City of the Lost - contemporary suspense with a twist
Kelley Armstrong has been a successful urban fantasy writer for years before before she wrote City of the Lost. It might be billed as a sci-fi thriller but the "sci-fi" is definitely a stretch, although, it takes place so far from normal civilization that it has that feel.
Casey Duncan murdered a man. Not in the line of duty as a homicide detective, nor in self defense. She's not even sorry he's dead, although she feels guilty about the lack of guilt, so to speak. Her best friend has an abusive ex-husband who won't leave her alone. Both of them need to disappear for a while and they apply to join a hidden community off the grid. Her friend Diana has no special skills but they desperately need a detective, even one who murdered, because they may have a serial killer. Casey's job is to figure out whodunit in a town where everyone is hiding behind a fake identity to protect their pasts, and some have even bought their way in with criminal pasts far more sordid than Casey's own.
Rockford is in the wilds of the Yukon Territory with a population of two hundred or so at any given time. People stay a minimum of two years and not more than five with one exception, the sheriff Eric Dalton. Eric is rude, brooding, and his methods scream of police brutality. Although he's a jerk and makes it clear he doesn't like her, Casey recognizes that Eric has a tough job keeping a lid on two hundred idiots living anonymously in a closed community with little to do but work, party, and have sex. Casey had to prove herself better than the guys to make homicide detective as a petite half Asian woman, but now she has prove herself capable by Rockford's standards. That's tough when Eric makes no secret that they brought her in over his objections to her past and he isn't willing to trust her.
There are bodies piling up in bits and pieces, sometimes literally. They have one doctor, Beth, who promptly says that yes, she is in fact hiding from a malpractice suit, to examine the bodies although its not her specialty. They have Eric's experience with the wilderness and Rockford itself. The deputy, Will Anders, has a military MP background but no special expertise. As she sorts through what seem like unrelated murders Casey begins to suspect that it all ties back to the disappearance of a nineteen year old girl named Abby. Abby simply walked into the forest one evening and was never seen again, but everyone says she respected Eric to much to violate their most important rule that no one go into the forest alone. Casey is increasingly unsure who she can trust after learning the real reasons some of her favorite people are there.
City of the Lost has an interesting cast of characters, each dealing with complicated pasts. The murders are suitably shocking and it has some good elements of suspense. Although not true sci-fi, Rockford's isolation could easily have been on another planet and might as well be. I've also read the second book in the series, A Darkness Absolute, which was good, and the third book This Fallen Prey was just released so I plan to read that as well. The books are all highly rated on Audible as are Therese Plummer's performances. I have also read the fantasy series Age of Legends, also written by Armstrong, and thought it was decent, but on the other hand I also tried some of her other work and didn't care for it.