The lake protects all the secrets in Harlan Coben’s noir mystery thriller series ‘Stay Close.’ Based on Coben’s novel of the same name, the story revolves around Megan/Cassie, whose past seeps into her carefully construed present with a murder and a disappearance on the night of the Carnival. She comes to remember her own devastating Carnival night, especially after a sighting of Ray. Hermit Ray Levine (Richard Armitage) is one of the most complicated characters in the story, but his involvement in the plot remains pivotal. You may remember seeing Ray’s blood-drenched hands. So, is he the killer? Let us get to the question, but watch out for spoilers.
Is Ray the Killer in Stay Close?
From early moments, mysterious photojournalist Ray Levine becomes a principal suspect in the unraveling murder mystery. He is not letting out much, even though he conceals a volatile persona. The police bring him in, and he tells his side of the story. As his friend Fester divulges, Ray turned up the morning following Green’s death at his doorstep, covered in blood and all. Fester assures Ray that Ray is not a killer. However, Ray is unsure whether he is the assailant since his blackouts make him forget things. After the death of his friend and Simone’s husband Guy on the carnival night, Ray becomes more distraught. In turn, he also becomes one of the primary suspects. As a war photographer, he shows signs of PTSD and has panic attacks.
We discover later that Ray’s seizures and memory blockade also stem from his past trauma, which links directly to the story of Megan or Cassie. When in an abusive relationship with family guy Stewart Green, Cassie embarked on a simple affair with Ray. On April 17, 2004, Stewart Green caught Ray and Cassie having fun, and Cassie shivered from fear. Stewart Green’s verbal and physical abuse and harassment of Cassie did not go unnoticed, as Lorraine saw Green threatening Cassie. Shortly after, Cassie saw Green’s bloody corpse in the woods. That was the night when Cassie lost her blonde hair and became Megan.
She nervously went back to the club, took some money, left some for Green’s family, and forged a new identity. However, much like the people at the Vipers, Ray presumed Cassie to be dead. Following the fateful night of April 17, 2004, he has led a recluse life. When Cassie goes back to the venue on the night of the Carnival, she catches a glimpse of Ray. He could have seen a ghost – but Ray does not lose hope. He hunts Cassie down, after all. Or maybe, Cassie hunts him down. When she meets Ray’s sole friend Fester, he blames her for betraying Ray. Later in the plot, Cassie contacts Ray and goes back to the dream statue, Ray and Cassie’s former abode of love.
They meet for the first time after their abrupt separation. The lovers embrace, and Ray wants to know why Cassie left him. Cassie is almost sure that Ray killed Stewart Green, but the finale divulges the misunderstanding between the lovers. It turns out that Lorraine was the vigilante killer, and she feigned Ray’s identity to leave a note for Cassie so that she would come and see the body. Cassie freaked out seeing the body and left her old life. Ray thought that Cassie was the killer. He cut up the body into chunks and threw it into the river as a helpful partner. He conceals the burden within him for all these years, but a final meet between Ray and Cassie lifts the veil of confusion thanks to Broome. Ray gets his closure.
Read More: Stay Close Ending, Explained