they discover a small community rotting at its core—a kidnapped child, women going missing, a police department rife with corruption. Just what the hell is going on in Wolfhunter?
For the first time in this series, the story shifts away from Melvin Royal, setting Gwen Proctor up to be a private investigator in her own right. She has now fully made her transition from the clueless housewife believing that her marriage was the perfect picture of domestic bliss, becoming a survivor who seeks out other vulnerable women to help as well as local small-town mysteries to solve. The transformation in her character has been astounding, to say the least; she’s had to start over again from nothing after discovering that most of her life had been a monstrous lie, managing to persevere in the face of a shock so terrible that it would have broken most people. Now she’s a vigilant and independent gun-toting badass single mom, and she’s like the mama bear who will stop at NOTHING to keep her children safe from harm. God, I love her.
This book also includes the POVs of Sam, Lanni, and Connor, which I really liked because it shows how the shadow cast by Melvin Royal has taken its toll on not only Gwen but her whole family, and anyone they get close to. Now that the kids are older, the experience has also changed them in deep-seated ways. We got to be in Lanni’s head briefly in the previous book, in a story thread that mostly dealt with her crush on a girl at school. But like Gwen, Lanni has come a long way; as she herself observed, back when she was a child, things seemed much easier and more removed—a testament to how well Gwen had protected her children—but it’s a different story now that she is fifteen years old. As such, Lanni’s chapters were my second favorite after Gwen’s because of their complex themes. Between dealing with her first real romance, taking on some of the duties of protecting her little brother, and also helping her mother with the investigation at Wolfhunter, Lanni provided a refreshingly unique and genuine voice that I would love to see carry through to the rest of the series.
The story was also exciting, if a little labored at certain points because you could tell Caine was striving hard to set Wolfhunter River apart from the first two books. For the most part, I think she succeeded, since this one has a different feel than the previous installments, though I can’t really put my finger on why. In some ways, the plot felt somewhat scattered, and had I not known there was another sequel coming out, I would have thought the author was struggling a bit to tie up all loose ends, but now I believe she was simply setting the scene up for more. Regardless, it worked out in the end, and the result is that Wolfhunter River is probably the most action-packed of all three books. On top of all the gun fights and car chases, this one also seemed to have the highest body count.
At the end of the day though, I’m thrilled that we will be getting to see these characters again because I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet. The ending perfectly sets the stage for what’s coming next, and I’m looking forward to returning to more Gwen Proctor and Stillhouse Lake.