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Heartsick: A Novel

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Heartsick: A Novel Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1
 
Archie doesnt know for sure that its her until that moment. There is a dull bloom of warmth in his spine, his vision blurs, and then he knows that Gretchen Lowell is the killer. He realizes that he has been drugged, but it is too late. He fumbles for his gun, but he is ham-fisted and can only lift it awkwardly from his belt clip and hold it out as if it were a gift to her. She takes it and smiles, kissing him gently on the forehead. Then she reaches into his coat and takes the cell phone, turning it off and slipping it into her purse. He is almost paralyzed now, slumped in the leather chair in her home office. But his mind is a prison of clarity. She kneels down next to him, the way one might a child, and puts her lips so close to his that they are almost kissing. His pulse throbs in his throat. He cant swallow. She smells like lilacs.

“Its time to go, darling,” she whispers. She stands then, and he is lifted from behind, elbows under his armpits. A man in front of him, red-faced and heavy, takes his legs, and he is carried into the garage and laid in the back of the green Voyager—the vehicle Archie and his task force have spent months looking for—and she crawls in on top of him. He realizes then that there is someone else in the van, that she wasnt the one behind him, but he doesnt have time to process this because she is straddling his torso, a knee pressing on either side of his waist. He cannot move his eyes anymore, so she narrates for his benefit.

“Im rolling up your right sleeve. Im tying off a vein.” Then she holds up a hypodermic in his sight line. Medical training, he thinks. Eighteen percent of female serial killers are nurses. He is staring at the ceiling of the van. Gray metal. Stay awake, he thinks. Remember everything, every detail; it will be important. He thinks, If I live.

“Im going to let you rest for a little while.” She smiles and puts her flat, pretty face in front of his so he can see her, her blond hair brushing his cheek, though he cannot feel it. “Well have plenty of time for fun later.”

He cannot respond, cannot even blink now. His breath comes in long, shallow rasps. He cannot see her push the needle in his arm, but he assumes she has, because then there is only darkness.

 

He wakes up on his back. He is still groggy, and it takes him a moment to realize that the red-faced man is standing over him. In this moment, the very first moment of Archies awareness, the mans head explodes. Archie jerks as the mans blood and brain matter blow forward, splattering Archies face and chest, a vomit of warm, clotted fluid. He tries to move, but his hands and feet are bound to a table. He feels a piece of something hot slide down his face and slop onto the floor, and he pulls hard against the bindings until his skin breaks, but he cannot budge them. He gags, but his mouth is taped shut, forcing the bile back into his throat, making him gag again. His eyes burn. Then he sees her, standing behind where the mans body has fallen, holding the gun she has just used to execute him.

“I wanted you to understand right away how committed I am to you,” she says. “That you are the only one.” And then she turns and walks away.

He is left then to contemplate what has just happened. He swallows hard, willing himself to remain calm, to look around. He is alone. The man is dead on the floor. Gretchen is gone. The driver of the van is gone. Archies blood is pulsing so violently that it is the only sensation. Time passes. At first, he thinks he is in an operating room. It is a large space, walled with white ceramic subway tiles and well lit by fluorescent lights. He turns his head from side to side and sees several trays of instruments, medical-looking machinery, a drain on the cement floor. He strains again at his binds and realizes that he is strapped to a gurney. Tubes are coming in and out of him: a catheter, an IV. There are no windows in the room and a faint earthy smell skirts the edge of his consciousness. Mildew. A basement.

He starts to think like a cop now. The others had been tortured for a couple of days before she dumped the bodies. That meant that he had time. Two days. Maybe three. They could find him in that amount of time. He had told Henry where he was going, that he had a psych consult about the newest body. He had wanted to see her, to get her advice. He was not prepared for this. But they would connect it. Henry would connect it. It would be the last place to which he could be traced. He had made a call to his wife on the way. That would be the last point of contact. How much time had passed since he had been taken?

She is there again. On the other side of the table from where the body still lies, thick, dark blood seeping onto the gray floor. He remembers when she had first introduced herself—the psychiatrist who had given up her practice to write a book. She had read about the task force and had called him to see if she could help. It had been hell on all of them. She offered to come in. Not counseling, she had said. Just talk. They had been working on the case for almost ten years. Twenty-three bodies in three states. It had taken a toll. She invited those who were interested to come to a group session. Just talk. He had been surprised at how many of the detectives had shown. It might have had something to do with the fact that she was beautiful. The funny thing was, it had helped. She was very good.

She pulls the white sheet covering him down so that his chest is exposed, and he realizes that hes naked. There is no self-consciousness attached to it. It is merely a fact. She places a hand flat on his breastbone. He knows what this means. He has memorized the crime photos, the abrasions and burns on the torsos. It is part of the profile, one of her signatures.

“Do you know what comes next?” she asks, knowing that he does.

He needs to talk to her. To stall. He makes a garbled noise through the duct tape and motions with his head for her to take it off. She touches her finger to his lips and shakes her head. “Not just yet,” she says softly.

She asks it again. A little more harshly. “Do you know what comes next?”

He nods.

She smiles, satisfied. “Thats why I prepared something special for you, darling.” She has an instrument tray beside her and she turns and withdraws something from it. A hammer and nail. Interesting, he thinks, amazed at his ability to detach from himself, to remain clinical. So far the victims had been seemingly random, male, female, young, old, but the torso damage, though it had evolved, had been notably consistent. She had never used nails before.

She seems pleased. “I thought youd appreciate some variety.” She lets her fingertips dance up his rib cage until she finds the rib she is looking for and then she places the point of the nail against his skin and comes down hard with the hammer. He feels the explosion of his rib breaking and gags again. His chest burns with pain. He fights to breathe. His eyes water. She wipes a tear from his flushed cheek and caresses his hair, and then she finds another rib and repeats the process. And another. When she is done, she has broken six of his ribs. The nail is wet with blood. She lets it drop with an innocuous clink back on the instrument tray. He cant shift his body even a millimeter without a searing pain, like none he has ever felt. His nasal passages have clogged with mucus, he cant breathe through his mouth, he has to brace himself for agony with every lung expansion, and still he cant make himself breathe shallowly, cant slow the panicked, heavy pants that sound like sobs. Maybe two days was optimistic, he thinks. Maybe he would just die now.

 
 
Copyright © 2007 by Verite, Inc. All rights reserved.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

tregatt1, June 19, 2008 (view all comments by tregatt1)
A good thriller needs a few key ingredients: a good and compelling plot, an enigmatic killer that captures the attention even as (s)he repels, and a central character -- usually the detective who is trying to stop the killer before (s)he kills again -- that is charismatic and engaging. Unfortunately, "Heartsick" lacked all of the above. The central plot -- the hunt for the killer who is kidnapping and murdering these teenage girls, gets lost between the subplots involving Sheridan's obsession with Lowell, and the one involving the other central character, reporter Susan Ward's, search for a good story. It almost felt as if the hunt for the current serial killer was a bit of an afterthought. Also, I didn't really find any of the characters all that engaging or compelling. This second point, I'll concede as a matter of personal taste and that other readers may not have the same reservations as I had. Most damning of all, thought, was that I didn't find "Heartsick" to be a very suspenseful read. I actually read the book over three days, and I don't usually take so long to read thrillers! There just was no tension, no "the-edge-of-your-seat" feeling. And what is a thriller without a few chills
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(7 of 14 readers found this comment helpful)
Susan Hohman, October 4, 2007 (view all comments by Susan Hohman)
Chuck Palahnuik got it right when he called Gretchen Lowell "the most compelling, most original serial killer since Hannibal Lecter". I bought this book on its release date and devoured it. It's a fast-paced suspense and exceedingly gory horror story.
I just loved it!
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(18 of 32 readers found this comment helpful)
Clark, September 16, 2007 (view all comments by Clark)
This book lives up to the hype. I am pleasantly surprised with this book. Cain has great characters throughout this book. The storyline is excellent, dramatic and suspenseful. I felt bad for the cop and creeped out by the serial killer. This book reads fast because you don't want to stop, my curiosity kept me turning the pages. I did not want the book to end, I can't wait for the next. Give this book a chance, I promise you won't regret it.
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(21 of 37 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312368463
Author:
Cain, Chelsea
Publisher:
St. Martin's Paperbacks
Author:
McCormick, Carolyn
Author:
Chelsea
Author:
Cain
Subject:
Thrillers
Subject:
Police
Subject:
Women journalists
Subject:
Psychological
Subject:
Mystery fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Suspense
Subject:
Thrillers/Suspense
Subject:
Thrillers/Crime
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Series:
Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell
Series Volume:
No. 1
Publication Date:
20111004
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
9 CDs, 11 hours
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
8.3 x 5.94 x 0.91 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » Endcap
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » Pacific Northwest
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Contemporary Thrillers

Heartsick: A Novel Used Book Club Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 352 pages St. Martin's Minotaur - English 9780312368463 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

One of the best thrillers I've read in years, Heartsick is taut, edgy, and disturbing, and Archie Sheridan is a compelling new character. I eagerly anticipate the next book in this new series.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Characters are what make a thriller memorable to me. The first in a series, Heartsick is full of richly drawn characters positioned in a triangulated relationship. In pursuit of a serial killer on a spree, our tormented protagonist, Archie Sheridan, must revisit his old demons and flash back on some truly disturbing violence done to him by the "Beauty Killer," a female serial killer from a former case. Don't pick up Heartsick when an early morning follows, as it will be the wee hours before you snap off your light.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Heartsick is a riveting, intense thriller with amazing characters — Detective Archie Sheridan; Gretchen Lowell, the beautiful yet evil serial killer; and Susan Ward, the newspaper reporter who follows the story. I love that this novel is set in Portland with the sights of the local area.

"Review" by , "It's a long way from a Nancy Drew parody (Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, 2005) to one of the most original serial-killer thrillers to appear in several years, but Cain makes the leap unscathed....This could well be the thriller of the year."
"Review" by , "In addition to spiky characters, Cain has a crisp voice, a wicked sense of humor, and an imagination for all the horrors that can unfold in a locked basement....Bad news for Archie, but good news for readers who relish a profoundly creepy thriller. (Grade: A-)"
"Review" by , "Heartsick has it all: a tortured cop, a fearless and quirky heroine, and what may be the creepiest serial killer ever created. This is an addictive read!"
"Review" by , "With Gretchen Lowell, Chelsea Cain gives us the most compelling, most original serial killer since Hannibal Lecter."
"Review" by , "Heartsick is a dizzying novel. Lurid and suspenseful with well-drawn characters, plenty of grisly surprises and tart dialogue, it delivers what readers of this particular kind of thriller expect."
"Review" by , "[F]or teens who like their stories gritty, grim, and gory."
"Review" by , "[G]reat stuff for true-crime readers."
"Review" by , "For all its heavy-handed touches, Heartsick is not a cookie-cutter book. In a genre that is rife with copycatting, Ms. Cain deserves some credit for having gotten a potentially interesting new series off the ground."
"Review" by , "Chelsea Cain's novel is completely entrancing and totally original — what a read. Between the humanity of Portland cop Archie Sheridan and the chilling and twisted design of his beautiful nemesis, Gretchen Lowell, Heartsick is utterly unforgettable. Cain is a wonderful — and terrifying — storyteller."
"Synopsis" by , In this riveting debut thriller, Chelsea Cain introduces an unforgettable female serial killer and a homicide detective more human than heroic.
"Synopsis" by , Cain's novel is completely entrancing and totally original--what a read. Between the humanity of Portland cop Archie Sheridan and the chilling and twisted design of his beautiful nemesis, Gretchen Lowell, "Heartsick" is utterly unforgettable.
"Synopsis" by ,
In this riveting debut thriller, Chelsea Cain introduces an unforgettable female serial killer and a homicide detective more human than heroic.
"Synopsis" by ,
Damaged Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent ten years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful serial killer, but in the end she was the one who caught him. Two years ago, Gretchen kidnapped Archie and tortured him for ten days, but instead of killing him, she mysteriously decided to let him go. She turned herself in, and now Gretchen has been locked away for the rest of her life, while Archie is in a prison of another kind---addicted to pain pills, unable to return to his old life, powerless to get those ten horrific days off his mind. Archies a different person, his estranged wife says, and he knows shes right. He continues to visit Gretchen in prison once a week, saying that only he can get her to confess as to the whereabouts of more of her victims, but even he knows the truth---he cant stay away.

When another killer begins snatching teenage girls off the streets of Portland, Archie has to pull himself together enough to lead the new task force investigating the murders. A hungry young newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, begins profiling Archie and the investigation, which sparks a deadly game between Archie, Susan, the new killer, and even Gretchen. They need to catch a killer, and maybe somehow then Archie can free himself from Gretchen, once and for all. Either way, Heartsick makes for one of the most extraordinary suspense debuts in recent memory.

"Synopsis" by ,
Damaged Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent ten years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful serial killer, but in the end she was the one who caught him. Two years ago, Gretchen kidnapped Archie and tortured him for ten days, but instead of killing him, she mysteriously decided to let him go. She turned herself in, and now Gretchen has been locked away for the rest of her life, while Archie is in a prison of another kind---addicted to pain pills, unable to return to his old life, powerless to get those ten horrific days off his mind. Archie's a different person, his estranged wife says, and he knows she's right. He continues to visit Gretchen in prison once a week, saying that only he can get her to confess as to the whereabouts of more of her victims, but even he knows the truth---he can't stay away.

When another killer begins snatching teenage girls off the streets of Portland, Archie has to pull himself together enough to lead the new task force investigating the murders. A hungry young newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, begins profiling Archie and the investigation, which sparks a deadly game between Archie, Susan, the new killer, and even Gretchen. They need to catch a killer, and maybe somehow then Archie can free himself from Gretchen, once and for all. Either way, Heartsick makes for one of the most extraordinary suspense debuts in recent memory.

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