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by Kelley Armstrong
Minotaur, February 2021
368 pages
ISBN: 1250781728

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is the sixth in Armstrong's Rockton series, and it continues some of the conflicts that have arisen throughout the series. Rockton is a hidden town deep in the Yukon forest, where misfits willing to pay for the privilege can escape their lives for a couple of years. It is run according to strict rules determined by a shadowy board and creatively enforced by the Sheriff (Dalton) and the police investigator (Casey). That Casey and Dalton are involved in a relationship would be untenable in the outside world but, within the restricted confines of Rockton and the forest surrounding it, it works to keep the residents safer.

The fact that there are so many murders in such a small town is quite plausible, given the nature of the town's clientele/residents and the outcasts that live deep in the forests. One of those groups, well outside the influence of Rockton, are the "hostiles," wild people mainly under the influence of hallucinogenics, maniacal leaders, and lack of resources. In this latest book, the hostiles are wreaking particular havoc, killing residents and visitors to the forest alike. They are not the only danger in the forest, however, and even given the violence with which they are attacking, an encounter with a mother bear and her cubs counts as the best described frightening moment of the book.

As Casey and Dalton attempt to figure out what is going on with the hostiles and other forest settlers, they uncover a plot thirty years in the making, which has them revisiting the desire to become more autonomous they expressed in the third book of the series. I had wondered if that idea would come back, as I've been following the series from the beginning. It will be interesting to see where book seven takes us next.

As always, the landscape in and around Rockton comes alive with detailed description. The events, and especially the results of the hostile attacks are possibly even a bit too detailed for comfort. That bear encounter seems almost to have jumped off the page and into my brain, creating my own personal video it is so well written. Casey and Dalton continue to develop as characters as well as a couple. Having read the previous books, the characterization makes sense, but I'm not so sure it would be as realistic to a newcomer to the series.

Most of the books in the series could work as standalones and/or entry points to the story of Rockton. Armstrong does a good job of filling in enough background so that a newcomer will not feel lost. However, so much of this latest relies upon an understanding of various social and personal dynamics, that I would not recommend starting here. That said, I highly recommend the series as a whole and suggest starting with an earlier book and working one's way to this one.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in Arizona.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, October 2020

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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