I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.
Whenever things are going well in this series, you just know something bad is going to happen. When there's a big calm, you brace yourself for the next big storm. Things were good post-time leap in volumes 22-23. But events were lining up to lead into the next storm.
At one point in volume 24, Negan's cell is inadvertently left unlocked. He realizes this but decides to not escape, instead waiting patiently for Rick to find him that way. He tries to argue that this means he can be trusted. He tries to argue that nothing he did was unforgivable, but he did what he had to do to keep "damn near seventy people alive." He asks, "Are you saying you haven't done anything you regretted to keep people alive?" As Rick leaves, Negan accuses him of only keeping Negan alive to convince himself that he, Rick Grimes, is a good person--the most civilized person alive. And indeed, Rick's decision to allow Negan to live is "we don't kill"; he is adamant about restoring civilization in their post-Zombie-apocalypse world.
And then there is Alpha. She is the leader of the "Whisperers," the strange group who live among the walkers and protect themselves by wearing zombie skins and blending in with the undead. Alpha is pretty much the anti-Rick. Whereas Rick is focused on restoring civilization and instilling cooperation amongst his network of communities, Alpha insists that humans have just been kidding themselves about being anything other than "just animals."* She sees this "zombie" era as a time to live as people were meant to live, as animals--she sees them as having received from this new world "the gift of freedom."
The only reason Rick et. al. are tangled up with the Whisperers is that Carl has fallen in love with Alpha's daughter Lydia. Of course he has, because he lost his virginity to her in volume 23, and she looks right at him, eyehole and all, and think he looks "hot." He's even stopped wearing the glasses that concealed the eyehole.
This tangling with the Whisperers leads to Alpha feeling compelled to mark their territory in a truly awful way. Without spoilers, I will just say that things are about to get really bad. This will not end well (what else is new, eh?).
*Ignoring the speciesist implications of that one.