Most of the books I read are recommendations from friends or people I work with. This one was from the latter, who was very enthusiastic about this author's work. So I added it to my must read list and finally I purchased it and looked forward to seeing if it was as good as I was led to believe.
==About the author:==
Chelsea Cain is an accomplished American author within the crime thriller environment. In an early but promising career she has only so far written four fictional novels plus five non-fiction books. Three of these fictional stories including the one I am about to review feature Detective Archie Stevens as their lead character. With this one is the second of them written in 2008.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Detective Archie Sheridan is still struggling to come to terms with how his life has panned out. He lives back with his with Debbie his ex-wife and their children, but he has not slept with her since he moved back in. He is in the Park one day alone when a boy asks him to follow him to see what he has found in the wood nearby. This leads to the discovery of two bodies, which reminds him of his last serial killer investigation which haunts him night and day and which he is now receiving counselling for.
The reason for this is he is in love with the serial killer known as the 'Beauty Killer' he helped to capture Gretchen who is the most beautiful woman he has ever met. He has spent the last few months working with her in prison trying to get more information and confessions from her for more murders she carried out. When his boss decides their relationship is unhealthy and he arranges for her to move to another prison hundreds of miles away from him. Unfortunately the unthinkable happens when he escapes while being transferred and now Sheridan, his family and those close to him are in danger from this amazing psychopathic killer.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
For me this was a very interesting and unusual piece of crime fiction that I adored. I have to admit I did start with low expectations despite what I had learnt about this author. The main reason for that is in the past I have struggled with American authors plus it usually takes me a while to appreciate new writes to me. Admittedly I probably didn't help myself by picking the second in the series when any normal person would have given the choice of picked the first one. However despite all this I found this a very enjoyable and well-written book.
Initially I was impressed with the quote on the front of the book advising that this contained the creepiest serial killer ever. This got me interested in it and wanting to know more. So I flipped it over and read the summary of it, it was three quite short paragraphs long but contained a quote from the book which involved dialogue between Archie and Gretchen and this sounded intriguing and very unusual the man who hunted the serial killer being in love with her.
That said I did struggle at first to get into the story. The reason for this was there seemed to be an awful lot of dead bodies being discovered in different parts of the story and I certainly could not see any links between them and how they could all be solved. I suppose my main problem was being able to relate to these bodies being discovered as fortunately serial killers are very rear and they seemed to be two within the same story plus other unaccounted deaths as well.
If the story I carried on like this I'm sure I would have struggled to enjoy it. Luckily it didn't and instead to moved to Archie visiting Gretchen in her secure unit at the prison following an attack and rape by one of the prison officers. It seemed the most bizarre relationship ever between these two especially as Gretchen had tortured Archie for days and left him needed urgent surgery before she was captured. I found it amazing he could be in love with her and the way she managed to manipulate him. At the same time I had to know more about their relationship and how it was going to carry on with her in prison and him trying to rebuild his relationship with his ex-wife.
I think Detective Sheridan must have been the most unusual investigator I had ever read about. Firstly as above his bizarre relationship with the serial killer, but not only that as a result of all the surgery he had received he was addicted to the painkillers he was taking. The further I moved into the story the more remarkable he seemed and while I admired him I still found it hard to understand his feelings of lust for this woman who had inflicted so much pain on him but also who had killed so many others and inflicted so much suffering on them too.
The story really came to life when this evil woman escaped while being transferred. I really liked the way she called him from the school to see how he was, it was so sick but still compelling. The call was traced to the school, which his children attended, and I really felt for him as they were his most precious possession and he needed to get them and protect them, as this woman would not think twice about harming them. I could really relate to his fear and his feelings of guilt.
While this was developing you also had another story developing dealing with an investigation journalist Susan Ward was working on with the death of Molly who had been sharing her story of when she had sex with the Mayor when she was babysitting for him when she was only 14 and therefore a minor. This story was also interesting but definitely lacked the emotion and suspense of the serial killer story. However as the book developed the focus moved towards what Archie and what the serial killer where up to.
The story was so fascinating with it being thick in mystery and suspense. You never had a clue what would happen next or how these unusual characters would react to the latest developments in the story. As this story was one you could never predict what would happen next and so I was always on tender hooks about where it was going next and what would happen.
The book was always fast paced and with so much happening within the story you never had time to relax, as there was always something not necessarily to enjoy but to think about. With an exciting concluding climax, that I had absolutely no idea how it would end up. It was always exciting and while I struggled always to understand Archie's feeling for Gretchen they were always consistent and thought provoking.
I think one of the main reasons I was so engrossed in the novel was the very unusual lead characters. Archie was a man who I often could not relate to but at the same time I had a lot of respect and feelings for. I admired the way he fought not only his addiction but also his feeling for Gretchen. His feelings and thoughts were always dominated by this woman and I against my better judgement found this relationship strangely addictive and I had to know what would happen to it.
Gretchen was the other lead character and probably the vilest woman I have ever learnt about in a crime thriller. I hated her but I still wanted to know more about her and what motivated her to kill so many people. What really spooked me about her is the way she managed to manipulate all those around her especially Archie. It was the way she treated him that I found so bizarre, the way she called him sweetheart and darling despite having nearly previously killed him when she tortured him was just scary. I could never like her but there was something oddly sentimental when they two of them were together, but you knew you could never trust her and you were never sure what her agenda was.
The novels other characters were also very good. I thought the author put a lot of time and trouble to make really different and instantly memorable characters. But not only that the had a lot of depth about them and I found I really took to them and wanted to know all about their lives and their histories. With hints of sarcasm and humour throughout the story, but in truth it was never a happy story just one that was captivating and superbly well thought out.
I did not find it a problem at all that I was starting with the second book in the series as I found the writer was excellent at bringing the reader up to speed as to the most important developments within the first story and really now makes me want to read it and fill in the gaps.
The story was for me quite long (402 pages), but it was always superbly written with so much suspense-running throw it. That said it was exactly the right length to tell this wonderful story, with very frequent chapters allowing the reader to catch their breath back again for the action and think about what was happening.
This is probably the weirdest thriller I have ever read, but at the same time one of the most enjoyable I have read also. I enjoyed it, as it was so different from anything I had enjoyed before. It certainly was scary, sometimes weird, usually fascinating but always unpredictable. As such I would recommend it to all those who like an unusual crime story, as it is an amazing one.
Price: £5.00 Paperback new from Amazon
Publisher: Pan Books
More about the author: www.chelseacain.com
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
©CPTDANIELS February 2011.
as a sequel to her previous book 'heart sick', this novel is fantastic. chelsea cain has a seriously warped imagination. i love the way that she portrays gretchen in this novel because it contrasts the controlling image of the last. in this novel gretchen almost needs archie to be with her and will do anything, e.g. overdose him on painkillers and set fire to a house, to keep him. this book is twisted, literal and really really good. after reading 'heart sick' i was counting down the days until this one came out. at about £5 in paperback, this is quite an expensive book but so so so worth it, for a head trip and a truly screwed up love story that ends with archie in a hospital bed because of gretchen once again. i can't wait until the newest addition to this madness to arrive. 01/09/09. once again im counting the days!
In this sequel to 'Heartsick', though back living with his ex-wife, Archie Sheridan is still addicted to painkillers, obsessed by Gretchen Lowell and she continues playing with his mind. The strange, even warped relationship between Archie and Gretchen was centremost to the first book and this theme continues with the sequel.
In this novel Gretchen escapes whilst being transferred to another prison and the way the author depicts her closing in on Archies children is terrifying and compelling reading.
This is more or less a direct continuation of 'Heartsick'. Archie and his partner Henry are investigating two bodies found at the same location as one of Gretchens victims. Reporter Susan Ward (Atomic Turquoise hair this time) is still chasing the Senator with her Molly Palmer story. Susans mother 'Bliss Mountain' plays a larger part in this book and she really is quite a character.
Whilst reading this novel I couldn't help but think the series would make a really good movie and wonder if this was the authors intention.
Having read some uncomplimentary reviews, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed 'Sweetheart' as much as I did. Maybe it's down to my reading them one after the other. Whilst this novel may not be as gripping as the first it is definitely worth a read!
Please Note: I also review on Amazon under username Big Bertha and this review (or a version of it) may appear on there
SWEETHEART is the shortly-awaited sequel to CAIN's bestselling debut, HEART SICK, and once again features troubled Detective Archie Sheridan as he tries to adjust to his life in the months following the events of the last novel. He still maintains an addiction to prescription drugs despite the fact that they are slowly killing him but has completely cut off all contact with the serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, the woman who nearly ended his life before turning herself in, and is back with his wife trying to rebuild their fragmented relationship. Archie and Gretchen had a very macabre deal; he would continue to visit her in prison in the most disturbing case of Stockholm syndrome I have ever seen, if she would provide him with the names and locations of her many victims who still lay undiscovered. Since Archie cut off all contact, Gretchen has refused to disclose these details to anyone else.
When Gretchen ends up in a prison hospital after an attack by one of her guards, Archie breaks his sanctions and goes to her bedside but it soon becomes apparent that the whole thing is just a farce the better to aid her escape from jail. Further forging the not-so-subtle links between this and THOMAS HARRIS' s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which is so obviously provides much inspiration to CAIN's imagination, Gretchen Lowell goes on the lam and only Archie knows her well enough to track her down.
Meanwhile, reporter Susan Ward from the first novel is finally closing in on her story about a leading Senator when both the Senator and her long-time friend, colleague and mentor are killed in a car accident essentially also killing her scandal story that she so avidly pursued in the last book. Ward senses a conspiracy at foot but is hard-pressed to prove it until, with a little investigation, things start to fall into place. But she, too, has her connections to Archie Sheridan and slowly she finds herself being pulled back into his life again as well.
If this sounds as though there is a lot going on then thats because there is and thats without mentioning the pair of bodies discovered buried in nearby Forest Park that Archie starts out investigating in the opening chapters of this book. It almost feels as though CHELSEA CAIN is trying to juggle too many balls at once but, fair play to her, she does manage to carry the whole thing off!!
Although not as impressive as her debut, CAIN's follow-up is still a good read and a second novel in a potential series can often prove to be a little troublesome in places but all the loose ends do seem to come together and, almost despite yourself, you end up enjoying the book much more than you meant to. The writing style again is a little rough in places but, as you get caught up in the story, you can almost forgive CAIN for the few faults that present themself. She is defenitely a writer for the P.J.TRACEY generation and is obviously aimed at the supermarket audience who get their reading fix from the bestsellers list at Asda but there is nothing wrong with that and if this kind of book encouages more people to pick up a novel then I am all for it. I think at times perhaps I can be a bit tooo critical when maybe I should just shut up and enjoy a book for what it is. There is certainly scope for more books in this series but I do wonder how long CAIN can maintain the current story-arc and how long it will be before this formulae grows tired. At the very least I predict another couple of cracking good thrillers to follow but we will have to see what happens.....
For now all I can say is this is an above average thriller but that there is certainly a little room for improvement.