In This Fallen Prey, prolific writer Kelley Armstrong returns (for the third time) to the fictional Rockton, a secretive Yukon town established as a sanctuary for people fleeing threats from the outside world. Casey Butler is one of the residents, a homicide detective who is somehow needed in a town with a population of only 200.
In the new novel, the mysterious town council – which is responsible for deciding who is allowed in and out of Rockton – inexplicably grants residency to an accused serial killer. Within hours of his arrival, he escapes custody and the bodies start to pile up.
An overly contrived narrative to be sure, but then again, the premise of the Rockton series is unbelievably contrived in the first place. With a homicide rate higher than the most violent cities in the world, one wonders why anyone would want to live in such a dangerous place, especially those seeking sanctuary. As a result of this incongruency, the characters – especially Casey – appear artificial. Even in the context of a first-person narrative, we are offered no real insight into who Casey is, just basic descriptions of events and people. She also comes across as quite ineffectual. Whenever she claims “to have a theory” about what’s truly happening, she’s repeatedly proven wrong, humorously (and probably unintentionally) recalling the running joke about Baldrick’s “cunning plan” from Blackadder.
Despite being deliberately situated in the Yukon, the setting appears as a generic wilderness with little connection to any actual place. Inconsistencies abound: characters stumble around in the dark of night during a time of year in which that area of the Yukon experiences almost 24 hours of natural illumination.
In the end, the locale and characters serve as mere devices to transport readers from one action set piece to another, many of them seemingly random encounters with wildlife or people unconnected to the already unbelievable plot. Add all these infelicities together, and This Fallen Prey fails to thrill.