City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong
Published by: Random House Canada
Publication Date: January 2, 2016
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 480 pages
Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. But that’s not why she’s on the run. Her best friend’s ex has found Diana again, despite all Casey has done to protect her. And Diana has decided the only way she’ll ever be safe is if she finds the mythical town she’s heard of where people like her can go to hide. Turns out the town really exists, and will take Diana, but only if Casey, a talented young police detective, comes too.
Imagine a hidden town, isolated in the Yukon wilderness, where everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not. Even good people can get up to some very bad stuff. The laconic town sheriff dispenses his own frontier justice, but he’s more accustomed to sobering up drunks in the horse trough, than attempting to solve the series of brutal murders that has rocked the town. As much as he hates it, he needs Casey. As for Casey, coming to the far North may have started out as a sacrifice she was willing to make for her best friend. But maybe, just maybe, she needs Rockton as much as the town needs her.
Kelley has ventured in the suspense, thriller, and mystery genres before, so I had a general idea of where she might go in City of the Lost. I was wrong. So wonderfully wrong. The first book in the new Rockton Thriller series strikes down any preconceived suspicions. It contains touches of her Nadia Stafford series, one which I enjoyed greatly.
After surviving a horrific attack, Casey Duncan, a detective, discovers her tumultuous past comes back seeking revenge. But she is not the only person facing former conflicts. Diana, a high school friend, desperately searches for a way to escape her abusive husband. When Diana proposes an idea for them to find a hidden town where people escape their lives, Casey agrees to disappear from society. The catch? She must destroy any record of their lives, cut ties with all loved ones, and find a possible serial killer among the town’s people within six months, when her time runs out.
Rockton, in the Yukon territory, morphs into a character of its own. It’s rough and brash yet quiet and watchful. One aspect I love about City of the Lost is how Kelley slowly and deliberately reveals this character. She builds off each layer. And, similar to Stonehaven in Women of the Otherworld series, I can’t help but fall in love with it. Kelley fleshes out the natural atmosphere of Rockton perfectly, showcasing the beauty of Canada’s rugged landscape. This psychological thriller shows the brutality of our society and the North. Animals will act out of fear or survival. Humans, on the other hand, act on savagery, hunger, drive, and desire. She encapsulates the difference between the two beasts in such an effortless way.
The characters, including the town, make the story. Each one opens up a new history and a new threat. People aren’t afraid to kill, and they certainly aren’t afraid to show their true side. Some may have run from abusive lovers, drug lords, or possible convictions. They aren’t the heroes. They may have even created the horrors we fear. However, each characters’ vulnerabilities break down the door to salvation and possible self-forgiveness.
One character who stands out is Casey. I identify with her. She’s driven, determined, yet separated from people. And with good reason. Throughout the book, she tries to come to terms with murdering her boyfriend, Blaine twelve years ago. While on a date with him, local gang members accuse him of trespassing on their territory. And while he says he’s the grandson of a Montreal mobster, he abandons Casey. Her action conflicts with her career path, though, and also forces her to build a wall between her and others. Her possible rape and her physical assault prevent her from doing so. And I relate to that decision. While there are many resources women and men have access to after sexual assault, sometimes they simply cannot move on. I instantly connect with Casey, who is, by far, my favourite character in the series.
Eric Dalton, Rockton’s sheriff, dedicates his life to protecting the town and its residents. His history fascinates me. The way he rules his town will surprise and may even anger you. But wait until you see why. Rockton isn’t in an urban environment. Controlling these residents requires Dalton to inflict police brutality at times. But he must stay harsh in this dangerous town.
I first gave this book a 4.5 rating, but I see nothing wrong with it, nothing to improve. Kelley creates a solid, refreshing, and invigorating psychological thriller that will resonate with many readers. It’ll take you on a intriguing journey highlighting the human condition. I warn you now: you might know who the serial killer is at certain stages of the book, but finding out who commits these crimes may stump you. Kelley tricked even me, and I’ve been reading her books since I was twelve. The character arcs move beyond that discovery, and they add more richness to the story. So I’ve bumped it up to a 5. 😉