Audiobook Review: City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Book 1 of Casey Duncan
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (May 3, 2016)
Length: 13 hrs and 47 mins
Narrator: Therese Plummer
Wow, you’ll have to excuse me, but I think I’m having myself another one of those “Why have I waited so long to read this author?” moments. Yes, believe it or not, it actually took me this long to finally try Kelley Armstrong (despite the fact others have been telling me about her awesomeness for years). I also find it a little ironic that even though I’m more of a speculative fiction reader, it wasn’t any of her fantasy or paranormal books that finally caught my eye, but her newest mystery thriller/suspense novel City of the Lost, a book that was originally published serially in six parts. Anyway, the moment I read its description, I just knew I had to check it out.
Meet Casey Duncan, a homicide detective with a dark secret. In college, she killed a former lover, who was also the grandson of a crime lord. While the police didn’t have the evidence to catch who really did it, the mob knows and they never forget. Casey’s past finally catches up with her more than a decade later, when she suddenly finds her life in danger. At around the same time, Casey’s best friend Diana tells her that she is worried about her violent ex-husband, who has recently managed to track her down. After Casey discovers Diana brutally beaten and bloody on her bathroom floor one night, she knows that the two of them will have to do something about their situations—and fast—or they’ll both soon wind up dead.
It is Diana who finds a possible solution, letting Casey know about a remote community in the northern wilderness where people can go to disappear. Anyone who wants to leave their old lives behind can apply for entry—which includes abuse survivors like Diana, but also folks who are trying to run from their mistakes, hide from the law, or just don’t want to be found. That’s how the two friends ultimately end up in Rockton, a small town in the Yukon Territories where there’s no phones, no internet, no mail…but plenty of secrets. As it turns out, Casey’s application was almost rejected after a thorough background check revealed that she might have killed a man in college, but the town council is desperate; Rockton has just had its first real homicide, so they feel the local sheriff could use the help from a real homicide detective.
While I usually leave audiobook comments until the end of my reviews, I feel like I have to make an exception here simply because this was such a phenomenal listen. I also don’t doubt that a huge part of my love of this book was due to the format and the incredible performance by the narrator Therese Plummer. This is the first audiobook I’ve ever listened to her read, and I am beyond impressed with her voice acting. She reads beautifully, pulling me into the story so that I hung on to her every word. Her timing, accents, and inflections were all perfect, and the way she dramatized the suspenseful scenes had a way of making feel like I was right in the story, or sitting around a campfire listening to a tale told by an extremely talented storyteller.
Of course, Kelley Armstrong’s writing had a lot to do with creating the atmosphere as well. While there’s no clear speculative fiction element in City of the Lost, I also think that parts of this book can qualify it as horror. After all, there’s a possible killer on the loose, and there are also things lurking in the forest you don’t ever want to meet. The author has created an ideal setting for a psychological thriller, emphasizing the isolation of Rockton. Even without the murders making everyone in town nervous, there’s a real sense of danger and helplessness that hangs over all aspects of life in a remote community like this so far away from civilization, knowing that if the worst happens, you are on your own.
Yet at the same time, there’s a quiet, exquisite beauty about that kind of isolation. It’s a simple but relatively carefree life in Rockton, and the people around you may be quirky but they have their charms. Despite feeling the pressures of her investigation, Casey is also always taking the time to appreciate the wonders of the wilderness around her. I’ve always wanted to visit the Yukon, and the descriptions in this book reminded me why.
I really only have one criticism, and it’s a very minor one. There’s a romantic arc in this book, and around the two-thirds mark the plot stalls as we switch gears to focus on the romantic drama. Still, the romance is super sweet, the kind that I’m sure made other people wonder why I had this stupid, dreamy-looking grin plastered on my face as I was walking around listening to this one on my headphones. The love story might have been a bit much, distracting from the mystery and suspense, but it was also really nice.
By now, I think it’s obvious that I loved City of the Lost, and I seriously couldn’t be more pleased with my very first Kelley Armstrong novel. If you love twisty mysteries and psychological thrillers, I would highly recommend this one, especially the audio version narrated by Therese Plummer. This one made me an instant fan of both author and narrator. Will definitely want to read/listen to more!
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