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'Are you scared?' Gretchen asks. She dabs his forehead with the cloth, his cheek, the back of his neck, his collarbone. He thinks he sees a flash of emotion in her eyes. Sympathy?
Then it's gone. 'Whatever you think this is going to be like,' she whispers, 'it's going to be worse...'
I was recently given this book to read by a work colleague who knows I like a good thriller. I was informed that if I enjoyed 'The Silence Of The Lambs' then I would enjoy this book.
Indeed, on the front cover of the book there is a reference to The Silence of the Lambs also.
I had not heard of the author, Chelsea Cain prior to being given the book, but reading inside I found out she is an American author and columnist, residing in Portland, Oregon, and 'Heart Sick' is her debut novel.
Detective Archie Sheridan was captured by beautiful but brutal serial killer, Gretchen Lowell whilst in charge of hunting her down.
However, instead of killing Archie, she releases him after holding him captive for ten days and subjecting him to horrific mental and physical torture. She then surprisingly handed herself in, and now is residing in prison.
Archie finally returns to work two years after his ordeal, and is in charge of leading the search for a new killer, whose attacks on teenage girls have left the city of Portland reeling. Archie is shadowed by young reporter Susan Ward, but Archie knows that only one person can help him get inside the mind of a psychopathic serial killer: - Gretchen.
Can he summon the courage to confront his demons and consult the person who tortured him for ten days? What was it about Archie that made Gretchen decide not to kill him and instead hand herself in? And will Gretchen help Archie track down the killer he is looking for?
The two main characters, Archie and Gretchen were both well developed by the author. Both very strong characters, and both liked to control.
I felt Archie's pain and mental suffering were explained very well. The agonising decisions he has to make which impact on his relationship with his wife, were well written and the emotions and heartache involved came across very well.
He feels a compulsion to visit Gretchen, and to continue visiting her every week as she gives information and also confesses to other murders.
Archie's feelings as he sits across from the woman who tortured him, are brilliantly described, and it was the excellent development of his character that is the best part of reading this book in my opinion.
Gretchen is also well described as a strange pyschopathic killer, who fantasized about killing Archie, but didn't do it. The parts of the book where she is asking Archie to describe how he is feeling, were quite chilling.
The other characters are also fairly well described, but obviously Archie and Gretchen are the two main characters and the focus is mainly upon them. They are the characters which draw you into the book, the others were quite 'ordinary' in my opinion.
The book flows quite well, with flashbacks to Archie's ordeal at the hands of Gretchen which give an added insight to both the characters, and why Gretchen did not fulfill her fantasy by killing Archie.
I felt overall that this book was very similar to The Silence of The Lambs, although it still makes for a good read, it is very similar in places. In fact, Gretchen even makes reference to The Silence Of The Lambs.
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would, and this is down to the author's great character writing of Archie and Gretchen. Cain develops the pair so well you cannot help but be intrigued, wanting to find out more. And it is this which kept me turning the pages.
I can echo the words of my friend and say that if you enjoyed The Silence Of The Lambs then you will probably enjoy this.
'Heart Sick' can be bought from Amazon and Ebay, and is also currently available priced at £1.99 at Morrisons.
I was recommended this book by a friend and whilst I've become wary of reading books that others recommend (they normally fall short of the mark and then I feel guilty for not gushing about them with the same enthusiasm) in this instance I made an exception and am so glad I did as I thought this was a fabulous read from start to finish.
Detective Archie Sheridan hasn't worked for the two years since he was released from the clutches of the serial killer Gretchen Lowell who after holding him for 10 days, subjecting him to appalling mental and physical torture, gave herself up to the authorities and let him live. He is a shadow of the man he formerly was, damaged both physically and mentally, his personal life in tatters and unable to seek closure from the hold that Gretchen still has over him despite her being incarcerated.
Another killer is on the loose and Archie agrees to head up the team searching for the man the media have dubbed 'The After School Strangler' shadowing him is reporter Susan Ward who is doing a serialised profile on him for the local paper.
Intertwined with the main story are back glimpses into the trauma Sheridan suffered at the hands of Gretchen Lowell and an insight to the strange relationship and bond that was formed between them during those 10 days.
Gripping from the first pages, I could not put this book down. It was chilling, gruesome and addictive. The relationship between Gretchen and Archie was well depicted and her calm, controlling presence and callous coldness jumped off the pages. The other central characters in the book were equally well portrayed and credible.
In summary this is a truly fabulous read
Please Note: I also review on Amazon under username Big Bertha and this review (or a version of it) may appear on there
Sometimes it just seems as though you start looking for someone new to read and then.... BANG!!! Suddenly you find yourself literally swamped with new books and authors to experience for the very first time. Just such a thing has happened to me recently. Having finished the Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell and vowing never to pick up any of her the series ever again, I find myself surrounded by dozens of new authors from whom to pick from. Taking a short break from Tess Geritsen, my latest discovery, I turned to this book sent me by a friend instead....
HEART SICK tells the story of Detective Archie Sheridan; a man living on the edge and with an addiction to prescription drugs following the traumatic events of two years ago. Assigned to the Beauty Killer case and appointed the lead investigator, Archie was captured by the killer, Gretchen Lowell, tortured for weeks almost to the point of death then bitterly released when she gave herself up to the Police. He still bears the scars, emotionally and physically, and feels compelled to visit his torturer every sunday afternoon in prison on the understanding that, each week, she gives up the location of another of her victims. Having confessed to the murders of over two hundred people in the seven years Gretchen eluded capture, Archie's visits have become another addiction, one he feels is nessecary to pursue, but this one has cost him his family. His wife made him make a choice; Gretchen Lowell or her..... Archie, compelled by a sense of duty to the families' of her victims, chose Gretchen. But time is taking it's toll....
A new investigation is just what he needs and, when a new killer begins targeting teenage girls, Archie finds himself back in the hot seat tracking an elusive murderer. With the Beauty Killer squad reformed, a new addition arrives in the shape of journalist, Susan Ward, brought in to do a profile piece on the return of Archie Sheridan and to cover the case as it enfolds. But Susan has her own priorities and one of those is gaining an interview with Gretchen Lowell herself; something that proves to be a dangerous game to play.....
Obvious comparisons can be made between this and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and they have been both by critics but also by the author herself; in one delightful scene Gretchen actually quotes Hannibal Lecter and makes it obvious that she is not going to help the detectives with their investigation. But to compare the two books is to do this tight, tense thriller an injustice as this is a book that exists solely on it's own merits!!! Upon first reading, this book feels a little trashy, the crime equivalent of a Big Mac and fries, but as it progresses, you get the feeling that this is a book you are going to remember. The way the novel interposes between the present investigation and the torture Archie faced during his final days with Gretchen Lowell is ingenious and works well to keep the readers' attentions focused exactly where Miss Cain wants it to be. In fact, to call this book trashy almost feels discourteous in hindsight as this is one of the best thrillers I have read all year so far. In point of fact, it is THE best thriller I have read so far this year.
Archie Sheridan is one of the strongest lead characters we have seen in awhile and yet also one of the most believable. The moments where Cain describes all he has to go through at Gretchen's hands are cringeworthy to the extreme and there are some real grit-your-teeth moments. Gretchen too is a very strong character and a worthy contender for one of the creepiest fictional serial killers ever created. By comparison, the After-School Strangler who haunts present-day Portland, is a bit of a disappointment, his identity a little bit obvious to work out, and something of a much weaker character but, as the book concludes, you are left wondering if this is an intentional ploy to keep the main emphasis of the novel on Archie and Gretchen's twisted relationship. And a relationship is defenitely what they have for this is a prime example of "Stockholm Syndrome" and, at times, it seems as though neither party can fully survive without the other. One of the main themes used here is that of control; both Gretchen and Archie want to be seen as though it is they who are calling all the shots.
If you're looking for one of the best reads you will have all year, then look no further.... this is a debut thriller every bit as brilliant as last year's CHEMISTRY OF DEATH by Simon Beckett. The fact that Cain is currently finishing a follow-up is an even bigger reason to pick this up and I promise you, if you do like stuff like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, you won't be disappointed!!
He thinks he sees a flash of emotion in her eyes. Sympathy? Then it's gone. 'Whatever you think this is going to be like,' she whispers, 'it's going to be worse.' When beautiful serial killer Gretchen Lowell captured her last victim, the man in charge of hunting her down, she quickly established who was really in control of the investigation. So why, after ten days of horrifying physical and mental torture, did she release Detective Archie Sheridan from the brink of death and hand herself in? Two years on, Archie remains driven by a terrifying obsession that was born during his time alone with Gretchen. One thing is clear Archie does not believe he was ever truly freed. Now Archie returns to lead the search for a new killer, whose recent attacks on teenage girls have left the city of Portland reeling. Shadowed by vulnerable young reporter Susan Ward, Archie knows that only one person can help him climb into the mind of this psychopath. But can Archie finally manage to confront the demons of his past without being consumed by them?