Watcher in the Woods is another great installment in the Casey Duncan series. This one picks up right after the last one, with Kenny needing urgent medical attention and Rockton in a bit of chaos after the events of This Fallen Prey. Casey and Eric need to get medical attention for Kenny ASAP and everything else has to be back burnered until that's done. The solution? Recruit Casey's estranged sister April who is a neurosurgeon. Estranged however may be an understatement- yeah that will go well.
So they get April to town and even as they handle previous issues a new problem arises. A U.S. Marshal shows up, nosing around for a wanted fugitive, and needless to say he does not get off on the right foot with Casey and Eric. To make matters worse they have Phil to deal with, who has been exiled to the town by the council, and the council itself has a new liaison to the town that they need to deal with. About the only thing that does go well is the relationship between our two leads- Eric and Casey are in a good place, as they were last book, and that gives them the stability they require to tackle their tasks.
Things do not go well with the newcomer and they soon have to determine if the Marshal really is who he says or if he's a bounty hunter, or even a hired killer. The central plot revolves around who the Marshal is after, since he doesn't see fit to share that information. April also has an initially bumpy transition, and her relationship (or lack thereof) with her sister is another important plot point. I wasn't super crazy about April at first but by the end she had won me over.
This series could pretty much go on forever at this point and I'd keep reading, but I will say that I'm hoping for a change in focus in the next book. Just like the last book this one focuses on murder investigations and council shenanigans, but one thing missing is the wilderness elements. A hallmark of this series, at least for me, has been the sense of isolation and the idea that there's almost another world out there, populated as it is by settlers and hostiles- the former residents of the town who have reverted to a more savage way of life. We get very little of that here.
Having said that, the hostiles do show up, especially Maryanne who we met last book. This was an excellent subplot but I wanted more. And there is a very tantalizing hint that there's a lot more to discover about the hostiles- including a possible link with the council. That's what I want to see explored in the next book. I figure we've had enough murders in town that need to be investigated- can we move on?
The other thing I'd like to see more of are certain characters. I enjoyed seeing more of Petra and Isabel here, and Sebastian is a fascinating (and creepy addition), but we only get a brief cameo of Tyrone Cypher and I need more of the big guy. He's fun and his relationship with Casey fascinates me. I'd love to see those two out in the woods fighting for their lives. I would throw my money at that book.
In spite of these issues this is an excellent addition to the series and I always enjoy reading about Rockton. I liked the wilderness portions of the last book and there were less of those in this one, but hopefully we'll get back to exploring the surrounding lands next time. I'm still fascinated by this town though and all the secrets and lies concealed within, and as long as Kelley Armstrong keeps writing these I'll keep reading them.