Where would you go if you suddenly had to disappear? In her new standalone thriller, bestselling author Kelley Armstrong delivers us to Rockton, a secret town where the hunted go to hide. And where a hunter has now come to play.
Welcome to Rockton: a secret town cut off from the rest of the world. If you need a place to hide, this is the perfect place to start again. There's just one catch. You can't leave. Even if there's a killer on the loose.
Kelley Armstrong is much better known for her paranormal romances and thrillers than her crime fiction. But one thing is clear from City of the Lost, she knows how to tell a rattling good tale. What started life a six part e-book series has been released in a single volume so no waiting for the resolution of cliffhangers. It does mean the book is written in distinct phases, though. The introductory section is possibly much longer than necessary and might have been dealt with in a less linear way if the book had originally been written in a different format.
That said, the opening chapters work effectively to establish Detective Casey Duncan as a loyal, damaged, resourceful and brilliant hard case. There may be few surprises left for this character as she lays her pain open early, but this just allows for a greater focus on the mystery that she is asked to solve later in the book.
After both of their pasts seemingly come back to haunt them, Casey and her best friend Diana take up an odd offer. For a fee they will be relocated for two years to a town completely cut off from the rest of civilisation. It is a refuge for those fleeing from something. Diane passes the entry processes easily. The council that manages the town is not so sure about Casey, but they are in need of someone to help solve a series of crimes and Casey comes with detective experiencet.
The town of Rockton is as strange as one might expect for a place where people are isolated from the rest of the world. Located in the wintery far north of Canada, it is place where people are able to reinvent themselves. And, much to Casey’s dismay, that is exactly what Diane does. Casey, meanwhile, has to deal with the prickly and standoffish Sheriff Dalton, the only person in the town who actually grew up there.
City of the Lost is a classic crime novel. Armstrong uses Casey’s investigation of the crime to reveal the characters of the town, its strange origins and benefactors and the landscape. The mystery itself is full of red herrings and a range of suspects. While the killer might be obvious to some readers, the fun is in getting there and in Casey’s slow integration into the town. There may be a series in here – there is still plenty of mystery surrounding the town of Rockton and the set-up provides Armstrong with the capacity to bring in new criminals and crimes. But in the meantime, City of the Lost is an effective, engaging stand alone crime novel based on an intriguing premise.
EXIT STRATEGY - Kelley Armstrong
Nadia Stafford currently holds down two jobs. One of them involves her sometimes leaving her quiet life in Canada to secretly travel to wherever it is that her clients dictate. Most recently, a small Mafia family has been her regular employer, providing a much-needed, albeit high-risk income. Nadia sees it all as a means to an end, as she badly needs those funds from her "moonlighter" to financially prop up the hunter's lodge she owns and operates close to the Canadian/US border. Her two worlds do not collide.
This is not a new trend, presenting our leading man or lady as belonging to a profession not generally regarded as one in which you might find a worthy hero. EXIT STRATEGY is narrated also in the first person, so the character of Nadia, the ex-cop-turned-killer, is given some space to present some self-justification for murderous acts. This whole bad-girl-with-a-heart act can work, but it needs some sterling work put into the characterization. It's not necessary to always love or even like the lead, but you need to be at least impressed by them in some fashion, if only to admire how clever a villain they are. Very difficult to find any of that here in EXIT STRATEGY, which rather coldly puts together a group of people with yes, a common goal, and not a heart between them.
While this "thriller" picks up the pace as it progresses, introducing new bad guys along the way, EXIT STRATEGY struggles to find the logical twists and turns, meandering about with any discernable direction other than to eventually end what becomes an interminable and mind-numbing read. Paranormal romance readers who may have drifted across in loyalty may find their hopes bolstered however with the possibility of a romance in future works, threaded none-too-subtly in this first novel of the series. The future plot threads are there, all but high-lighted in neon and only the romantic angle looks vaguely interesting.
Best-selling author Kelley Armstrong is better known for her "Otherworld" supernatural novels, which have included BITTEN, DIME STORE MAGIC and NO HUMANS INVOLVED.