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Bookends: Desperate People Hide out in the Yukon January 31, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Klondike Sun, mystery, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Desperate People Hide out in the Yukon

By Dan Davidson

August 29, 2016

city-of-thr-lost– 767 words –

 

City of the Lost

By Kelly Armstrong

Random House of Canada

412
pages

$19.95

 

Every so often a writer will reach back into Charles Dickens’ bag of tricks and issue a novel in serial format. Stephen King did it with The Green Mile back in 1996, bringing it out in six thin paperbacks that were eventually republished in collected form about a year later.

It’s become easier to do this now that there’s a market for e-books. Canada’s Kelly Armstrong is best known for her novels featuring werewolves and witches, books with strong female characters. Even though there’s no supernatural element to this book, the latter description remains true.

Our narrator is Casey Duncan, a veteran detective with the special victims unit in a city that remains unnamed. Casey has a deep secret. 12 years earlier she was attacked while out walking with her boyfriend. He fled and she was both raped and badly injured. When she comes to, several weeks later, she seeks out Blaine, wanting an explanation for why he had abandoned her. She questions him at gunpoint, and at some point in the argument she kills him.

She gets away with it, but does penance by joining the police force.

During the ensuing twelve years she has become the protector of a young woman named Diana, who seems to have terminally bad judgement when it comes to men. Di is the only person who knows what Casey did, but Di has her own problems in the person of an abusive ex-husband who keeps coming back for more, and has nearly killed her at least once. Casey tried to scare him off, but it seems she only made him become more devious.

Recently Casey has been stepping out with a bartender named Kurt and one evening they are attacked and he is shot. The gunman gets away but his parting words tell her he was sent by Blaine’s father, a known gangster. Casey has been playing a weird sort of psychological Russian Roulette for some years, going to various therapists and confessing her murder to them, counting on the patient/doctor relationship to protect her. Apparently one of them finally talked.

That’s the set up for what follows. Di has learned of a place where people can go when they need to hide, and at this point they both need to. The interview to go to the City of the Lost doesn’t go well to begin with, but it emerges that this bush town, somewhere north of Dawson City, has need of a detective. It has a sheriff, Eric Dalton, but he’s no expert on murder, and there has been one. So despite his reservations about Casey, (he seems to know her secret) he agrees to take them both.

The town of Rockton is a full service bush community with an indeterminate number of residents. It is accessible only by air, from the Dawson airport. It is controlled by something called the Council, and the set-up is somewhat mysterious, but it is a hideaway for people who need to disappear, some for good reasons, some for bad.

The first murder, the one Casey was brought in to solve, was weird. There were body parts, and whole thing looks like it was done by an intelligent animal. Having read some of Armstrong’s other books that was sort of where I expected this to go, and subsequent murders have a touch of ritualism to them that increased this misleading impression.

The eventual solutions and motives are much more mundane than that, but there are more than enough twists and turns in the plot to keep up the interest and the suspense.

I picked up this series last year while travelling, mainly because the promotional material mentioned Dawson and the Yukon. There are a few scenes in the town itself, with a decent sense of the place without being too specific. The wilderness town of Rockton is a bit too manicured to be a really acceptable depiction of the Yukon wilderness, but then this story takes place in the summer, so Armstrong can get away with a lot.

In the end, it was a decent read. Some of the fans at Amazon are calling for a sequel, but, even though there are some loose ends in Casey’s life, I don’t really see where one would go. That said, Armstrong was signing books at Coles in Whitehorse on August 27, and her website says part of the trip was research for more books in this series

 

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