A Stranger in Town is an adventure of sorts, a minor dystopian drama and a cautionary tale set in Rockton, a small town in a Canadian forest. There are few inhabitants in Rockton, by choice and particular selection. Most of the outlier dwellers have their private reasons for joining the community, seeking both privacy and freedom from outside intrusion.
Some order is required for successful coexistence in Rockton: a small town council, a few regulations for residents, private dwellings, medical resources, a store for necessities, even bare-bones law enforcement. Sheriff Eric Dalton has grown up in the wilderness, and Detective Casey Duncan is a petite powerhouse who can match up to any opposition, male or female. The fact that Eric and Casey live together is especially useful in troubled times, teaming up to confront whatever obstacle threatens the town.
The cast of characters is an assortment of eccentrics living in the same area--some dependable, others deliberately insular, all with the intense desire for isolation from an intrusive society. The local physician Casey's sister, April, is a precious commodity in such a pared-down environment. The fact that April is on the autism spectrum adds yet another twist in a mystery that is teeming with deadly threats, including outliers who have vanished into the most remote areas of the forest.
When a stranger is found wandering alone and badly wounded, Casey and Eric are confronted with a situation that affects the security of the whole Rockton endeavor, no one sure of the approaching threat or what defenses to prepare. Armstrong's ability to capture both physical and emotional reactions of her characters subtly increases the tension in each encounter, whether debating decisions with the town council or facing conflict with "hostiles". The hierarchy of individuals, from residents and "officials" to traders, settlers or foreign intruders, replicates the parameters of a society, albeit one distinctly divergent from modern-day norms.
This sanctioned mode of survival is simplified, a practical construction predictably compromised by the usual human failings. Far removed from recognizable civilization, this story dabbles in a kind of primitive freedom, the general good endangered by enemies, a heightened sense of solidarity inspiring the majority, the suspicion of betrayal undermining the security of all. A Stranger in Town eschews the cacophony of the familiar in a life-and-death battle. A welcome if temporary diversion from current events and all-too-real issues plaguing our beleaguered planet.