A Darkness Absolute (Casey Duncan)
by Kelley Armstrong
Cover Artist: Woman walking in snowy woods by Stuart Brill / Trevillion Images
Review by Gayle Surrette
Minotaur Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250092182
Date: 14 November 2017 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
NOTE: This review was originally published in our February 2017 issue.
A Darkness Absolute begins not long after the incidents of City of the Lost. Casey Duncan, now known as Casey Butler, is adapting to her position as one of two deputies in the town of Rockton. She and Sheriff Eric Dalton are working on developing balance between the job and their relationship.
Dalton has flown out for supplies and Casey and Will Anders, the other deputy, are going into the forest to track Shawn Sutherland, who has once again tried to run away from Rockton. They expect he won't get far and they'll be back before the storm hits, but the storm strikes sooner than they expected. They find shelter in a cave. While in the cave they hear a voice and realize that someone may be lost in this cave system, they follow the sound and find a woman trapped in a bottle cave.
The woman is from Rockton and she's been missing for 18 months. She's dehydrated, malnourished, her muscles have atrophied a bit, and her eyes are extremely sensitive to light. They manage to get her back to Rockton, but now they have a new case because someone put her there and kept her there.
Rockton is a town in northern Yukon that is as off the grid as it can be made to be. The inhabitants are people who are hiding from one thing or another. The town is as much a character as the people because it shapes them and what they can and cannot do because of the nature of their secrets, the restrictions of the environment, and the isolation. There's the town and its people; in the forest are some early settlers who walked away from Rockton; and then there are the hostiles.
When they find another bottle cave with bodies, they find they need to look not only at the residents of Rockton, but the people in the surrounding area because the dates don't add up. People in Rockton can only stay for five years then they go back to civilizations unless they manage to become essential to the community. Thus they don't know if they're looking for someone who walked away into the forest, or a hostile capable of planning this type of crime.
It's difficult to solve a crime when everyone in Rockton is hiding a secret and the reasons the council gives for the person being there is not necessarily the reason the person is really there. For the council, it's about money -- who can pay enough to disappear while their problem goes away. This makes the job of finding who is taking women and keeping them hidden and using them until they die much more difficult. Now there's a survivor but she doesn't have much information she can share because her captor was very cautious.
The concept of a town created and run for people with the money to escape their problems is an interesting one. In A Darkness Absolute, we learn a bit more about how the town works and how it doesn't. Readers also learn more about some of the individuals who are allowed to stay past their five years. While they ask questions of the council and even get some answers, they council and how it works is as much an enigma as it was before and that makes Casey, Dalton, and Anders even more curious and cautious.
The storm, the forest, and the person they are trying to identify and capture work together to keep the reader turning the pages because there's enough confusion about who to trust and who is lying to keep the tension up until the last page.