This Fallen Prey is the third book in the Rockton series by Kelley Armstrong, and in some ways this might be the best one to date. Casey has been in the town for almost a year and has settled in to life there as a detective, and into her relationship with Eric Dalton as well. She's settled into the rhythms of the town, she knows how things work, but her and Dalton are shocked when the shadowy council that runs the place sends them a serial killer to watch over. Oliver Brady is a very bad person, and the council wants him in Rockton, out of sight, for six months. Dalton protests vociferously but to no avail- what the council wants, it's going to get.
Dalton and Casey know they don't have the facilities or expertise to handle someone like this, and they're right. It's probably not a surprise to say that things go sideways, and when bad things happen Rockton turns into a powder keg waiting to explode. Some of the residents want to lynch the guy, while others seem sympathetic. Dalton and Casey have to try to keep him alive, but when an apparent assassin comes to the area and starts shooting at people in the woods, everything goes off the rails.
This series is amazing. This is one of those books I wanted to just keep reading- in fact I read the last tow hundred pages in one sitting, staying up very late to do so. I felt like I was slipping back into this setting very comfortably from the first chapter, and it was so nice to do so. I hope this is a series that goes on for a long time. I don't always agree with Casey's decisions, and that was definitely the case here, but there's no question her and Dalton are a compelling couple. And Rockton is such an enigmatic place- I mean everyone there is either a criminal or a victim who is trying to hide from their past, and so who can you really trust? Casey unfortunately learns that other than Dalton, maybe there's no one she can really trust.
I like that Kelley Armstrong is slowly lifting the veil on some of the outside groups that live in the wilderness around the town- the First Settlers and the hostiles especially. Ever since the first book I've been curious about these two groups, and in this one we learn more about both. The hostiles in particular are very interesting, and while we don't learn much, we definitely know more. I also have been hoping for a paranormal element to appear, and I'm happy to report that while there is still no paranormal per se, there is a definite hint that she may be going in that direction. That's about all I can say, but I'm here for that.
Jacob returns, and seems to be dancing around the possibility of getting to know Nicole, and some of the other curious characters that live outside the town also appear. I was hoping Tyrone Cypher, the larger-than-life guy that has a fun repartee with our detective, would appear, and I wasn't disappointed. He's frankly amazing. I cheered when he showed up. Armstrong is taking her time developing some of these folks, drawing them out slowly, and it feels so natural. We learn more as Casey does. If I have one complaint about this book, it's that the plot may be slightly too convoluted. By the end I was like really? Maybe one or two too many strands , but it's full of shocks and twists and frankly I did not see things coming. This one is a knockout, all in all, and my first 5 star of the year.
FURTHER DISCUSSION/ SPOILERS
Here I just want to discuss some spoilery plot points and some of the developments in the series, so if you don't want to be spoiled turn back now! Okay, still with me? I like that Casey's relationship with Dalton continues to evolve, they're in such a good place now. Is wedding in the offing? Judging by one of their conversations, it appears possible. This is also the second book in a row where I suspected Anders was going to turn out to be a bad guy at one point, and I'm glad I was wrong. I like Jen too, even though she and Casey have such a fraught relationship. It looked like she was going to be in trouble too, but apparently not.
Petra being an assassin was a shocker! And I couldn't wait to see who the sniper turned out to be. The back and forth between Oliver and Wallace though irked me a tad- even as the end of the book approached we still didn't know who was who, in terms of the killings. Like I said above, maybe a bit too convoluted by half. But that's my only real complaint. Other than not getting more of Cypher!
I like though that Armstrong is clearly giving us Cypher in small doses. I would venture to say she likes writing him, as he's easily the most fun character in the series, at least to me. The books need a little levity since they're fairly dark and grim. Jacob is also interesting, and the fact that he and Nicole are dancing around their mutual attraction is cute. This is one of those series where yeah the mystery or whatever is interesting, but it's the characters and their relationships, their development, that interest me, and I love seeing the layers peeled back.
What do you think of the hostiles revelation? Casey now suspects that the council has had something nefarious to do with former residents, perhaps turning them into hostiles or experimenting on them? This is where I think the paranormal element may come in. This to me was a great development.