Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin
Rockton is a town built on secrets. Everyone comes to this camouflaged Yukon haven with a colourful past and something to hide, be they victim or perpetrator, sociopath or healer. But what happens when the deepest of secrets are at risk of being revealed? Someone in Rockton is playing a deadly game, and it’s up to Sheriff Eric Dalton and his partner, Detective Casey Duncan, to find out who it is and stop them before fear and judgment rip this fragile town to shreds. With a population of 171, everyone has a secret, and only Sheriff Dalton knows of them all.
We Rockton fans knew that one day there would be an end to this thrilling crime fiction series. When she released book six, New York Times best-selling author Kelley Armstrong told us she had a seven-book contract. Big sigh of excitement. This is book seven and, yes, the people of Rockton have been given the word from their elusive governing council in the south that this is it. Their beloved Yukon hideaway is about to be dismantled; worse still, the town folks are tasked with the dismantling.
The story begins in the midst of this chaos with an unusual moment of calm—three peaceful days have merged into a friendly game of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a beautiful July evening until the peace is shattered by a sign—a literal sign hanging in the street. “Will Anders is a killer. He lost his marbles and killed his army commanding officer and escaped to Rockton before they locked him in a loony bin.” Could it be true? What would you think if you saw a sign that revealed your town’s deputy sheriff was a crazy killer? This revelation triggers an escalating action that leaves scarcely a moment to breathe until the final page.
I appreciate how Armstrong provides a solid introduction to this book where she explains Rockton and the rules. “Residents come here under false names and false identities, and they must stay a minimum of two years.” Rockton is not new. It was created as a kind of commune in the 1950s, so it has its own history. The residents know the end is coming as the population has dwindled and no new folks have been admitted to this off-grid town in months. I’m going to miss Rockton. I’m going to miss these characters. I’ve followed Eric and Casey’s relationship from the very beginning, smiled through the introduction of their comical Newfoundland pup, Storm, and gritted my teeth through all the bizarre cases they’ve solved. This end is as tough for me, the reader, as it is for the residents of Rockton.
Also, in the introduction, Armstrong names the key characters and reminds us of their talents, skills, and jobs, many of which have nothing to do with each other. For example, Mathias, the town butcher, is a “psychologist with an expertise in criminal pathology.” Both skills come in useful in Rockton, where every story involves at least one slightly bizarre murder. This book is no exception.
The stories, for the most part, are plot-driven. They’re crime novels, so we spend most of the story inside Detective Casey Duncan’s head as she gathers clues and deciphers what they mean. Casey’s narration in first person present tense creates a sense of immediacy and illustrates how this brilliant woman’s brain fires. It’s taken seven books, but we’ve come to know her, through her relationships with her dog, her partner, her sister, and her friends. Each book can be standalone, but I always find it’s richer to read a series in order and watch the character development.
Armstrong’s clear tight prose is peppered with colourful vocabulary. I found myself looking up new words—slavering, moue, feminazi, tangentially. If you’re searching for an intelligent crime series steeped in nature and popping with psychopaths, look no further. The town of Rockton may be finished but these books will live on forever.
The Deepest of Secrets is published by Minotaur Books.
W. L. Hawkin writes books with “myth, magic, and mayhem” for Blue Haven Press. Her latest Lure: Jesse & Hawk is a romantic suspense novel with small-town grit.