Book Review: City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

City of the Lost is a 2016 thriller by Canadian author Kelley Armstrong. This was my first time reading one of Armstrong’s books, and I have to say I really enjoyed it! The story follows detective Casey Duncan as she enters the secret town of Rockton, a place where people go to hide from their dangerous pasts.

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

TitleCity of the Lost
AuthorKelley Armstrong
GenreCrime, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publication DateJanuary 17, 2017
Length416 pages

Where to Purchase

An Intriguing Premise

The concept behind Rockton immediately drew me in. It’s a small town in the Yukon wilderness, completely off the grid and unknown to the outside world. The town is a refuge for people trying to escape abusive exes, mobsters, stalkers, or other deadly threats. To live there, you have to cut off all communication with your old life. It’s the perfect spot to disappear.

Of course, a town full of outlaws, criminals, and people with dark secrets is bound to breed trouble. As the only detective, Casey has her work cut out for her. I loved the juxtaposition of this quiet town in the middle of a harsh wilderness with the constant danger bubbling under the surface. Armstrong blends thriller, mystery, and western genres for an atmosphere that’s both quaint and unsettling.

A Strong Heroine

Casey is a great character to center the book around. She’s tough yet flawed, and fiercely dedicated to her role as Rockton’s detective. Casey fled to Rockton to escape a stalker ex-boyfriend who killed her friend. The traumatic experience left her vigilant about protecting other women from violent men.

Despite her strong moral compass, Casey isn’t perfect. She sometimes makes reckless decisions that put her in danger. I appreciated that Armstrong wrote a capable female protagonist with both strengths and weaknesses. Casey carries heavy baggage from her past trauma, but doesn’t let it stop her from pursuing justice.

An Intriguing Supporting Cast

The residents of Rockton are what really make this book shine. We have Sebastian, Casey’s deputy and romantic interest, who is charming but may be more dangerous than he seems. There’s Eric, the enigmatic town sheriff who keeps too many secrets. Isabel, a retired hitwoman, runs the town’s supply runs while mentoring its young women. And twelve-year-old Kenny, orphaned in Rockton, tugs at Casey’s heartstrings.

Armstrong paints each town resident as multi-faceted. They have shadowy pasts, yet have built meaningful lives in Rockton. Their shared hope for redemption makes Casey fiercely protective of her new community. I loved seeing her interactions with this cast of lovable misfits.

A Page-Turning Mystery

The heart of City of the Lost is a series of murders that Casey must solve. When two women turn up dead under suspicious circumstances, Casey fears a serial killer is lurking in Rockton. The plot thickens when both women turn out to be connected to the town’s council members.

Armstrong unfurls the mystery at a perfect pace. There were just enough cliffhangers and twists to keep me voraciously turning pages. The Rockton residents fear the deaths will attract dangerous outside attention if a murderer roams free. I was racing to solve the crime alongside Casey before it destroyed their sanctuary.

The isolated wilderness setting heightens the creep factor. Cut off from the outside world, Casey only has her wits and resourcefulness to rely on. The confrontation with the killer had me on the edge of my seat! I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

A Satisfying Conclusion

I’m happy to report the ending delivers. Casey follows clues with tenacity to unmask the killer in a dramatic showdown. Justice is served, leading to a feeling of hope instead of despair. Rockton remains a refuge, however imperfect, for people seeking sanctuary from evil.

I appreciated that Armstrong didn’t shy away from the nuances of violence and morality. The story stays true to the realities of Casey’s world as a female detective and survivor. City of the Lost tackles weighty themes while entertaining the reader.

Closing Thoughts

City of the Lost provides a thrilling yet thoughtful journey that subverts common tropes. Kelley Armstrong has crafted a gem of a mystery novel with vivid characters and a compelling heroine. I highly recommend this book, especially for fans of mysteries, strong female protagonists, and unconventional settings. The story left me eager to dive into the sequels and spend more time in the world of Rockton. Casey Duncan is a detective I’d follow anywhere, and Armstrong’s first installment leaves her on firm footing for more adventures to come.


  • Paula Davis

    Paula Davis is a dedicated and seasoned content writer for Dreaming and Reading, where she brings her extensive knowledge and passion for literature to a wide audience of fellow book enthusiasts. With the heart of a true bookworm, Paula has immersed herself in the literary world, devouring approximately 50 books annually for the last 15 years. This impressive reading habit has not only provided her with immense joy but has also significantly honed her expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness in the realm of book reviews. Her insightful and well-crafted reviews reflect her deep understanding and appreciation of various genres, offering valuable guidance to readers in search of their next great read. With a finger always on the pulse of the latest literary releases, Paula Davis is a trusted voice and a go-to source for book recommendations and reviews.

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