She can’t ignore a cry for help. But in this remote hunting town, it’s open season.
Gwen Proctor escaped her serial-killer husband and saved her family. What she can’t seem to outrun is his notoriety. Or the sick internet vigilantes still seeking to avenge his crimes. For Gwen, hiding isn’t an option. Not when her only mission is to create a normal life for her kids.
But now, a threatened woman has reached out…
The third in Caine’s immensely readable and thrilling ‘Stillhouse Lake’ series, Wolfhunter River is nonetheless a departure from the norm. The book feels very much like a bridge that had to be crossed before Caine could continue the series the way she wanted. This isn’t a criticism. Actually, I was worried that Caine wouldn’t be able to move Gwen and Sam away from the malevolent spectre that was Melvin Royal, and I’m very pleased to be wrong. I can imagine – given the narrative thread that Rachel Caine introduces toward the end of this book – a very satisfying series coming from this new direction in Gwen’s life.
Part of me just wants Gwen to catch a break. What else can she possibly endure without going crazy? But the other part finds these books way too exciting to let go. In Wolfhunter River, Gwen answers the call of a panicked woman named Marlene Crockett, who is desperate for help to escape a looming threat. She won’t explain what – or who – she’s terrified of, but it’s evident that there’s something rotten in Wolfhunter. After sick Internet vigilantes come after Gwen and her family once again, and she receives another disturbing call – this time from Marlene’s daughter, she heads to Wolfhunter, feeling called to help, any way she can.
The second half of the book is packed with action, but Caine doesn’t sacrifice character and relationship development in the process. Gwen and Sam are struggling both with their romance, and with their pasts. Gwen sees camera eyes in every corner and Melvin in every patch of dark, and Sam is rocked to the core by the re-emergence of Miranda Tidewell in his life – a particularly repellent character that is hellbent on misery and revenge.
There’s also the very real threat from online sources and ghosts from Melvin’s past. He’s made sure that even in death, he’s a part of his family’s life, and like a spider, he keeps tightening the web – until someone is bound to choke. He’s a black stain on their lives, and it only continues to get worse, not better.
By the end, Caine has set up Gwen for a new beginning, but crucially, a beginning that is shaped irrevocably by the blood and horror of her past. I’m very, very happy that we haven’t seen the last of Gwen and her family, and hopefully, we’ll get more glimpses of Melvin (what a name hiding such a monster!)
My favourite part of these books – the beating heart that runs through them like a golden cord of steel – is Gwen’s love for her children, and YES – her love for herSELF. She SURVIVED. *She* did that. And she’s not giving up – not for anyone. It’s such a gorgeous portrayal of what it means to be a survivor, and what it means to be a woman in this world – this world of rape culture and #MeToo and Internet dog-piling and incessant, damaging vitriol. A world where your husband was a serial killer, and somehow it’s your fault for not controlling him, pleasing him, stopping him. It’s still, somehow, all on the woman.
I love Rachel Caine for this honest, unflinching depiction of a woman who has gone through the fire – and come through scarred, but alive, kicking and ready.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate the chance, as always.