City of the Lost – by Kelley Armstrong

Rockton #1

Thriller, Mystery

Sphere; January 2, 2016
Macmillan Audio; May 3, 2016

471 pages (ebook)
13hr 41m (audiobook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

4.5 / 5 ✪

Enter Casey Duncan, typical homicide detective with a twist. She has a quiet life, with a job she loves, one true close friend, and a casual fling with an ex-con bartender. One that’s just begun to heat up. But there’s a problem, for Casey also has a secret—one that’s haunted her for years.

See, in college she dated a bad boy. Not just a bad boy, but a low-level dealer who just happened to be the grandson of a mafia boss. And when they fell out Casey ended up on her knees with a gun and her ex on his back with a bullet in his guts. But while she escaped justice for her crime, she could never quite shake the mob.

Jump forward to present day, when she finds her best friend, Diana, beaten bloody by her ex-husband. A common occurrence, but this time Diana claims she’s had enough, and has started talking about a rumor, a desperate long-shot escape plan—a town where survivors go to escape their abuse. And when the Italian mob resurfaces again and almost kills Casey, Diana is able to convince her to run, if they can. But when the long-shot turns out to be real, it may not be the safe-haven either of the two expects.

Welcome to Rockton, where the first rule is that you don’t talk about Rockton.

Not that you could. Located deep in the remote Yukon wilderness, the town has no cars, electricity, phones, or internet. Its only connection to the outside world is via bush-plane and is essentially invisible from the sky lost as it is in the taiga. The few hundred residents are all hiding from something; they never leave town, but why would they want to? They’re all paying an exorbitant amount of money to be there. They don’t want to be found. And they all want to keep it that way.

Casey is only there because the town needs a detective. And because they have a killer that needs found.

But that’s not even the only problem with Rockton. For in a town full of people that don’t want to be found, even the secrets they’ve aired may not be the darkest ones they’re hiding.

I’d heard good things about this series, but put it off for a while now due to lack of time, inclination, and cost. These are not cheap books. But when they came to my local library, it was hard to make any more excuses.

And the problem is… well, it’s that Rockton is certainly worth the time, trouble, and probably even the cost. It’s a great read. A thriller that thrills—gets your blood pumping and heart racing, makes you invested in the story and its characters. It’s even difficult for me to complain about anything. The story and setting are inherently plausible. Believable. These are things that could conceivably happen to people that could very well exist.

I loved the setting—as I’ve always been fascinated with the remote nature of the frozen north. Of the Alaskan-Yukon-Nunavut bush. Of the endless sea of taiga, only broken by tundra, where a man (or woman) can walk for weeks on end and never see another human. It’s not easy to hide a whole town. But a town off-the-grid, hidden amongst an endless forest, far enough away from people or cities or any flight-paths? I mean, that’s a bit easier. Rockton COULD actually exist. And it could be like this.

The characters are equally plausible. They can be a bit selfish, one-sided, vain, standoffish, honorable, stoic, or—well, anything else. Just like people are. The citizens of Rockton are complicated, but then, all humans are. While we meet some of the townsfolk, there are many more that we aren’t introduced to. And that’s neglecting the others. There are more people in this area of Yukon other than Rockton itself. There are those that left the town long ago when it was in its youth, grew old and raised their children outside. Some even filtered up from the south or east or west and joined the queue. These are called the Settlers. And then there are the others. The violent ones that eschewed society altogether. That are hostile to any ‘man they cross paths with. These are called the Hostiles. From these three groups are cobbled a more than decent cast, one with some turnover. So even as the series rolls into its seventh installment, there will still be new characters to meet and endless problems to confront.

I have slight issues with the romance. it’s just that when it all takes off the overarching plot is put on hold while the romance takes center stage. Casey and her lover gaze into each other’s eyes and fall into one another’s arms like there’s nothing more important in the world. …while a killer stalks around unrestrained. It’s got the hot-and-heavy, zero-to-sixty vibe down, but doesn’t quite take on the heart-pounding, pulse-racing, thrill-ride of the rest of the story.

The only other issue I have is with the description of the place. Well, not exactly how it’s described, but more the details within the details. It’s clear the author has done their research. The Yukon is all rendered about as I’d expect, but all my experience with it is secondhand. It’s described beautifully—except. Winters in the Yukon are cold. Like, really damn cold. Summers generally fall down to freezing daily, maybe 10-11 months of the year. This isn’t exactly conveyed well. The wildlife is also a bit… off. Their descriptions aren’t wrong exactly, just… incomplete. It’s not really something I can complain about too much without sounding silly or pretentious. Sufficient to say that if you have any in-depth, firsthand experience with either the setting or the wildlife, things will seem a tad incorrect. But then that’s the case with any book. It’s hard to have firsthand experience with absolutely everything. And so I really shouldn’t complain about everything not being completely perfect.

So I won’t. (I mean, I already did, but I’m done now. Also, it’s not anything that’ll affect my rating).

Note: The audio edition was a quite enjoyable listen/read, as Thérèse Plummer did a fabulous job of bringing Casey Duncan and Rockton around her to life! I’d definitely recommend giving the book a try, but if you’d rather not or already have in another format, I’d still recommend you considering something else Thérèse Plummer has done should you ever be on the fence on a book she’s read (which shouldn’t prove too difficult as she’s narrated hundreds of titles already).

TL;DR

The town of Rockton is the very plausible town of refugees from violence located in the Yukon bush. It’s a detailed, remote, and beautiful setting following a thrilling, intense, and immersive story that grabs and holds your attention to the very end. It also delivers in future installments (though they don’t quite live up to the absurd expectations set by this first one). There’s very little to complain about—the most glaring issue being price. As of writing this, the ebook version was $13 and it was very difficult to find any style, any age copy less than that. But it’s probably worth it. Or you could look at your local library, like I did. Either way, City of the Lost is a must-read, and Casey Duncan is the type of character you’ll expect and hope to see more in the future—the resident of a town the doesn’t exist.

5 thoughts on “City of the Lost – by Kelley Armstrong

  1. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this series, so I’m glad to see you loved it. I feel the same about romance and romantic interludes these days too, they often interrupt the story. Sigh. I’m getting crotchety in my old age I guess🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice. I’ve added this to my audiobook wish list. I love the setting and I’ve heard of stories with the basic premise. Perhaps it was this very series I’d heard about, not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fabulous, I loved reading this review! Reminded me of when I listened to the audio and it was my first Kelley Armstrong and I was just completely blown away. I even feel the same about the romance, but it was in no way a deal breaker given everything else. Therese Plummer is also awesome, I loved her performance so much that I will only do this series in audiobook format. And the books just get better! It’s amazing how many cool stories can come out of a remote place like Rockton, and so many more great characters to meet 😀

    Like

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