Saturday, December 10, 2016

superbly suspenseful: stillwater by melissa lenhardt

i read stillwater last year, closer to its original debut.  but since i'm going to review the sequel, the fisher king, tomorrow i thought it would be a good idea to refresh my memory. the best thing about stillwater are its exquisitely well-drawn and engaging characters, from the lead, jack mcbride; his teenage son, ethan; to minor characters, such as diego vasquez, who's mysterious appearance and disappearance remains a question mark even at the end of the novel. the town itself functions as a character too, and like an onion there are many layers to unravel before the whole truth is revealed. this book is clearly only the start of the unraveling. 

one of the things that i liked about the novel was that this wasn't just about solving one murder. we start at the scene of a crime, but this crime leads jack to discovering other criminal activity, as well as, stumbling upon a cold case. there are so many things happening and it's only jack's first week on the job. he's moved to stillwater to recover from his wife's abandonment and the subsequent railroading of his fbi career when he was suspected of murdering her himself. deciding it was best to leave dallas behind, he takes on the police chief job at stillwater, never realizing that as of day one he'd be dealing with the biggest crime wave in decades.

because stillwater had no crime rate while old buck pollard was in charge, and something about that smells pretty rotten about that to jack. the more he talks to people the more he realizes that secrets run deep in this picturesque small town. as i said before the town is almost a character of its own, but it also has strong representation from ellie yourke martin, jack's love interest. she's an upstanding citizen who has lived in stillwater her whole life. she knows everyone. and everyone knows her. and maybe they all know each other too well. 

meeting jack shakes ellie to her core, because she wasn't expecting to fall in love with anyone. she's always been unlucky in love. and she'd committed herself to revitalizing stillwater's downtown area, where she was actually the majority property holder. in the end, she proves to be a powerful ally for jack. her knowledge of the town, of the relationships between people in the town, help jack figure what's going on behind closed doors. 

in the end, the central mysteries of the story are solved and given enough resolution, but there are enough new questions remaining, and it's good to know that this will not be the last novel set in stillwater, texas. especially given the cliffhanger bombshell of jack's estranged wife's abrupt return as well as his neer-do-well twin brother's appearance toward the end of the story. you know they will play a bigger part of the next book, and i can't wait to find out what happens next.

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