Note: Slight spoilers for previous books in this series.
This is the fifth installment of the series that so far includes City of the Lost, A Darkness Absolute, This Fallen Prey, and Watcher in the Woods.
Casey Duncan is a homicide detective in the town of Rockton, a hidden place in the Yukon that takes in people on the run. Years earlier she killed her former boyfriend – not that she went to meet him intending to kill him, and not that he didn’t deserve it, but it happened, and it haunts her. It also made her “eligible” for life in this town, especially because the sheriff there, Eric Dalton, needed a detective, and Casey was a police detective with experience with solving murders. Rockton only has around 200 residents, but they are people, as Casey understands, who have “either done bad shit or have got serious baggage.”
Since the series began, Casey and Eric have entered into a close personal relationship, as well as being partners on the job. Casey has now been in Rockton sixteen months.
This “episode” focuses on other settlements in the area besides Rockton. Over the years, residents from Rockton have relocated into the wilderness for various reasons. Rockton people refer to most of them as “settlers,” but some are known as “hostiles” or “wild people.” Those in the latter group are primitive and dangerous, and there are a number of theories about how they got that way. Casey and Eric finally learn the answers in this book.
While on a weekend camping getaway, they accidentally discovered a murdered woman holding a still-alive baby. The woman showed signs of being a “settler” who had at one time been a “hostile.” Hostiles have filed teeth, primitive tattoos, ritual scarring, body paint, and tattered clothing. This woman had some of those traits but now looked more civilized. She also was clearly not the mother, and Casey and Eric were determined to find out why she was killed and who committed the crime. Moreover, they wanted to locate the baby’s parents and if possible, return the infant to them. What they didn’t count on was getting attached to the child. Nor did they anticipate the danger the killer still posed.
Evaluation: As always, Armstrong had me guessing until the denouement, which followed a tense run-up with everyone in danger, and with almost everyone under suspicion. Armstrong is one of my favorite authors, and I enjoy all of her work.
Published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan Publishers, 2020