A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong
Published by: Random House Canada
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Extent: 464 pages
People disappear to Rockton so no-one can find them. But the trouble is people also disappear from Rockton. New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author and master of thrills Kelley Armstrong returns to Rockton for more page-turning suspense, following her #1 national bestseller, City of the Lost.
It’s winter in Rockton, a little town hidden deep in the wilds of the Yukon. The town exists for people who need to escape their pasts, though it’s not clear if those in hiding are victims or perpetrators. Or, when the lines gets blurred, maybe both. Ask Casey. She’s been used, betrayed, beaten. But she’s also killed someone. She moved to Rockton to help her best friend, Diana. Ex-best friend. Diana lied to get Casey to come with her; she used her and she almost got her killed. But Casey decided to stay anyway, to work as a detective alongside her new boyfriend and the town’s sheriff, Eric Dalton. Fresh off solving a series of grisly murders, Casey and Deputy Will Anders get stranded in a blizzard while they’re tracking a runner from the town. Seeking shelter in a cave, they stumble across a woman who’s been imprisoned in a deep well. Nicole Chavez–whom everybody thought had run away from town and died in the woods more than a year earlier–is alive. Barely. But she can’t identify her captor: she’s never seen his face.
Valentine’s Day seems like an appropriate time to post a review about a dark thriller. 😅
“I’ll die in this wasteland, buried under ice and snow.”
Welcome back to Rockton, a hidden town for people who need to escape their lives, whether or not they deserve that protection.
Four months have past, and, while tracking a resident who wants nothing more than to leave Rockton, Casey Butler, formerly Duncan, uncovers a woman trapped in a cave when she and Will Anders, Rockton’s deputy, seek shelter from a blizzard. What they unearth is far worse than a lost woman. She, Nicole, has been tortured and raped for fifteen months. The town’s people believed she died. Worst yet, Casey wonders if the captor is a Rockton resident. But how can she figure out who he is when some residents themselves are more than they claim to be?
This new instalment contains dark elements, like torture, rape, and murder. While City of the Lost also includes them, Kelley brings them to the forefront. She thrives in this setting. Yes, she’s a fantastic fantasy writer, but I see a hidden gem in her thriller series. I enjoyed this story. Each chapter layers on each other and builds up for an enthralling novel. But pay attention to each detail. I had to. I had my suspicions on who took Nicole, but Kelley surprised me with the level of detail in this story.
In City of the Lost, Kelley hints at probable corruption in Rockton. The town is flawed. Criminals buy sanctuary there. They’re vetted, but some slip through the cracks. Unfortunately the council creates more than just glaring loopholes; it opens up a dangerous environment for all residents. The problem with this scenario is that the Casey cannot determine if people are what say they are. And she, Will, and Eric, Casey’s boyfriend and town sheriff, try to protect their people when they’re often shackled by their environment. Basic forensics and policing are all they have.
Kelley throws a light on the council itself. You don’t see a lot of it in first novel. But the people involved in it are shady. Casey and Eric question if they can fully trust them or not. I hope to see more of these people in future books.
Kelley constructs a platform for each character to shine. Her writing pulls it off flawlessly. They’re the backbone of the book. She moulds the sequel into a character-driven treat for any reader. She also introduces intriguing new characters into the mix. But she also allows for her main characters to mature.
Casey has built her life in solitude. She finds no need to forge relationships with anyone. Having been gang raped, almost killed, and lied to by the only person she trusts, she believes living alone is safe. But in A Darkness Absolute, she gets the chance to plan for her future with Eric. She finally discovers what hope feels like. Will shows her that while darkness inhabits her, light still exists. Both characters redeem themselves in this secluded town and continue to do so every day. Redemption is a power drug.
I was rooting for her former lover in City of the Lost. But Eric and Casey grow into a strong couple. Hell, they’re bloody adorable. They offer a safe haven for each other. Eric hides his past because he doesn’t know how to confront it. Casey has run from hers since she killed her ex. But getting more backstory from the both of them is what makes me want to pick the book up again. They give each other balance in an already turbulent world. You get the opportunity to see them accept their past, or at least, learn to live with it.
Kelley offers you glimpses of humanity’s dark side, a place where you’d never want to venture. But she also shows you how people look for their redemption, how they struggle with their inner darkness, and how they ultimately fight back. She captures you from the first chapter and demands that you see the world in a new light. I can’t wait to head back to Rockton.