Two years ago I read and enjoyed a novel called “Still Mine” (see my review) so I was pleased to be able to read the sequel, “Still Water“. If anything, I enjoyed it even more than the first novel – it’s always great when that happens! Don’t worry though if you haven’t read the first novel, as this could read very well as a stand-alone. The author recaps the history of the characters just enough that you wouldn’t feel you had missed out on something. That being said, I’m glad I read “Still Mine” so as to better understand Clare’s history and her life.
Now Clare works for the man called Malcolm Boon. She is to work undercover to find a missing woman and her child. The woman came from an abusive situation, so Clare is the perfect person to infiltrate the house where the woman last lived. It is a refuge for women escaping untenable domestic situations. Clare is perfect for the job because she too is on the run from an abusive husband. Not only can she relate to the women she meets, she is recovering from a gunshot wound she suffered at the end of the first book. Also, she is trying valiantly to stop taking the pain meds that she has become quite attached to.
“her hands shaking with pain or withdrawal or panic, she can never tell which anymore.”
Thirty-year-old Clare moves into “High River”, the house of Helen Haines which is located in a rural area that is accessed by a one-lane wooden bridge. Helen has harboured many women over the years. Helen’s past too is a traumatic one. Her mother was murdered by her father right in front of her eyes when she was a teenager. Now she holds on to the house and the acreage it sits on – despite property developers who covet it.
“If not for its tragedies both recent and old, Clare thinks, High River would be a beautiful place.”
As Clare becomes enmeshed in the life at Helen’s, she comes to know Helen’s family. Her teenage daughter Ginny, her brothers Markus and Jordan. She also comes to know another runaway wife like herself, Raylene. Since Sally, the missing woman, was a friend of Raylene’s, Clare tries to befriend her to learn more about her.
“There are three sides to every story. Yours, mine, and the truth.”
The police detectives looking into the case are an interesting pair. You never really know who is the good cop, and who is the bad cop…
“People will go to extreme lengths to absolve their loved ones of wrongdoing.”
Like the first book, Still Water is an engrossing, character-driven psychological thriller. In my review of the first book, I wrote “Clare’s character is mysterious throughout. The reader keeps turning pages to discover little clues to her very damaged past.” Now, with “Still Water“, we learn more about Clare, though she remains mysterious. We learn more about her past, yet there are enough gaps in her memory that there is surely fodder for more books in this excellent series.
With the first novel, I loved how the title fit the novel perfectly with the double meanings of the words ‘still mine‘. Now, with Still Water, the same can be said. Still Water is very much predominated by the river running through the property. Also, you can relate it to the old saying “Still waters run deep” when describing a person. Very clever!
Amy Stuart writes skillfully about women with horrendous stories of domestic and emotional abuse that could make you gasp. It was nice to read that her protagonist, Clare, is coming to consider this new job of hers more of a ‘calling’. She becomes absorbed by the work of searching for the missing and those on the run.
I liked that the entire novel took place in the span of one week.
This is a novel that describes how trust is very difficult for people who have been abused by the very people who are supposed to love them most. A novel of secrets kept, and secrets discovered. A novel of guilty people, whether or not they should feel guilty. A book of survival. Highly recommended!
Amy Stuart won the 2011 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers, and was a finalist for the 2012 Vanderbilt/Exile Award. She is a recent masters’ graduate from the University of British Columbia. Amy was born in Toronto where she still lives with her husband and their three sons. She is an educator with many years of high school teaching under her belt. Aside from writing, she loves hockey. Ice hockey.
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