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City of the Lost
Series: Casey Duncan #1
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Dates from Hell, Aftertaste, Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions, Visions, Deceptions, The Masked Truth, Empire of Night, Forest of Ruin, Betrayals, A Darkness Absolute.
Genres: Psychological Thriller
First in the Casey Duncan psychological thriller series set in the wilds of Canada and revolving around a detective on the run.
It’s a thrilling mystery with plenty of twists and red herrings, anxiety and terror, and it’s more of an exploration of Rockton. The investigation is simply the path Armstrong takes to introduce us to the town and its inhabitants, how it evolved, the psychology of living there, and to facilitate that very odd romance. I am curious about those arbitrary lengths-of-stay. If the inhabitants need to disappear from the world, why would a two-year disappearance be enough? Especially when you find out what some of them have done!
That byplay with Dalton at the beginning where he tries to blackball her from coming to Rockton didn’t work for me. It didn’t make any sense, especially when we get to Rockton. He already knows he needs help, that she’s good, so…? To be fair, Dalton does reveal much later that he has good reason to be wary, even as he’s impressed with how quickly she gets to the root of other issues he’s worrying over. For some reason, Armstrong downplays this big worry of his at the end. It’s as if it never existed.
I can understand Casey’s concerns about Isabel’s establishment setting up a mindset for the men that all the women are available for a price, but I don’t understand men who think it’s true. Yeah, yeah, yeah, all you guys out there are thinking…”and what about the cost of that dinner, the flowers, the candy, the…” That’s totally different from shoving some money at a woman as she’s getting out of bed. How can Casey claim Isabel’s catering to the men who can’t keep their pants zipped is an insult to the men if she’s also whining about the high rate of sexual assaults as well as the approaches that have been made to her? And if Casey knows there’s a high rate of assaults, that means the cops know about it. Why aren’t they doing something about it? They’ve got lots of chores these guys can do. There’s always the forest where they can walk back to civilization. This “sexual exploration” makes no sense to me. It’s more like Armstrong dropped it in to sex things up.
Lol, Diana gets pissy when she finds out about Casey’s place and it’s so much better than hers. It sure reinforces the concept of meritocratic “police state”. Those punishments were practical too.
All that said, Armstrong starts off strong and gets stronger. I hated that jerk boyfriend of Casey’s, and I think he got off lightly. Of course, I also think Casey was nuts to be blabbin’ away to those therapists, although I’d believe as she did that the client confidentiality would hold. After all, that murder was years ago, and it’s not like he didn’t have it coming.
While Casey is a decent human being (with a huge martyr complex), she is damaged due to how her parents treated her, raised her. Diana’s parents should have had to undergo psychiatry to determine if they should have children…right alongside Diana’s parents. I did have to laugh later, though. Casey’s parents were doctors whose daughter went into law enforcement while Beth’s parents were in law enforcement whose daughter went into medicine. And both sets were disappointed.
Gimme a break, even I didn’t think the mysterious figure was Ricci. Casey certainly has enough reason to think the situation could be dangerous, and why she fluffs it off, I don’t know. I wish Armstrong had played on the emotional attachment between Casey and Kurt more. It’s more of a tell that doesn’t pull at me. As for Eric, yes, he’s a pain. But from the sound of that town, they need an autocratic guy like him, and it sure sounds like the town respects him. Except for that one thing, you’ll always know where you stand with him. Nor does he hold anything back when he lets Casey know what he thinks of Diana and her new friends. I gotta say, as the story goes on, I agree with Dalton. Jesus. As for Val. I don’t think the woman has ever even talked to Dalton. The man she’s describing is not the man I’ve been getting to know. Although, it is pretty easy to see where she’s getting her ideas from. That woman is one sick puppy.
I do like the plan Casey comes up with to counter the extortion the investors are holding over Eric. And that new judgment on Diana has me whooping, and I cannot wait until 2017 for A Darkness Absolute.
Casey bargains hard for Diana. She’s her friend and she’s under attack. Again. She’s willing to step back to ensure Diana’s safety. Instead, she gets six months to prove herself.
It’s a captive population in many ways, for all that they have their freedom.
Detective Casey Duncan “Butler” began as a police recruit, knocked back, who struggled to come back as a police detective. Cricket will become her horse. Her disapproving parents — Dad is a cardiologist and Mom is chief of pediatric surgery — don’t last long. Kurt is her ex-con bartending boyfriend working to make it right…and if this isn’t the sweetest guy…sigh…
Diana Berry, Casey’s best (and only) friend, is an accountant who can’t hold a job and certainly never ascends the ladder of success. She’s fleeing her abusive lawyer husband, Graham Berry.
Rockton, Ontario, does…
…not exist, and its population is 70% self-sustaining. Valerie is the firm representative and client liaison, and boy, does she have her issues. The people in charge are the investors, one of whom is Phil. Sheriff Eric Dalton has been in office for five years and has some intense secrets of his own. Blaze is the gelding he rides. His dad was the sheriff in Rockton. Deputy Will Anders has his own secret past in the military and is a sweet, outgoing man. Dr. Elizabeth Lowry fled a potential criminal case and is now the local medico.
Kenny, a former high school math teacher, is with the local militia. Isabel Radcliffe, a psychologist in her previous life, now runs the Roc, a bar and bordello. Mick is Isabel’s boyfriend, a former city and local cop. The Red Lion is another bar, more of a Western saloon. Pierre Lang is a pedophile. Jen is a nightmare of an addict. I wouldn’t mind if she walked into the forest. Ted. Jerome Hastings is the town chemist. Dalton thinks he’s the one manufacturing rydex. Richard (Rich, Dick) and the artistic Petra are some of Diana’s new friends. Irene is a horticulturalist on the run. I think Rodrigues works in the greenhouses.
Harry Powys had been a doctor in his past life; he’s only the latest. Irene Prosser was Harry’s ex-girlfriend. Abbygail Kemp was a young girl who’d had a bad start and was coming back into her own. A sweet girl about whom everyone in town is worried.
Brent had been a mildly bipolar bounty hunter who now lives full-time in a cave. Jacob is a settler and hostile with family issues.
The settlers are those who disapproved of the changes from a communal Rockton to a police state while the hostiles are those who lost their humanity and have turned more animalistic.
Timmons is Casey’s partner back in the big city. Detective Stefan Ricci is a new detective from Special Victims. Constable Wiley is something of a jerk. Ms. Lang is a rape victim who was strangled almost-to-death by her abusive addict boyfriend. Britnee Spencer got some “private” lessons from Graham. Larry is a co-worker of Kurt’s. Blaine Saratori is a wannabe drug-pushin’ thug who is an arrogant coward. Leo Saratori is his mobbed-up grandfather.
The Cover and Title
The cover is a forest of bare trees in silhouette against a foggy winter twilight sky, lonely, with a woman striding into the forest in her black leather coat, her long black hair flowing down her back. The author’s name is in a frosty deep yellow with the title below it in a matching frosty white.
The title is what it is, a City of the Lost, those who want to disappear.