I'm all for the trend of paranormal romance authors switching to mysteries and thrillers. Rachel Caine's Stillhouse Lake series was amazing and Kelley Armstrong's Rockton series manages to be just as gritty and fun. My greatest wish is that the Ilona Andrews duo jumps on this bandwagon next... Can you imagine?
Anyway, ALONE IN THE WILD is the fifth book in the series and I didn't read the first four. #YOLO. Don't worry, though. They work as standalones-- or at least this one does-- because the author does a really good job filling you in on the backstories of all the characters in the narrative. I never once felt lost, which I feel like is the hallmark of an author who knows their stuff.
Rockton is a town up north, near the Yukon, where people come to disappear. You can only stay for two years, and you have to be eighteen-and-up. For most of the year, it's a frozen wasteland and people have to be entirely self-sufficient without technology. If you think this leads to a pretty chilling and claustrophobic setting, you would be right. Especially since a lot of Rockton's residents aren't exactly what you might call "savory." They're all there to run from something, after all.
The main character, Casey, is a woman of Scottish, Filipino, and Chinese decent, who had to run away for her own reasons. Now she's a detective and shacking up with the local sheriff, a hottie named Dalton. They're camping in the woods when Casey hears a strange sound: a baby screaming, half-frozen, in the arms of a dead woman. Whoa. You know things are ramping up when there is literally a dead body in the first chapter. Don't worry, the baby is OK though. But her presence indicates that something is not right, as children are 100% not allowed, and taking care of her is hard, since Rockton really isn't equipped to be baby friendly.
Plus, it's pretty clear that the baby doesn't belong to the dead woman holding her, which begs the question as to who the baby really belonged to and why the woman was running. Cue nefarious interviews with the other people living in the woods. Nomadic travelers who treat women like chattel, and communes that are like the Manson Family, only a little less psychotic. Neither of those groups is particularly willing to talk, though, and the baby's presence suddenly takes a more similar turn as the reasons behind the woman's murder slowly begin to come to light.
Is this premise a bit far-fetched? Yes, of course. Did I have fun reading it anyway? Also yes, of course. I'm a sucker for a strong female character and a good whodunnit story. Maybe this wasn't as whodunnity as I might have liked, but the icy setting really added a lot of oomph and I liked how the author had fleshed out the town of Rockton and its surrounding communes. It's a pretty original idea and I got into it pretty quickly. Even though I haven't read the other books in the series, I intend to rectify that pretty quickly, as I sped through this so quickly-- it's just such simple, addictive fun.
Anyone who enjoys cheesy mysteries with dark themes is going to love this.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars