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A DARKNESS ABSOLUTE
by Kelley Armstrong
Minotaur, February 2017
417 pages
$25.95
ISBN: 1250092175


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Casey Duncan is a deputy sheriff in a remote off-the-grid town in the Yukon. This is the second book in the series that follows her story, after CITY OF THE LOST, and it starts with a tremendous piece of writing that describes a severe snow storm blowing in on what had seemed a glorious day. Casey happens to be outside in the forest when the storm begins because she is chasing a resident who has taken a runner. The forest outside of the town of Rockton is filled with menace from both human and animal predators. A good part of this fast-paced thriller takes place in that forest, and in the caves and outlying settlements. And almost all of it takes place during seriously vicious snowstorms.

Casey and her fellow deputy escape the initial storm by taking refuge in a cave where they happen upon a young woman who had been kidnapped over a year previously and was believed dead. Rather, she had been living in a hole, abused but kept alive by her captor. Further exploration of the cave systems turns up the bodies of two additional women, assumed to have been kidnapped and held captive by the same man. The net is cast wide to find the captor, extending to the communities and individuals who live in various barbaric, or simply paranoid individual, states in the wilderness surrounding Rockton. This premise allows Armstrong to play with the concept of civilization, while entertaining the reader with a highly suspenseful plot line.

Armstrong's true brilliance is most apparent, however, in the creation of the premise for Rockton itself. Here is a town that one must petition to enter and pay a large sum to join. Thus, virtually every resident has a backstory of misdeeds and sometimes even violent crime. With other series, readers sometimes ask, "Is it possible that there are so many crimes in one small town?" Because of its unique population, one is not likely to question the number of murders and other violent crimes in Rockton, and Armstrong has created an essentially unending possibility for the use of Casey's detective skills.

So far, the series is very dark. However, there is some lightness to balance the grim story line, as Casey's lover brings her a puppy to train as a tracker. The way that the characters react to the puppy provides a bit of gentleness in an otherwise deeply hostile environment. More kindness is added through Casey's developing relationship with Dalton, the sheriff. Every aspect of this book makes me want to read more, so I am looking forward to the third in the series.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, February 2017

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