16 March 2008

HEARTSICK, Chelsea Cain

Detective Archie Sheridan is famous in Portland as the man who headed the so-called Beauty Killer Task Force, and solved the case two years before, the one where beautiful psychopath Gretchen Lowell was responsible for the deaths over 200 beautiful girls. Because of what Gretchen did to him, physically and mentally, in the ten days she had him, Archie hasn't worked for the last two years. Although Archie is thought to be responsible for Gretchen's eventual capture, he knows that the truth is very different.

Two years on, Archie still thinks about Gretchen every day, and visits her in prison every weekend. His marriage has collapsed although he still loves Debbie, and she him, although she can't share him with Gretchen. Now the city needs him to work again, to head the squad looking for Portland's latest serial killer, the Afterschool Strangler. This time the case will have maximum publicity with a newspaper reporter writing a series of articles about Archie and the case, and accompanying him to crime scenes. Susan Ward, the reporter, has problems of her own, but she is desperately aware of the opportunities this assignment offers.

I feel compelled to warn readers that this novel is very noir - some reviewers have described Gretchen Lowell as the "creepiest serial killer ever".

In HEARTSICK Chelsea Cain has explored not only the make-up of a psychopath, but also the relationship between the serial killer and his/her victim. Archie Sheridan is far from well. Physically he requires extraordinary amounts of pain killers and other drugs to get him through everyday. As the novel develops we are part of not only the investigation into the current disappearances, but also we learn what Gretchen did to Archie in captivity. Not a novel for the squeamish. I'm not squeamish but there was a point when I was wondering if perhaps I'd skip "the next few pages".

This is not Chelsea Cain's first published book, but as far as I can see she's written nothing like this before. On her website at http://www.chelseacain.com/ you can see a short video promo of the book and read an extract. Chelsea Cain says HEARTSICK was inspired by the case of Portland's Green River Killer.

My rating: 4.5

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