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by Kelley Armstrong
Minotaur, February 2020
368 pages
ISBN: 1250254280

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I've followed Casey Duncan and Eric Dalton since the start of the Rockton series, loving each of the books and this, the fifth, does not disappoint. Events in recent books recede as Casey and Eric face a new challenge, which is psychological as much a physical. They decide to take a camping vacation into the forest that surrounds their isolated and hidden town. Living in such a confined space as Rockton, and working as the town's detective and sheriff, respectively, makes it hard for them to clear their heads.

Unfortunately, almost immediately they find a dead woman clutching a still-alive newborn, and must return to Rockton with the baby whom they name Abby. The dead woman was clearly not the mother, so the search is on for Abby's parents. The investigation takes Casey and Eric through the camps of rugged and hostile individualists, settlements of groups who have split off from Rockton, and puts them in contact with a woman escaping from the hostiles. As we follow the couple's search for Abby's parents, we learn a great deal about life outside of Rockton and the history of how the settlements formed.

We are also privy to Casey's and Eric's thoughts and discussions about the possibility of becoming parents themselves. This is a new turn to their relationship, and not one they sought. However, they have become de facto parents for Abby until her real parents are found, and there is the possibility that they will continue that role if Abby's parents are unsuited to care for her or if they cannot be located. Casey, especially, seems torn between wanting a happy childhood for Abby with her natural parents and wanting a happy family for herself. Her thoughts and ruminations make this one of the most internal books of the series, and they add poignancy to the ending.

In addition to Abby's parents, there is a murderer out there, and Casey's instincts as a detective lead her to expand the object of her search from the parents to the murderer. There are many twists in the action as various possibilities are investigated and Casey's dog helps with the tracking. In the end, the plots come together convincingly as the well-developed characters move through the beautifully described landscape. There is a little bit of something for everyone in this thriller…a suspenseful plot, psychological intrigue, and a glorious remote setting.

Kelley Armstrong has built a unique world in Rockton and its surrounds, and each book in the series adds to the readers' understanding of this world. However, this, like the earlier books in the series, can be read as a satisfying stand-alone.

§ Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, November 2019

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