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Book Author: Kelley Armstrong

MURDER AT HAVEN’S ROCK by Kelley Armstrong: Book Review

A number of years ago, Casey Duncan flees an abusive husband and makes her way to Rockton, a town deep in the Yukon wilderness.  She has heard it was established as a sanctuary for those forced by circumstances to leave their pasts behind, and she is determined to make a new life for herself.  She is successful in achieving that goal, and in addition meets her future husband, Eric Dalton, there.

However, things take a turn for the worse in Rockton, and Casey and Eric decide to form a new community in the Territory, one in which they will have control over who its residents will be.  They can do this because the majority of the funding comes from Casey’s family’s trust; the remaining amount comes from the family of the new community’s builder, Yolanda.

Now, even before its opening, Casey and Eric have been called to Haven’s Rock to investigate two missing members of Yolanda’s crew.  Although the first rule of the community is “stay out of the forest,” apparently Bruno, the town’s engineer, and Penny, the town’s architect, disregarded it.  Thus, immediately after their plane lands, Casey and Eric, along with their dog Storm, enter the woods and begin looking for the two missing members of the crew.

After a few minutes of following the trail that Yolanda reluctantly had constructed to keep the crew members from exploring the forest on their own and getting lost, Casey and Eric become aware that they’re not alone.  Eric leaves Casey and Storm to follow the unknown person, and Casey continues her search for Bruno and Penny.

Suddenly she realizes that Storm is no longer by her side.  She follows the sound of the dog’s whine and discovers her looking at a pile of branches and dead leaves.  As Casey walks closer to get a better look, she slips and falls into a deep pit.  Helped by the small amount of sun that is able to get through the debris, she’s able to see the back of a hand and the ring and wristwatch on it.  She thinks, “I’ve found Penny.”  In fact, the body is that of another woman, one Casey and Dalton weren’t aware was missing.  And Penny and Bruno remain missing.

Kelley Armstrong has written a fascinating follow-up to her Rockton books.  Murder at Haven’s Rock has an outstanding plot and completely believable characters that will make you (almost) want to visit the rugged Yukon and see the community for yourself.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

A RIP THROUGH TIME by Kelley Armstrong: Book Review

Mallory Atkinson has flown from Vancouver to Scotland to visit her beloved grandmother on her deathbed.  Mallory is so stressed one afternoon that she leaves the hospital room to have a few minutes for herself and walks to a nearby coffee shop to place an order for herself and her grandmother’s nurses.  Picking up the tray of drinks, she bumps into a man standing nearby and spatters his shirt with drops of coffee.  Mallory apologizes profusely and sincerely, but the man brushes her off.

That night, while her grandmother is sleeping, Mallory leaves the hospital.  She’s jogging across Edinburgh’s famous Grassmarket, a series of shops and stalls now closed for the night, when she suddenly feels a rope around her neck.  She manages to turn around and sees the man from the coffee shop, and farther down the alley she glimpses two figures.  “A young woman with honey-blond hair, in a cornflower-blue dress…a shadowy figure has his hands around her throat.”  And then darkness.

When she wakes, she’s in a dark, unfamiliar room, wearing a voluminous nightgown, a corset, and a wig.  She can’t make any sense of it.  Outside in the hall she hears three voices–a young girl’s, a woman’s, and a man’s.  She hears herself referred to as “Catriona,” and the door opens.

Trying to orient herself, Mallory decides to pretend she will be whomever the trio thinks she is.  That turns out to be Catriona Mitchell, the housemaid to Dr. Duncan Gray, the man who pushes open the door.  Trying to come to terms with her surroundings and the people who enter the room, she asks where she is.  Gray informs her she’s in Edinburgh, and it’s May 22, 1869.  That’s when she realizes that the blond woman she glimpsed in the alley was Catriona, and she had been strangled 150 years ago in the same spot where Mallory was attacked.

Back home in Canada, Mallory is a police detective, so she resolves to use her skills to discover how she traveled through time and is inhabiting Catriona’s body.  The only way she can find her attacker and return to her “real life,” she decides, is to continue to impersonate the housemaid, blaming everything she doesn’t know or does incorrectly on the concussion she suffered in the attack.

Duncan Gray is both an undertaker and a surgeon, not an unusual combination in the nineteenth century.  As Mallory proves herself not to be squeamish, Gray enlists her help with the most recent corpse brought to him, a young journalist who reported on crime for a local newspaper.

In some ways working with Gray makes Mallory’s life in the house more interesting, but it also makes it more difficult.  She’s constantly catching herself using words, wishing for modern conveniences, or making observations that are far removed from the Edinburgh medical scene of the 1860s–no fingerprints, no knowledge of DNA, no cellphones.  But still, her police background helps her navigate the world she’s landed in, and she tries as unobtrusively as possible to help the doctor with the murder investigation.

Kelley Armstrong has written a fascinating mystery, succeeding in making the reader accept the possibility of time travel and all that it entails.  Mallory Atkinson is a strong, believable heroine, one who is using her abilities to cope with her new life as well as trying to return to her old one.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


CITY OF THE LOST by Kelley Armstrong: Book Review

In the far north of Western Canada, there’s a refuge for those who have to flee their normal lives.  When Casey Duncan, a police detective in Ontario, first hears about this place from her close friend, Diana Berry, she’s disbelieving.  It’s another urban legend, she thinks.  But as things go from bad to worse for herself and Diana, she investigates and finds that such a town does indeed exist.

For five thousand dollars each, Casey is told, she and Diana can move to Rockton if they pass inspection.  They have to prove why they’re compelled to leave their current lives and move to the secret place, a location so totally off the grid that there’s no plane service, telephone lines, or Internet.  The people who live in Rockton must contribute their skills to the town–as cooks, medical personnel, storekeepers–or whatever the community needs at a given time.  As it turns out, at the moment it needs a detective.

Casey’s main reason for moving to Rockton is to get Diana away from her physically abusive husband Graham.  Time and again Graham has assaulted Diana, and each time she swears that she will never go back to him, but she does.  Indeed, she and Casey had moved from one city to another after a previous beating, hoping to leave him behind.  But Graham has found her again, and this time Diana says she’s made the final decision never to return to him and thus is desperate to leave no trail behind her for him to follow.  Casey, too, made a bad decision in the past that continues to haunt her and keep her in danger.  So Casey puts up the ten thousand dollars necessary for both of them to start new lives, hoping they can start over.  But can they?

For a town of two hundred people, there’s a lot going on.  The morning after Casey arrives, the body of a man who had been missing for a week is found.  The corpse was in the forest, a place Rockton people know better than to visit.  The sheriff, Eric Dalton, tells Casey that the council, a mysterious group that controls the community from outside and makes the decisions about who gets in and who doesn’t, sometimes is swayed by monetary factors.  Although people who’ve committed violent crimes aren’t supposed to gain admittance, they sometimes get through if they have enough money.  Harry Powys, the name the deceased was using in Rockton, had obviously bribed his way in.  His crimes, brutal as they were, are matched by the manner of his death.  He was dismembered, and Eric believes Harry was alive when it was done.

The people who live in this community are a varied lot, but of course they all have one thing in common–whatever they did or had done to them in the outside world didn’t allow them to stay there.  An ex-soldier who killed his commanding officer while the latter was asleep, a physician blamed for two deaths, several women fleeing abusive relationships, those are reasons for coming to Rockton.  But now it’s becoming clear that more than one person is living there under false pretenses, that the story he or she has been telling others about the reason for being in Rockton isn’t the true one.

Kelley Armstrong has written a taunt thriller with believable characters.  Casey Duncan is a terrific heroine, devastated by what she did years earlier but determined to be strong now for herself and her friend.  But her strength alone may not be enough to stop the carnage in their new home.

You can read more about Kelley Armstrong at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.