Minotaur Books; February 6, 2018
Macmillan Audio; February 6, 2018
368 pages (ebook)
12hr 12m (audiobook)
3.5 / 5 ✪
May contain minor spoilers for the Rockton series books 1 & 2.
This Fallen Prey picks up just a bit after A Darkness Absolute ended, as Rockton prepares for summer in the Yukon taiga. Now you should be familiar with Casey Duncan: one-third of the police force in Rockton, one-half of the town’s resident power-couple, and newest and lone town puppy owner. Also, by now we’re all intimately familiar with Rockton—its foul-mouthed sheriff with a heart of gold; its deputy with a shady past; butcher with a curious relationship with violence; and the residency with its own share of scars and secrets, each and every one come to the Yukon wilderness to avoid something down south.
But Rockton is about to welcome its newest resident, who might be a bit of an oddity. For starters, he’s not here so much to escape trouble down south, than to isolate him from it. Where Rockton isn’t exactly unfamiliar with criminals, Oliver Brady might just be the first of his kind to set foot in the town. See, Brady’s a serial killer—and is to be considered armed and dangerous.
Of course, objections are made.
First by the sheriff—not only is Rockton not equipped for someone like Brady; it isn’t a prison, but a town full of vulnerable people looking to escape. Many of them someone like Brady. Next up is Brady—he claims to be framed. His stepfather is loaded, and wants his stepson out of the way for a while while he assumes control of their company. Last but not least, the townsfolk weigh in: some on the side of Brady want him released, others however demand the animal be put down for his—and their own—good.
But in the end the council overrules them all. After all, someone is paying them a lot of money to send Brady to Rockton—and in the end that’s what is most important.
Thus it’s up to Casey and Dalton to navigate these murky waters and decide what is best for the town before bodies start dropping.
Our third trip to Rockton begins in a promising fashion. Fresh off the convoluted warren of plot-devices, threads, twists and turns that made up A Darkness Absolute, we’re thrown into a story where an innocent man gets accused of murder then bundled up north for his own lynching. Or… probably innocent. Maybe innocent? For the longest time, I couldn’t make up my mind on Brady—which was the whole point—and this made the plot work very well. Did he do it or not? In a place with no internet or phone service, it’s harder than ever to dig into a person’s past, let alone sort fact from fiction. Brady claims he’s been framed—and even fingers someone else for his crimes. It all seems so obvious …until it doesn’t. Oliver’s a handsome, charismatic SOB. Yeah, he might be telling the truth, but there’s an equally strong case he ain’t, and it’s up to the detectives to parse this. And that’s the core of the excitement.
Because by now he’s managed to divide the town, with some going as far as to try to free him, while others attempt to kill the bastard. And it was all going so well until Rockton received a new visitor—and things kinda fall apart. First there’s an entire interlude involving Storm that detracts from the case itself. I found myself boggled by this as it did the story no favors. Everything had just ramped up and the tension was high—and now we’ve run down a side path for whatever reason and lost 1-2 hours. And when the main arc picks back up, it’s transformed into a he-said, she-said back and forth, which again starts to feel just as convoluted as the last book.
It’s not nearly as bad as that, however. This Fallen Prey delivers a much better setup and story than the last, particularly excelling in the first half and ending. Honestly there’s just that gap in the middle that derails everything. And then the plot tries to get back on its feet in the oddest way possible—by yelling and pointing fingers. It does eventually get back on track, but for that period in-between… well, it’s less than a fun time.
The third installment in the Rockton series, This Fallen Prey attempts to rebound of the failings of the previous book, a tangled mess that was interesting and tried so many things but ultimately was bogged down as everything it tried got all mixed together. “Convoluted” is the best word for it. Well, while Fallen Prey has its own helping of convolution, it’s a much better read, and much more to the point. With a great opening and a good buildup—the story falters just past the halfway mark and takes some time finding its bearings. It manages to right the ship in time to deliver an unexpected and satisfying end, but ultimately wastes a goodly amount of the built-up tension and thrill in the process. In the end, This Fallen Prey may be a better read than A Darkness Absolute, but is still nowhere near the bar that City of the Lost set. And yet, while I do have misgivings about the series’ future, I’m optimistic that the next installment—Watcher in the Woods—will get Casey Duncan and Rockton fully back on track. Here’s hoping!