Still Water by Amy Stuart has a plot as riveting as the rushing river water. This psychological thriller has amateur private investigator, Clare, hunting for a missing mother and son. But the town is putting up roadblocks with their deceptions.
Because this is Clare’s second case she is still learning on the job. Sally and her young son, Matthew have vanished and Clare’s handler, Malcolm, assigned her the task to find out what happened. Luckily for her and the readers, she is a quick learner, able to keep the police and townsfolk at bay with her undercover story. Pretending to be a friend of the missing woman, Clare ventures to a safe house for the abused. Women in distress and danger go there to hide in safety, and then hopefully move on with new identities.
Clare struggles with her own demons. She has been running from an abusive husband, Jason, when Malcolm finds her. Instead of turning her in, he hires Clare to work with him to find other missing persons. Although Malcolm assures her that Jason is out of the picture, Clare knows that is not the case. Starting to question Malcolm’s credibility, because he is hiding something in his past, she fears there is something serious that he is not telling her. This story has many layers and the ending has a major twist.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Amy Stuart: It came together with a mish mash of ideas after I read an article. The newspaper story was about a missing woman who wandered into the woods and her family was the only ones to continue to try to track her down. Then I thought about writing a story about a newbie private investigator who was learning on the job. Both these thoughts came together for the first book in the series.
EC: So this is a series?
AS: Yes. I see it as a series of three books, but am open to making it a longer series. I am also thinking of writing a spinoff with Detective Somers who is a strong and interesting character in this book.
EC: While the backdrop theme is domestic violence, you manage to deal with this topic without explicit violence and without trivializing the issue?
AS: I hope so. I did the most research with this. I wanted to authenticate the women’s experiences as they attempt to leave their partner. There are places in Toronto, where I live, that are secret safe houses.
EC: Is High River a real place?
AS: I wanted it based on how the encroachment of a city expands outward. I can remember places as a child as we drove out to the country that are now sub-divisions of the urban areas. I wanted to explore what happens when there is a rural property and the city expands, swallowing up all the rural land around it. Much of this beautiful property is taken over by developers. As in my book, each member of the community has different end goals regarding the land.
EC: Can you describe Clare?
AS: She is very frustrated and had a difficult and traumatic life. Hopefully, over the course of the books she starts to make better choices for herself and assumes more responsibility. Because she went undercover she wanted to make her fake identity parallel to her own life. She is the type of person that someone may want to shake her shoulders.
EC: You explore what is truth and what is a lie?
AS: This is the fundamental question over the course of the series. I intentionally have readers wonder if what Clare has said about herself is true. Truth can be so subjective. Two people can experience the same thing and come out of it with completely different versions. Does the absolute truth even exist or is it based on pre-conceptions? I try to explore what is the truth through Clare’s eyes as she comes to terms with her own experiences.
EC: What do you want the reader to get out of the story?
AS: I really enjoy the thoughtful questions they present. It makes me think and articulate on what I am writing.
EC: A heads up about your next book?
AS: I am in the process of writing it now. The first book had Malcolm deliberately enigmatic. This third book shines a lot on him. One of the detectives, Colin, will be back because he is intertwined with Malcolm.
Still Water (Still #2)
HOW DO YOU FIND THE TRUTH IN A TOWN FULL OF SECRETS?
Clare has to find them.
Sally Proulx and her young boy have mysteriously disappeared in the stormy town of High River. Clare is hired to track them down, hoping against all odds to find them alive. But High River isn’t your typical town. It’s a place where women run to—women who want to escape their past. They run to Helen Haines, a matriarch who offers them safe haven and anonymity. Pretending to be Sally’s long-lost friend, Clare turns up and starts asking questions, but nothing prepares her for the swirl of deception and the depth of the lies.
Did Sally drown? Did her son? Was it an accident, or is their disappearance part of something bigger?
In a town where secrets are crucial to survival, everyone is hiding something. Detectives Somers and Rourke clearly have an ulterior motive beyond solving the case. Malcolm Boon, who hired Clare, knows more about her than he reveals. And Helen is concealing a tragic family history of her own. As the truth surges through High River, Clare must face the very thing she has so desperately been running from, even if it comes at a devastating cost. Compulsively gripping and twisty, Still Water is a deep dive of a thriller that will leave you breathless.