Desert Isle Keeper
Watcher in the Woods
Watcher in the Woods is the fourth installment in Kelley Armstrong’s highly original Rockton series featuring police detective Casey Duncan and her boyfriend Sheriff Eric Dalton. The book could technically be read as a standalone, but I wouldn’t really recommend starting here since the previous entries in the series will supply readers with some much needed context. Plus, this is one of Ms. Armstrong’s very best bodies of work, and I’d hate to see anyone miss out. So, I suggest picking up City of the Lost and reading on from there.
This is a hard book to review without spoiling some key plot points for the first three books, so please read on with caution if you’re new to the series.
It’s been a year since Casey Duncan ran away from her life as a police detective on the rise in a large Canadian city and fled to the secret town of Rockton which is located deep in the Yukon territory. During this time, she’s met the man of her dreams, learned her best friend Diana – who was partially responsible for Casey’s decision to move to Rockton – is a lying, scheming bitch, and matched wits with several dangerous criminals. She keeps hoping things in Rockton will settle down, but peace and tranquillity don’t seem to be in the cards for Casey and Eric.
When one of Rockton’s residents is gravely injured, Casey reaches out to her sister April for help, something which those in charge of running the town are not at all happy about. Part of what keeps the residents of Rockton safe is the fact that very few people are aware of the town’s existence, and residents must agree to break ties with everyone from their past lives before being allowed to move there, but Casey can’t see any other way to get help for the wounded man. There are no medical doctors in Rockton, at least none with the necessary skill to save his life, and April is an extremely successful surgeon. The sisters aren’t at all close, and April is understandably reluctant to travel to a place like Rockton, but she eventually agrees to come for the weekend to see what she can do for the patient.
At around this same time, a U.S. Marshal shows up in Rockton, and demands that one of the residents be released into his custody. He refuses to supply a reason for this demand, and both Eric and Casey are not eager to comply with his wishes. It’s no secret that Rockton is made up of both criminals escaping the law and victims of violent crime looking for a safe place to hide from those who have wronged them. Everyone is forced to adopt a new identity when they first arrive in town, so only those who run the place are aware of anyone’s true identity. Casey and Eric do all they can to find out the reasons behind the Marshal’s sudden appearance, but he continues to keep the facts to himself, putting them in a difficult position.
With newcomers in town, it doesn’t take long for tensions to rise. Soon, it takes everything Casey has to keep those around her safe from threats from within Rockton as well as from those who would like nothing more than to put an end to the town and those who live there.
I loved pretty much everything about this book! Ms. Armstrong has created a marvelous cast of morally ambiguous characters most readers will have a hard time not falling in love with. There’s something so irresistible about this group of people, all desperate for a new start, doing their best to survive in the wilderness of the Yukon. They don’t have access to modern conveniences like electricity or the internet, so it forces them to rely on themselves and each other in a way they wouldn’t necessarily have to if they lived in a more conventional manner.
Casey and Eric have a fantastic relationship that gets deeper and stronger with every book. Both have some major insecurities due to past life circumstances, and it’s a real joy to watch them learn to trust their love for one another. Eric is constantly trying to protect Casey from danger, but she doesn’t allow him to baby her, and I really admire that about her as a heroine.
With April’s introduction into the novel, we learn quite a bit we didn’t know about Casey’s backstory. We come to understand the reasons for some of her quirks, and this made her feel even more authentic to me. The sisters don’t become best friends by the end of the story, but Ms. Armstrong gives us the impression that things are looking up for them. I hope we see more of April in future books, as she has a lot to offer to Rockton as a whole.
The suspense in this story is incredibly riveting. I could feel my heart pounding through a couple of the scarier scenes, and I truly had no idea what was going to happen next. When the villain’s identity was finally revealed, I gasped out loud, and I usually don’t react in such a noticeable way to what I’m reading.
Watcher In the Woods is sure to delight existing fans of Ms. Armstrong’s work, as well as those who are reading her for the first time. This is a truly addictive series, and I hope the author will continue writing in this world for a long time to come.