I’ve read a few of Kelley Armstrong’s previous books—mostly ones featuring werewolves—but this thriller looked like a fun summer read and that pretty much defines it. There are some things I liked about it and some things that annoyed me but it was a quick read that kept my attention and kept me guessing about just enough plot points.
Here’s the basic setup. Casey Duncan is a successful police detective who has a dark secret. When she was in college, she killed her boyfriend but was never brought to justice for it . . . partly because the boyfriend had gotten on the wrong side of some drug dealers and it was assumed the killing was their doing, not hers. Of course, Casey is not a closet serial killer, and the boyfriend had it coming but this secret seems to both isolate her from her family (there are hints at some dysfunction there that I suspect will be explored in future books) and her co-workers. Her only real personal connection is her long-time friend, Diana, who struggles with her own issues—namely an abusive boyfriend who refuses to believe the relationship is over. There is also a friend with benefits who bartends at the local pub, but Casey sees the relationship as purely recreational.
The past catches up with both Casey and Diana in some dramatic ways and pushes them to escape to a mysterious town, Rockton, in the Canadian wilderness. This is a town created for people running from something to disappear to and live off the grid. Casey’s track record as a police detective helps gain them entrance to this town because there is already trouble in Rockton and the mysterious “board” that runs the settlement thinks the sheriff needs help. Needless to say, the sheriff is not too happy about taking on another deputy and sparks fly (which of course means that sparks of a different sort will fly later on).
I think the hard thing about creating the first book in a series is that you can’t reveal everything about the main characters or their backstory but the best writers keep the story moving forward while still creating interesting hints at the past. I felt like Armstrong struggled a bit with this at the beginning but once the setting switched to Rockton, she had more to work with. Though Casey has a secret, it’s really all the other characters’ secrets that power this story. Though I could see Casey and Eric, the sheriff, getting together from the minute she hits the town border (and so will you, so this is not a spoiler), part of the fun is how this relationship unfolds and what gets in the way. They are actually a good match and because Casey doesn’t see this plot point coming, it works. Besides, I’m fond of the “moonlighting” school of romance tropes—a lot of sparring, witty banter, and a slow burn before an eventual (but often drawn out) payoff—so I enjoyed this aspect of the book.
This is not a flawless book by any means, but I enjoyed meeting Casey Duncan and I’m willing to see where this series takes her.