Publisher: Minotaur Books on February 7, 2017
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
The follow-up to #1 NYT bestseller Kelley Armstrong’s acclaimed City of the Lost, Rockton town detective Casey Duncan makes a terrible—and dangerous—discovery in the woods outside of town.
When experienced homicide detective Casey Duncan first moved to the secret town of Rockton, she expected a safe haven for people like her, people running from their past misdeeds and past lives. She knew living in Rockton meant living off-the-grid completely: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. What she didn’t expect is that Rockton comes with its own set of secrets and dangers.
Now, in A Darkness Absolute, Casey and her fellow Rockton sheriff’s deputy Will chase a cabin-fevered resident into the woods, where they are stranded in a blizzard. Taking shelter in a cave, they discover a former resident who’s been held captive for over a year. When the bodies of two other women turn up, Casey and her colleagues must find out if it’s an outsider behind the killings or if the answer is more complicated than that…before another victim goes missing.
Casey Duncan returns in another heart-racing thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong.
Several months have passed since homicide detective Casey Duncan first arrived in Rockton, a secret settlement of 200 people tucked away in the wilderness of the Yukon. Like most members of the community, Casey came to Rockton to escape her past and leave the darkness behind…but Casey knows better than most that you can’t hide from your inner demons forever. Soon she starts to wonder: could it be that the people of Rockton are there for more than just sanctuary?
Before she has too much time to consider that truly chilling possibility, Casey, Sheriff Eric Dalton, and Deputy Will Anders are thrust into the middle of yet another disturbing case. While exploring caves, the colleagues and friends stumble onto a young woman trapped inside a deep, cavernous pit. The woman is none other than Nicole, a Rockton resident who had been ruled deceased more than a year earlier. Nicole has been malnourished, beaten, raped, and help captive inside that hole all without ever seeing the face of her tormentor, and now Rockton’s police department must race against the clock to identify and apprehend him.
A DARKNESS ABSOLUTE is, perhaps unsurprisingly, very dark. If you find stories that address rape and torture to be disturbing, you may want to steer clear. But disturbing is kind of the name of the game in thrillers, and Kelley Armstrong does a good job with it. When Casey discovers that Nicole’s abductor may in fact be a Rockton resident himself, all hell breaks loose within the community. The only thing scarier than the stark wilderness surrounding the town is the idea that a violent psychopath is trapped among them for the winter.
I’ve always felt that Kelley Armstrong excels best when she focuses on her characters, and I’m happy to report that she does so here. Sure, I wanted to know “whodunit” and I’m definitely intrigued by the shadowy council who controls Rockton – especially since they’re the only ones who know whether there’s a darker purpose behind the town – but for me the best part of A DARKNESS ABSOLUTE is learning more about those living in Rockton. Armstrong digs deeper into the hearts and minds of the characters I’ve come to love (and hate), peeling back the layers to show that no one is what they seem. I was particularly happy to see Jacob take on a more central role in this story, since he was one of the most intriguing characters from the series debut.
As always, I adore the way that Kelley Armstrong writes her romances, and I was quite pleased with this part of A DARKNESS ABSOLUTE. The relationship between Casey and Eric is really quite sweet despite their circumstances and dark pasts, probably because neither one of them has really had a relationship before. Eric’s gruff bumbling was adorable in its way, and it’s nice to see Casey opening up and actually, you know, experiencing some happiness. Given the subject matter of this series, I think the romance is essential to break up the tension a bit and give readers some time to recover from the grimness of it all. It was also nice to see Casey develop some more friendships with Rockton residents, including a new character named Matthias who’s clearly going to be important as the series progresses.
Admittedly the actual mystery portion of A DARKNESS ABSOLUTE was probably the weakest part of the book, not because I figured it out (I didn’t…sigh) but because it seemed a bit repetitive at times. Since they’re working in an incredibly low-tech environment, Casey, Eric, and Will are often forced to work in circles before they can discover any clues that help propel the mystery onwards. This made for some frustrating moments, as I felt like the gang took three steps backwards for every step forward. But that said, there were still lots of thrills and chills to be had in this one, and I think fans of the first book will be happy with it even if it’s not as strong as CITY OF THE LOST.
I’m eager to see what happens next for Casey and co. in book three, and I’m stoked to read more about all the new characters introduced in this story.