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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"HeartSick" by Chelsea Cain

Read An Excerpt HERE
Watch Book Trailers HERE, HERE + HERE

In general, serial killers seem to be a pretty fascinating subject. I mean who’s never heard of Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer? What about Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates in Pyscho, or the Joker from the Batman comics? I’m not sure what the attraction is but they seem to be everywhere: in the news, on the Internet—heck, there are numerous websites dedicated to serial killers!—, in film, on television, in print (novels, comic books, etc.) and even videogames. For myself, I’ve seen my fair share of movies (Basic Instinct, Seven, the Saw franchise, Zodiac, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Monster, The Cell, Copycat, The Bone Collector) and The Silence of the Lambs is actually one of my favorites. I’ve also read plenty of books such as Thomas Harris’ Hannibal novels, Bret Easton Ellis’American Psycho”, James Patterson (Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider), et cetera. In short, I admit that I have a fondness for such stories and even though I feel the genre has become played out recently, when I heard about Chelsea Cain’sHeartSick”, I just couldn’t resist.

For over ten years, four as lead detective, Archie Sheridan has been working on the Beauty Killer Task Force tracking the Northwest’s most prolific serial killer Gretchen Lowell. Then one day Archie is kidnapped, tortured for ten days, and almost killed by the Beauty Killer herself, and from that moment on nothing is the same again. Fast forward two years… A new serial killer is on the prowl dubbed the After School Strangler and the Beauty Killer Task Force, with Archie Sheridan once again in command, has been reconvened to hunt down the killer. This time around the press, specifically Oregon Herald’s Susan Ward, will have a front-row seat to the proceedings as requested by Mr. Sheridan. What Archie hopes to accomplish through the press, if the After School Strangler can be stopped, and how the Beauty Killer fits into the picture are just a few of the questions waiting to be answered in the pages of Chelsea Cain’sHeartSick”…

Aside from the obvious departures—Gretchen and her unique relationship with Archie—“HeartSick” employs a fairly routine serial killer story. The police procedure, the journalistic elements, and the red herrings on who the After School Strangler is are all pretty standard stuff, and while the twists at the end are nice, they’re not totally unexpected. Where the book really excels at is the characterization and the prose. Of the latter, Ms. Cain has a style that is chic, descriptive and accessible all at once and I think a lot of readers are going to be endeared to the author’s dynamic writing style. As for the former, “HeartSick” is told in the third-person and mainly rotates between Susan Ward and Archie Sheridan with FBI profiler Anne Boyd picking up the leftover pieces. Archie is easily the most interesting, largely because Gretchen Lowell has done such a number on him and is suffering from some serious psychological issues. Plus, the flashback scenes that detail his captivity with Gretchen are some of the book’s most compelling moments. Susan isn’t half bad herself. While she starts out as an opportunistic young journalist given the opportunity of a lifetime with the Archie Sheridan scoop, we soon discover that Ms. Hubbard has many layers yet to be peeled and ends up being a very integral piece of the puzzle. What disappointed me a little bit was Gretchen Lowell herself. Reading the reviews/blurbs and checking out the trailers and other publicity, it seemed like Ms. Lowell was going to be the star of the show and in an abstract manner she is, but aside from the flashbacks, the Beauty Killer gets so little face time that’s she not nearly as well developed as either Archie or Susan. Still, creatively Gretchen Lowell is quite the villain—she reminded me of a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Catherine Tramell played by Sharon Stone in the Basic Instinct films—and I can’t wait to see more of her!

In closing, there’s a lot of hype surrounding Chelsea Cain’sHeartSick” and while the book doesn’t quite deliver on all accounts, it comes pretty damn close to fulfilling its potential. Fans of the serial killer genre, crime/mystery fiction readers and anyone who appreciates a first-rate suspense thriller are gonna eat this book up and since “HeartSick” is just the first in a whole series of Gretchen Lowell/Archie Sheridan novels, the fun’s just getting started. Hollywood, I hear you knocking…


Katie said...

I want to read this one pretty badly. Plus she's really nice so I'll just buy her book because of niceness. :)

Robert said...

Well, I'm sure you'll enjoy it :) Let me know what you think when you do!

Gav's Studio said...

I've just finished it and put up a review and I'm blown away - it's a good old page-turner that manages to go a little deeper and darker than most.

Highly recommended.

Robert said...

Glad you liked it Gav :) For those who haven't picked up a copy yet, I'll be hosting a giveaway for the book in October :D

Kiki said...

I read this book a few months ago and its probably one of the best books I've read, EVER. I guarantee just the first few pages will hook ya'. Great read.

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