“City of the Lost” by Kelley Armstrong


asteriaiconI have always been a fan of Kelley Armstrong.  I first came across one of her novels from her Otherworld series as something to read on a long bus ride home, and have stayed loyal to her since. I liked the fact that she was a Canadian author (Ontarian even!) and found she was able to write a rather strong female lead character, one who is not without flaws. I will admit, though, that I do find her writing somewhat juvenile in the sense it is always a quick easy read, no real big words or big stretches in thought, but sometimes that is exactly what I am in the mood for.

This particular book is not a part of the Otherworld series, and has no magic at all. This is the first novel in her latest adult series, and this time she left the supernatural behind. This is more of a psychological thriller, utilizing people’s fears of isolation, the unknown, and the creepy dark woods.

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective, who also happens to be a murderer. She killed her jerk of an ex-boyfriend, who really had it coming to him, but she was never arrested for it. Casey and her best friend Diana move regularly, never staying in a city for too long. You see, Diana is no stranger to jerks either, and has a terribly abusive ex-husband, who keeps hunting her down, and uses his cushy law background to make her life a living hell.

When Diana’s ex finds them again he brutally beats her, and Casey is ready to drop everything to move her friend to safety. That is when Diana mentions a town she has heard whispers about, a town for people like her to flee for safety, and start her life over with a new identity. Rockton is a town full of people with a past, located way up in Northern Canada. It is fully isolated, no television, no internet, no cell phones, barely any electricity. It is surrounded by woods full of wild animals and wild people; people who have not been able to handle living in the small Rockton community.

There is an application process in order to get into Rockton, a vetting process to ensure that you qualify, that you are able to bring a valuable skill to the community, and are someone who can leave your entire life behind. Diana qualifies, however Casey doesn’t. That vetting process is very thorough, and the council knows that she has killed someone, making her a bad fit. No one wants a murderer in a small town of people with secrets to hide. But, as it turns out, Rockton already has a murderer, and Sheriff Eric Dalton needs the skill of a homicide detective to solve the murder. Casey’s skills are needed, but only on a temporary basis, so she is accepted for only a short period of time. Once Casey gets there though, she finds the problem is bigger than her or Sheriff Dalton realized.

No story is complete without a romance, and Armstrong writes her romance much the same in most of her books. If I had to state a weakness in the story for me, this was it. It is always woman meets flawed man, woman can’t stand man, woman gets in terrible danger and saved by man, woman falls in love with man. It is always the same. Still, I liked the character of Eric, even if I found the romance a little dull and somewhat unbelievable. I am more in it for the psychological thriller aspect anyway so I can let this slide.

Now Casey is in a small remote town with no way out, a murderer on the loose, no way to get outside help (hard anyway to get help in a town that isn’t supposed to exist), and surrounded by scary things in the woods. Casey has to use her wits and detective skills to solve the crimes in a town full of could-be killers.  For me, that is what drives the novel. I NEED to know who the killer is, I NEED the satisfaction of a solved crime, and Armstrong is able to pull me along through the novel to a satisfying end. I read too many mystery novels and watch too much Criminal Minds that I can usually guess the killer way before the end of the book. But Armstrong kept me guessing, and in the end I had no idea how it was all going to pan out.

Not going to lie, I have already put a hold on the second book in the series at the library! If you like mystery books, and want something quick to read, give Armstrong a try. If supernatural mystery is more of your thing, try her Cainsville series. Either way, don’t miss out on a good Canadian female author.

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