Series: Casey Duncan #1
Published by Sphere on January 14th 2016
Barnes & Noble
Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret: when she was in college, she killed a man. She was never caught, but he was the grandson of a mobster and she knows that someday this crime will catch up to her. Casey's best friend, Diana, is on the run from a violent, abusive ex-husband. When Diana's husband finds her, and Casey herself is attacked shortly after, Casey knows it's time for the two of them to disappear again.
Diana has heard of a town made for people like her, a town that takes in people on the run who want to shed their old lives. You must apply to live in Rockton and if you're accepted, it means walking away entirely from your old life, and living off the grid in the wilds of Canada: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council's approval. As a murderer, Casey isn't a good candidate, but she has something they want: She's a homicide detective, and Rockton has just had its first real murder. She and Diana are in. However, soon after arriving, Casey realizes that the identity of a murderer isn't the only secret Rockton is hiding—in fact, she starts to wonder if she and Diana might be in even more danger in Rockton than they were in their old lives.
I don’t know how I missed this series when it first started, but somehow I did, and now I get to binge the next few. And I will, because this book is a great start to what promises to be a really fun and unique series.
Casey Duncan and her best friend Diana need to go on the run. Diana’s violent ex has popped back up, and Casey’s past has suddenly reared up and they need to disappear. Diana starts to hear rumblings about a secret town called Rockton where people like them can go to hide out. Casey thinks it sounds unlikely, and she’s not wrong, so she’s surprised when she starts digging and realizes it’s a real place.
There’s a stringent application process, a contract that has to be signed, residency requirements, length of stay requirements, etc. Once they get to Rockton, there’s no electricity beyond what your generator can produce, no cell phones, basically no contact whatsoever with the outside world. The entire town is completely off the grid.
Casey is accepted because she’s a cop and Rockton needs more of them. Diana isn’t accepted at first because she’s basically useless, but Casey makes Diana’s acceptance a requirement for her own, so off they go.
Rockton was a lot more well-set up and complicated than I had expected. It’s hard to live completely off the grid in today’s world, especially after you’ve spent so much time living on the grid. Casey and Diana manage to adjust more easily than I would, that’s for sure. I can’t go an hour without checking Twitter, much to Mr. Smut’s dismay.
Casey is a cop, and she’s a good cop who’s hiding a dicey past. When I read in the blurb that she killed a man when she was in college, I assumed it was an accident of some kind. Drunk driving maybe, or some sort of hazing incident. Nope. She flat out killed someone. Whether or not it was justified will depend on your worldview, but she absolutely killed someone.
Her skills as a cop are the reason Sheriff Eric Dalton needs her to agree to go to Rockton and the reason he doesn’t want her to agree to go. The council (the faceless group of outsiders who make the rules and decide who can and can’t enter Rockton) has told him that he needs help in order to solve crimes. There’s a lot more crime in Rockton that the population size would have you believe. It makes sense – who usually needs to disappear from society? Criminals and those involved with criminals. Of course there are people like Diana, who are hiding from a violent ex or other bad situation, but there are a lot of criminals as well, and technology or no, criminals will criminal.
She’s thrown into her new job immediately; Sheriff Dalton is already investigating several deaths in Rockton, and there are more to come. He’s initially reluctant to let Casey get involved in the investigation, but he doesn’t really have a choice now that she’s there, and the longer they work together, the more he realizes that she’s a damn good cop and investigator.
The world-building that Kelley Armstrong does here is incredible. Rockton exists in our world; she doesn’t have to invent an entirely new environment and culture, but it’s completely cut off from the rest of the world and it really does exist in its own bubble. She manages to make it real and lived in. The town residents feel real, too – even the minor characters are well-drawn and fleshed out. I felt like I could take a quick plane ride (probably not so quick from Ohio) and already know everyone in Rockton when I got off the plane.
There was a lot more to the mystery and the motives than I was initially expecting. I wasn’t really shocked to hear who the bad guy was, but I wouldn’t say it was broadcast or too clear. There were enough clues laid out for me throughout the book, and while there were a few red herrings, Armstrong didn’t seem concerned with laying out false clues or trying to fool her readers, she just told a great story.
I liked the narration by Therese Plummer, but I don’t feel comfortable really rating it since I listen to audiobooks on 1.5x speed. It’s not really fair for me to judge her performance when I’m listening to an altered version.
Bottom line – I really liked this book. It was different than anything I’ve read recently, and I really liked the town of Rockton. I’m excited to move on and get the next book in this series.