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Sweetheartby Chelsea Cain
Sweetheart, a torrid thriller by Chelsea Cain, has classic characters sassy reporter Susan Ward (my favorite character) and pill-popping police detective Archie Sheridan, who is obsessed with the stunning, cold-as-ice beauty (and killer), Gretchen. Set amid the sights and scenes of Portland, which makes for a lovely backdrop and a good read.
Synopses & Reviews
With Heartsick, Chelsea Cain took the crime world by storm, introducing two of the most compelling characters in decades: serial killer Gretchen Lowell and her obsessed pursuer Portland Detective Archie Sheridan. The book spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and garnered rave reviews around the world. But the riveting story of Archie and Gretchen was left unfinished, and now Chelsea Cain picks up the tale again.
When the body of a young woman is discovered in Portland's Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the last time they found a body there, more than a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer's first victim, and Archie's first case. This body can't be one of Gretchen's — she's in prison — but after help from reporter Susan Ward uncovers the dead woman's identity, it turns into another big case. Trouble is, Archie can't focus on the new investigation because the Beauty Killer case has exploded: Gretchen Lowell has escaped from prison.
Archie hadn't seen her in two months; he'd moved back in with his family and sworn off visiting her. Though it should feel like progress, he actually feels worse. The news of her escape spreads like wildfire, but secretly, he's relieved. He knows he's the only one who can catch her, and in fact, he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all.
Chelsea Cain has topped her own bestselling debut thriller with this unputdownable, unpredictable, edge-of-your-seat read.
"In Cain's superb follow-up to Heartsick, damaged detective Archie Sheridan is back home in Portland, Ore., trying to resume a normal life. Archie's ties to serial killer Gretchen Lowell still run deep, even if he's stopped their weekly visits in prison. Meanwhile, reporter Susan Ward is finishing an article accusing a beloved U.S. senator of seducing his children's 14-year-old babysitter a decade earlier. When three bodies are discovered in a local park — where Archie's team found Gretchen's first victim 12 years earlier — Archie worries another serial killer is at large. After the senator's unexpected death, Susan discovers links between the sex scandal and the bodies in the park. When Gretchen escapes from prison, Archie knows he's the only one who can stop her from killing. In Cain's capable hands, Gretchen is both a monster and the only person who truly understands Archie's pain. With its brisk pacing, carefully metered violence and tortured hero, Cain's sophomore effort will leave readers desperate for more. 200,000 first printing. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
It was just a year ago that "Heartsick," Chelsea Cain's gory tale of a Portland, Ore., detective's obsession with a beautiful serial killer, turned up on the best-seller lists. Now comes a sequel, "Sweetheart," in which detective Archie Sheridan still lusts for Gretchen Lowell, who police fear has slaughtered more than 200 innocent souls. The new thriller, like the original, is deep-dish bloody, more... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) or less unputdownable and often maddening. Its plot is a jazzed-up, dumbed-down version of Thomas Harris' "The Silence of the Lambs," with Gretchen and Archie standing in for Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. You either buy the Archie-Gretchen relationship or you don't, but either way it's monumentally weird. In the first novel, Gretchen seduced Archie, then drugged him and kept him prisoner for 10 days while she alternately chatted him up and tortured him. Among other indignities, she removed his spleen. (In the sequel, she recalls fondly, "Having my hands inside you. You were so warm and sticky. I can still smell you, your blood.") Her blood lust sated, Gretchen spared the detective's life and turned herself in. Why? The most logical explanation is that she did it to make way for this sequel. After his recovery, Archie obsessively visited Gretchen in prison. By then, he was addicted to the painkiller Vicodin, his liver was failing, and his marriage had collapsed. No matter. The boy's in love. As "Sweetheart" opens, Gretchen is still in prison, Archie is still a mess, and a popular U.S. senator has died under mysterious circumstances. Despite his death, the novel's third important character, reporter Susan Ward, who sports turquoise hair and has attitude to burn, is determined to prove that the senator had some years earlier seduced a girl of 14. Susan's pursuit of this story allows Cain, a columnist for the Portland Oregonian, to take an irreverent look at a newsroom, with all the traditional rivalries, affairs and frustrations. My favorite line came when a detective tells Susan that "you care about stories more than people." It's a condition not unknown in the reporting game, and scoop-hungry Susan is by far the most believable character in the book. The heart of the novel is Archie's obsession with Gretchen. Inevitably, she escapes from prison, as Hannibal Lecter did at the end of "The Silence of the Lambs," and inevitably she and Archie are reunited, as Starling and Lecter were in the sequel "Hannibal." Cain's problem, in imitating Harris' novels, is that he's a far more interesting writer than she is. The insane but sophisticated Lecter's fascination with the naive Starling possessed a certain loony logic, but the Archie-Gretchen connection makes no sense at all unless we assume he's as deranged as she is, or unless we simply accept it as an inspired premise for a slick piece of commercial fiction. Archie is a mass of contradictions ("He hated her. He loved her"), and we never learn much about Gretchen, except that she's drop-dead gorgeous (more or less literally) and delights in torturing and killing people. I have been reading sex scenes for many, many years, hundreds of sex scenes, but I have never read one as bizarre as what occurs when Archie and Gretchen are reunited after her escape from prison. It begins with a several pages of foreplay during which she admires the heart-shaped scar she'd previously carved into his chest "like it was a Picasso." The actual act, when they get to it, is conventionally graphic and climaxes with a moment of down-and-dirty realism that Philip Roth might have written in his "Portnoy" days. "I find murder emotionally fulfilling," Gretchen confides afterward. Poor Archie realizes that he should kill this monster while he can, but he's just having too darn much fun. For the most part, "Sweetheart" is well written, with sharp dialogue, nice descriptions and moments of offbeat humor. I particularly admired Cain's portraits of rainy Portland and of a forest fire that figures in the novel's ending. But there's some deplorable writing, too. If Cain likes a word or phrase she won't let it go. To show her scorn for a stuffy hotel, she describes its walls as an unprintable shade of yellow, then proceeds to repeat the same unpleasant term three more times. We are reminded 20 or 30 times that Susan's hair is dyed turquoise. Ditto a detective's bald/shaved/bristly noggin, endlessly referenced. In one scene, Susan notices that her cigarette "needed ashing" and so she "ashed" it and soon "ashed" another one. As a reviewer of thrillers, I can accept it when Gretchen cuts a man's heart out, slices it in half and sends the pieces to Archie's two children, or when she forces a 10-year-old to drink drain cleaner "and then skinned him with a scalpel." That goes with the serial-killer territory. But all the ashing (is that really a word?) and Susan's constant fiddling with her turquoise hair make me crazy. Of course, my quibbles aside, Cain and her editors have given a sizable portion of the book-buying audience just what it wants in a thriller: sex, violence and cheap thrills, nicely packaged. Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"It's hard to say how long Cain can play out this lovers' duel between Archie and Gretchen before they tumble into their own Reichenbach Falls, but it's a sure thing we wont be leaving our seats before the final curtain." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Gretchen requires heavily engineered suspension of disbelief, but there are numerous thrills to be had and, underneath the Grand Guignol, there's a perfectly normal detective story." Kirkus Reviews
"[S]ensual and engulfing....But it is the marital drama entwined with the carnage...that keeps us turning the pages." The New York Times Book Review
"Cain's debut Heartsick had even the most jaded thriller fans sleeping with the lights on. She tells an equally frightening story in Sweetheart." USA Today
"A sharp psychological inquiry into evil and obsession, as well as a deeply unhealthy love story." The Seattle Times
"Profoundly creepy and disturbing." The Boston Globe
With Heartsick, Cain took the crime world by storm, introducing two of the most compelling characters in decades: serial killer Gretchen Lowell and her obsessed pursuer Portland Detective Archie Sheridan. Lowell and Sheridan's stories continue in this terrifying new sequel.
In this follow-up to Heartsick, Detective Archie Knox's latest murder investigation is derailed by a shocking development: beautiful yet sadistic killer Gretchen Lowell has escaped from behind bars, and Archie is the only one who can find her.
Portland detective Archie Sheridan, the former head of the Beauty Killer Task Force, hunted Gretchen Lowell for years before she kidnapped him, tortured him, and then let him go. Now that she is behind bars, Archie is finally piecing his life back together. He's returned home to his ex-wife and their two children. But no matter how hard Archie tries, he just can't stop thinking about Gretchen...
When the body of a young woman is discovered in Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the first corpse he discovered there a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer's first victim, and Archie's first case. Then, the unthinkable happens: Gretchen escapes from prison, and once the news breaks, all of Portland goes on high alert...but secretly, Archie is relieved. He knows he's the only one who can capture Gretchen — and now he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all. Even if it means becoming her last victim...
“Sensual and engulfing…keeps us turning the pages.”
—The New York Times Book Review
Portland detective Archie Sheridan, the former head of the Beauty Killer Task Force, hunted Gretchen Lowell for years before she kidnapped him, tortured him, and then let him go. Now that she is behind bars, Archie is finally piecing his life back together. Hes returned home to his ex-wife and their two children. But no matter how hard Archie tries, he just cant stop thinking about Gretchen…
When the body of a young woman is discovered in Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the first corpse he discovered there a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killers first victim, and Archies first case. Then, the unthinkable happens: Gretchen escapes from prison, and once the news breaks, all of Portland goes on high alert…but secretly, Archie is relieved. He knows hes the only one who can capture Gretchen—and now he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all. Even if it means becoming her last victim…
“Sweetheart is not afraid to explore damage too severe to be undone.”—Los Angeles Times
About the Author
Chelsea Cain lived the first few years of her life on an Iowa commune, then grew up in Bellingham, Washington, where the infamous Green River killer was "the boogeyman" of her youth. Her first novel featuring Detective Archie Sheridan and killer Gretchen Lowell, Heartsick, was a New York Times bestseller. Also the author of Confessions of a Teenage Sleuth, a parody based on the life of Nancy Drew, several nonfiction titles, and a weekly column in The Oregonian, Chelsea Cain lives in Portland with her family. Visit her online at www.chelseacain.com.
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