by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to order it from Amazon and an indie bookstore.
People come to the Yukon town of Rockton to escape from the world. They pay a lot to live off of the grid, away from the Internet, electricity, and modern conveniences. It’s a sacrifice they’re willing to make in order to disappear from the modern world and hide from their pasts, violent threats, or the authorities. Detective Casey Duncan and her partner Sheriff Eric Dalton are in charge of these “non-violent” residents, who have temporary stays within the small community. It’s a population that seems to be growing smaller as fewer are granted extensions, but it’s a new unexpected guest who is throwing their strictly controlled society off track. While hiking with her Newfoundland pup and self-improving sociopath Sebastian, Casey comes across a critically wounded, delusional, non-English-speaking woman. After several attempts to communicate, they discover than the strange woman is speaking Danish, but more alarming is when they learn that she was not alone in the woods. As Casey and Dalton must determine whether they need to recover bodies or search for survivors, politics controlling Rockton threaten to complicate their survival as much as the Hostiles preying on them nearby.
Since Casey came to Rockton two years ago, she has learned more about the other factions that branched off from the original town. The first two settlements were those who refused to return to modern society when the rules had them outstaying their residencies, with their members becoming off-the-grid communes of foragers and hunters. The other far more deadly offshoot became the Hostiles, Rockton residents who regressed to a primal, near-feral state. Both helping and complicating Rockton’s functioning has been the arrival of Casey’s own sister April, a genius-level doctor only recently diagnosed as being on the spectrum. Casey and April are still navigating through a lifetime of hurt feelings, misinterpreted reactions, and resentments, but they are unable to deny the value they each bring to Rockton. Dalton still has his own recovered past memories to deal with, having himself learned that the stories of being “rescued” as a child from Hostiles were less than true.
This sixth in the series continues to build on the extraordinary town of Rockton that feels like a real-life version of a cultural anthropological and sociological experiment. Through the years the town has developed an infrastructure based on trade that includes one licensed brothel, while assigned chores and duties have them both contributing to operations and occupied. As Rockton’s only law enforcement Dalton and Casey have become judge and jurors, which initially made Casey uncomfortable but practicality and their limited size made effective. The arrival of their council liaison has changed town dynamics greatly, making what was once a disapproving representative of authority far more sympathetic to their viewpoints and often complicit in their actions. Woven into the town dynamics is the mystery of the Danish tourist, who may not be as innocent as she seems.
The balance between the exploration of Rockton’s interactions amongst themselves, the nearby settlements, and the intrusion of murder deftly keeps the pace moving along swiftly as everything is gradually revealed. Without Internet, running on generators and solar power, and constantly at the mercy of the Yukon’s brutal wilderness, Rockton comes alive as a fully realized town where the threats come as much as from its residents as from its wild borders. The traits that allow them to calmly but quickly react as law enforcement officers—namely Casey’s wry humor and Dalton’s deadpan observations—also make them as perfect for one another as a couple. They will need the support of one another and all of their investigative skills as they together maintain order and protect their adopted hometown.
To enter to win a copy of A Stranger in Town, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “stranger,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 27, 2021. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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