Audiobook Review: A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Book 6 of Rockton
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (February 9, 2021)
Length: 10 hrs and 30 mins
Narrator: Therese Plummer
It’s hard to believe that what initially began as a serial novel in six parts ultimately expanded to become one of my favorite crime mystery thriller series in recent years. Given how it basically takes place in the literal middle of nowhere, I’m frankly amazed at the way Rockton just keeps spawning stories, each one more addictive than the last.
A Stranger in Town is the sixth volume, opening once more on the remote community deep in the Yukon wilderness where people go to disappear. But as spring approaches, bringing warmer weather and tourists to the north, the residents of Rockton find that they must work a little harder to keep their little settlement off the map. One day, despite their efforts, the town is shaken when a lone hiker stumbles onto their doorstep, bloodied and delirious with fever, seemingly injured from a bad fall. However, upon inspection of the woman’s days old wounds, Detective Casey Duncan determines that they could not have been caused by an accident—the victim had been violently stabbed, likely by one of the wild people who live out in the woods, known as hostiles.
Of course, it doesn’t help that our hiker doesn’t speak any English, and thus is unable to answer any of Casey’s questions. What is determined, though, is that the woman had not come alone. Handling the investigation the old-fashioned way, Casey and her boyfriend Sheriff Eric Dalton head out into the wilderness and come across the mutilated bodies of two more hikers, and evidence that one might be still alive. Now they’re looking at a possible rescue mission on top of trying to find the killers, and that’s just the beginning. A deadly incident back in town leaves one of their own in a coma, and coming in hot on the heels of that disaster is the arrival of Emilie, a Rockton council member and one of its original founders, here to impart bad news. Rumor is that the town won’t be around for much longer; the hostile situation is getting out of hand, and rather than fix the problem, the council wants to put an end to Rockton and start over somewhere else.
For many though, Rockton has become more than a home. For some, it is their only sanctuary. Something bigger is going on here, and Casey and Dalton must race against the clock to solve the mystery before their little town gets shut down.
Like all the previous books, this one was a lot of fun. For the first time though, the story also involves a conflict dealing with a prominent outside force, that of the council of Rockton and other shadowy parties of foreign origin. I think this had both positive and negative consequences. First, the good: I liked that the involvement of the council gave us more of the history behind Rockton and its founding. Thus far, we’ve only caught snippets about the town in the decades before Casey’s arrival in fleeting conversations, but Emilie’s appearance had a way of turning much of what we know on its head. Along with this came the introduction of a greater conspiracy. Needless to say, I felt this expanded the scope of the series and made the characters’ obstacles seem far more insurmountable, dramatically raising the stakes.
But now, for the bad. In another first with this series, I found myself lost more than once, especially when the plot continuously pulled in new characters and groups of people, when I was already struggling to recall the identities of some of the existing townsfolk and settlers. It’s amazing how many names there are to keep track of after six books, even in an isolated setting like Rockton! Furthermore, the story grew overly complex and at times completely over-the-top, and to really appreciate the developments, you had to suspend some of your disbelief.
Still, I loved that Casey and Dalton got to get back to doing some real detective work, as I felt we’d been steadily losing this sleuthing element over the last few installments in favor of promoting more family relationship and small-town shenanigans. That said, April has become one of my favorite characters in this series and I love how she and Casey are slowly reconnecting, so I certainly don’t mind some family drama.
All told, A Stranger in Town was another strong entry into the Rockton series. Despite the novel’s ups and downs, I can see how at this point a real shakeup was needed, and in this, the plot delivered. Fans of the series will definitely not want to miss this next chapter of Casey Duncan’s adventure, and the ending made me even more curious to see what her future holds.
Audiobook Comments: The first time I ever listened to Therese Plummer’s narration was with the first book of this series, City of the Lost, and now six books later, I am still a huge fan. For me, she will always be the voice of Casey. Simply outstanding.