“Alone in the Wild” by Kelley Armstrong, like all the novels in this series, begins with a bang; it involves an infant and a corpse. Casey and Eric, Rockton’s sheriff and detective, a couple who are getting away for a one-night vacation camping in the wild, find a dead woman with a live infant hidden in her clothing. That sets off the mystery of whom the infant belongs to and why the baby was left with a woman who clearly wasn’t the child’s mother.
While each novel is a perfectly good stand-alone story, the backstory of Rockton and Casey and Eric is fascinating, and every effort should be made to read them all in order. With each new novel in this series, Armstrong develops many of the characters, including the main characters Casey and Eric, but also including the townspeople. Some of the people in town were unmasked in previous novels as bad people, and some of the people whom one might think are “bad” are actually helpful and trustworthy. With others, the verdict is not yet in. But each novel gives us more and more information from which to make those judgements, and it’s fun to consider all the information we know and wonder what we’ll learn next.
Here, Casey and Eric take over as the infant’s parents, and it doesn’t feel right. Both of them have their reasons — but on the other hand, they only want to return the baby to her rightful parents if the parents are good people. And it’s quickly apparent that in the wilds of Yukon, there are some who are definitely not good people, and finding the true parents is not a task for the faint-hearted.
There are several suspects who might have had reason to kidnap the baby or kill the woman. Casey and Eric don’t stop searching until they uncover the truth about what happened, with some shockers along the way. Storm, their young Newfoundland dog is a lovely added character to the last few novels, and she pulls her not inconsiderable weight with her tracking abilities.
This series is enjoyable on many levels. The setting is very unusual, and in the past books, the town and the residents have featured prominently in the plots. In this story, though, Armstrong takes readers out of town for much of the story. She shows how Casey is slowly changing the essence and secrecy and forbidden nature of the town by meeting with the groups who have left the town and pursuing the mystery of the “hostiles,” the people who are scarred and tattooed and violent. These are people who have almost lost their ability to communicate. One of the “ex-pats” is Maryann, a biologist who left camp with three others years before and became a hostile, but who had been friendly with Eric before she left Rockton, and whom Casey is trying to get to come back to camp.
We meet more of those in the other settlements, and Casey seems to actually be forming connections with some in those camps. It’s a different direction, in a way, and an interesting one. There is also the added character of Casey’s sister, April, a physician who wants to stay in Rockton for a while. The mystery of the baby, and Eric and Casey’s feelings about babies, makes this a very interesting addition to the series as a whole.
Can’t wait to see what the next story brings!
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Minotaur, the publisher, for review purposes.