Book Review: A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong

Posted April 16, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong
Genres: Crime Thriller
Published by Minotaur Books on February 9, 2021
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Omens, Wild Justice, Sea of Shadows, Visions, The Masked Truth, City of the Lost, Forest of Ruin, Betrayals, A Darkness Absolute, Indigo, Rituals, The Unquiet Past, This Fallen Prey, Stolen, Rough Justice, Dime Store Magic, Industrial Magic, Haunted, Broken, Dark Screams: Volume Nine, No Humans Involved,, Waking the Witch, Portents, Missing, Alone in the Wild, Watcher in the Woods, Otherworld Secrets, Wherever She Goes, "The Case of the Half-Demon Spy", "Truth & Consequences", "Territorial", "Escape", "Adventurer", Otherworld Chills, "Bargain", Hex on the Beach, "Recruit", "Checkmate", "Framed"

Sixth in the Rockton crime thriller series set in the Yukon and revolving around a town that doesn’t exist with people who have disappeared, and former homicide detective Casey Duncan, now Butler, as their experienced investigator.

My Take

Oh, yeah, there’s action. There’s so dang much action I prit’ near couldn’t keep track! There’s tension, back-biting, murders, confrontations with grizzlies, kidnappings, playing ostrich…phew…

It’s about facing the truth instead of trying to hide it under the rug while a secondary issue is debt. That balance between debt and obligation, with which no one in the territory wants to deal.

It wasn’t until I’d read the whole story that I realized that first page was a telltale. Armstrong uses a first person protagonist point-of-view from Casey’s perspective, which is how we know that Casey is thinking back, realizing that her fantasies have matured. That shorthand of friends, of belonging.

Isabel is having her own thoughts about the past and how they blend into her current situation, which we discover when Casey meets up with her. Wondering if she’ll be betrayed by someone she’s starting to consider an equal. The games-playing Edwin’s true Rockton backstory is revealed. Oh, man. I am so looking forward to Casey’s future run-ins with this guy. What a jerk! He thinks he’s all that and keeps jumping all over the place.

Another historical reveal is a deeper look into the settlements and the hostiles. And…whoa…does that ever clear up some mystery!

Another contrast is Sebastian. Where Casey notes that he’s a sociopath whom the system rehabilitated. It’s a notation that leaves me trembling, so to speak, as I wait for him to break.

Oh, lord, Casey cracked me up when she noted that while April may not understand fun as most of us know it, April does know it. Yep, she went nuts with her new label maker and she’s reading books for fun. Well…yeahhh…

Oh, man, Phil is between a rock and a hard place, terrified of being turfed out completely where he’ll have no resources…and no reference. Casey gets ahead of herself…no thinking…a few times.

Awww, true love…revealed by a pencil and a cheap notebook…

Wow, everything that happens is…just…wow…and Armstrong ties it all together so well in the end. Rockton has been a fascinating series with its contrast of what we consider civilization and Rockton’s survival lifestyle. This contrast fits right in with Casey’s thoughts and Eric’s concerns and continues my own wonderment about people who keep trying to stay.

It’s all about those dang hostiles. How threatening they are to everyone’s safety. Yet another underlying tension is the number of extensions the council has denied, a realization that it takes some time to manifest.

The real betrayal are the scientists. That leader who kept the best medical care for herself. “Imprisoned” the others with her desire for power. It’s just one mystery after another, that gets revealed.

The Story

When an injured hiker stumbles from the woods, the sole survivor of a hostile attack, it’s all hands on deck. Even a member of the elusive Rockton council comes in to help. This council member also comes bearing news: Rockton is being shut down due to the hostile situation.

Casey and Eric must now race to save the town that has allowed residents to have a fresh start, away from the mistakes of their past, while also getting to the bottom of this latest attack.

The Characters

Former detective Casey Butler is technically second-in-command under her new husband, Sheriff Eric Dalton, who, in turn, is her mentee in detecting. Dr April Butler, a neuroscientist, is Casey’s autistic and brilliant sister. Now she’s Rockton’s town doctor. Their now-deceased parents, while successful medical professionals, were too concerned with visual success.

Storm is Casey’s Newfoundland, trained as a tracker. Jacob Dalton is Eric’s younger brother. He’s hooked up with Nicole, a former Rockton resident (A Darkness Absolute, 2). And Nicole is pregnant. Steve Milligan and Amy O’Keefe had been Eric and Jacob’s parents.

Rockton is…
…a town for hiding out from whatever chases you. Deputy Will Anders is premed, former army, and brilliant at defusing situations. Phil had been the off-site council liaison until events forced him on-site (This Fallen Prey, 3). Now he’s sleeping with Isabel who seems shocked that she’s attracted to him. Mick, a former cop, had been her bartender and lover. Émilie is the epitome of Case’s fantasy grandmother…but she’s actually Petra’s. And one of the founding members of Rockton. She’s become an obstacle for the younger members of the council. Robert is Émilie’s deceased husband.

Eighteen-year-old Sebastian is a sociopath who is also the best person to hold a gun (Watcher in the Woods, 4). And the logic behind this is truly practical! Petra is a drama-free comic book artist, who was/is a special ops agent and now works part-time at the general store. Maryanne had been a biologist fleeing a nightmarish marriage who chose to run with some settlers. The handicapped Kenny (This Fallen Prey, 3) used to be a math teacher, now he’s the town carpenter and head of their militia. Seems he has an autistic brother. Raoul is a one-year-old wolf-dog that belongs to Mathias, the town butcher. Isabel runs the Roc, a bar and bordello. Diana, Casey’s “friend” and the reason Casey came to Rockton, is filling in as the nurse. Jen is the town PITA. Devon is the town baker and spreader of, ahem, chitchat. Brian is his partner. Champ is a horse Jay is a new resident.

Sophie is part of a quartet of Danish campers. Victor is/was/is her significant other while Malthe and Liva are the other two. Colin Berger is the bush pilot who flew them in.

The First Settlement is…
…the first group of Rockton residents who broke away. Edwin, a former lawyer, is their leader. Felicity is his granddaughter and heir. Sidra and Baptiste have their baby, Abby. Leon is Angus’ father; Angus is interested in Felicity; and, Moses is Felicity’s father.

The Second Settlement is…
…more of a group of hippies who left Rockton, forming a commune with their own exclusive rules…and their heads in the sand. Nancy, an amazing thread artist, and Tomas are a compromise with the commune, and they’re breaking away from them. Miles and Becky are their kids. “Auntie” Josie is one of many caregivers at the commune, and she’d had an affair with Hendricks, the tea man.

The traders
The deadly, whip-smart Cherise, the new leader of a trading family (Alone in the Wild, 5), has hooked up with Owen, a former Rockton resident and sexual predator who clashed too often with Eric. Missy is her youngest sister who wants a man.

The hostiles are…
…former Rockton residents who reverted to something more primal, barely capable of communication. All through their tea. They make a habit of kidnapping women. Bennett is a recent kidnap victim. Heidi is their shaman. Georg was Heidi’s partner until he left.

The former sheriff, Gene Dalton, kidnapped Eric to be his son. Tyrone Cypher is another former sheriff.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a study in oranges. It’s that bright yellow sunrise in the background that casts that orange glow on a solitary figure in hoodie, jeans, and backpack walking down an alleé of the black silhouettes of naked trees — their leaves piled up in a heap at the front of the cover! All the text is in white. The almost-transparent title staggers across the top two-thirds of the cover. The series information is immediately below it. Followed by the less transparent author’s name. An info blurb is at the very bottom.

The title is too right, although there is more than A Stranger in Town.

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