Thriller Thursday Audio: Heartbreak Bay 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 (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Series: Book 5 of Stillhouse Lake
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (March 9, 2021)
Length: 11 hrs and 29 mins
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith, Dan John Miller, Tovah Ott
Heartbreak Bay is the fifth and final Stillhouse Lake novel and also the last book written by Rachel Caine before she sadly passed away from cancer last year. It’s an apt title in many respects, given some of the hardships and sorrows experienced by our characters in the story, but also because of the bittersweetness I felt as one of my favorite mystery thriller series had to conclude this way. My heart certainly felt broken by the time I got the last page, but it was the Author’s Note at the end that really opened up the emotional floodgates and got the waterworks going.
As the story begins, we return to the small town in Tennessee in which our protagonist Gwen Proctor and her children Lanni and Connor have found refuge after discovering that her husband was a notorious serial killer. But while he may be dead and gone, the shadow of his brutal crimes still haunts her and the kids wherever they go, mostly in the form of a harassment campaign fueled by an online forum made up of internet sleuths and grieving victims’ family members who have never accepted the court’s ruling on Gwen’s innocence.
Now, following a brief reprieve, it appears the threats have started up again as Gwen, Lanni and Connor become the targets of an anonymous and sadistic individual who sees himself as an avenging angel-style vigilante. This time, things seem more dangerous and personal as even Sam, Gwen’s current partner, is pulled into their disturbed attacker’s twisted web.
Meanwhile, Gwen’s good friend and detective colleague Kezia Claremont also finds herself working a very difficult crime scene involving a car submerged in a pond, the bodies of two baby girls still strapped inside and no driver to be found. Newly pregnant, Kez is hit especially hard by the circumstances surrounding the case, and vows to bring whoever is responsible to justice.
There was so much going on here, enough mystery to fill multiple books, yet the ride was so smooth you don’t even realize it when all the threads start coming together. Told through several POVs, including Gwen and Kezia’s, these two incredible women and the amazing strength of their resolve are truly what made this novel special. One is fighting tooth and nail to protect her loved ones from an unknown assailant bent on ruining all their lives, while the other is investigating a heinous crime which will lead her down some dark, dangerous paths. What happens when their two cases collide, and they discover they may be on the hunt for the same silent enemy? Why, a non-stop, adrenaline-pumping, pulse-pounding, nail-biting race to the shocking finale, of course!
What a delight it was too, to see Gwen Proctor come so far since the days she was still Gina Royal. The clueless and quiet meek mouse is gone, replaced by a fierce and self-sufficient lioness who has come to realize she can depend on no one else but herself. Of course, this meant a lonely existence for our protagonist, especially in the earlier books. Gradually though, with each volume she has come to let others into her trusted circle. First, it was with Sam, which resulted in a couple of great adventures where he and Gwen teamed up. Now, it is Kez’s turn, and their dynamic was both inspiring and thoroughly gratifying to witness.
I also feel very thankful to the author, who has gifted me with hours of escape and fantasy through her wonderful books. The Stillhouse Lake series has especially captured my attention since the very beginning, the dark and thrilling plotlines getting under my skin, the flawed by hopeful characters endearing themselves to my heart. With Heartbreak Bay, Rachel Caine truly outdid herself. The mystery was fantastic, punctuated with touching moments of family tenderness and companionship. Like I said before, the action and suspense elements were seriously well done, and while it may veer off into over-the-top territory at times, it does also encourage you to look at certain aspects of the internet and social media in a whole new light.
So, if you have not had the pleasure yet, I urge you to check out the Stillhouse Lake series. The books can be read and to a certain extent were probably written as standalones, but the experience would be so much richer if you started from the beginning and got to know the characters along the way. The story gets better and better with each volume, and with Heartbreak Bay, the saga has truly culminated in a finale to remember.
Audiobook Comments: Absolutely stellar voice acting by narrators Emily Sutton-Smith, Dan John Miller and Tovah Ott who gave voices to Gwen, Sam, and Kezia, respectively. Having multiple readers definitely made the audiobook experience feel more immersive, and the narrators’ individual performances were not only amazing, but they also complemented each other very well.