REVIEW: Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain

Heart Sick by Chelsea CainHeart Sick (2007) by Chelsea Cain opens with a grisly flashback of Gretchen Lowell, hammering nails into the chest of the lead detective of the Beauty Killer Task force.

For ten years the task force had been tracking down a serial killer who was leaving 23 bodies across state lines. Only problem was that who they were looking for was a woman – not a man. A fact that the best FBI profiler had missed that ended up almost costing lead detective Archie Sheridan his life.

Heartsick is a good story but it is far from perfect. Damaged cop, Archie Sheridan returns to work after 2 years of recovering from his injuries. He is asked to be lead detective of another task force that is searching for a serial rapist/murderer. When the story opens, 2 girls are dead and one is missing in the city of Portland. Most of the officers from the Beauty Killer Task Force are reconvened to work on the case. Archie is still fragile, surviving on a cocktail of meds to keep up appearances. He still struggles from the aftermath of his capture from a psychopath who infiltrated his task force to get to him.

Archie returns to police work with some set conditions that includes having a journalist on board to shadow him. Enter, Susan Ward, a journalist for the Herald, who is nabbed for this assignment after a juicy story she’s working on goes nowhere. Like Archie, Susan’s damaged. Her past reads like your typical teen on the brink of crisis: father died when she was young during a vulnerable period of her life. Mother is just a tad bit eccentric encouraging her daughter to be independent. Now a journalist, Susan’s shock of pink hair and style of dress often has other people mistaking her for a high school kid. She wants to be taken seriously as a journalist but she has too many hang-ups and sleeps with married men (a big no-no).

This novel really tries too hard to work on your psyche in how the reader should understand Archie and Gretchen’s killer/victim relationship. Since Archie’s escape from her basement, he’s been estranged from his family and makes weekly visits to the pen to visit Gretchen. She will only give Archie her confessions, making his trips to visit her a necessary evil. At one point in the story Gretchen asks: “Do you know what’s more intimate than sex?” Her answer of “violence” gives the reader a moment of clarity into this sordid relationship because this book is more about them than it is about solving another murder.

The current case is told alongside flashbacks of Archie’s captivity in Gretchen’s basement. Most of it is pretty gruesome stuff so if you have a weak stomach, you might want to give this one a pass. Heartsick has been getting some buzz and some of my expectations were met. I must admit that the most intriguing character for me was Archie. He’s damaged and I like damaged. He’s the main draw for me if I were to read the sequels. The pacing is pretty good even as it stumbles towards its very weak conclusion. Overall, a good, well paced story that is predictable and unoriginal in the damaged cop/serial killer sub genre. My grade, B. Sequels are in the works.

This book has an excerpt you can read here and is available in the following formats: hardcover, audiobook CDaudio download and ebook at Mobipocket.

[tags]Chelsea Cain, Heartsick Mystery Review, Serial Killer[/tags]


Heartsick by Chelsea Cain is now out in paperback. I thought I’d dust off this review and repost it since I read it last year. I thought the debut was a pretty good effort from a first-timer and promises to be another engrossing series. The sequel, Sweetheart, is set to release in hardcover on 9.2.08 and it has the coolest book trailer, too.


About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
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6 Responses to REVIEW: Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain

  1. jenreads says:

    I’d agree with the “B” grade here. I found the book interesting but it didn’t live up to some of my favorites in the genre. I thought Archie was interesting with his drugs and sarcastic sense of humor. Gretchen was creepy and manipulative, a great combination. My biggest problem was Susan. It was hard to take her seriously or believe that she would be in the position she was in as a journalist. Reporters don’t stand out from the crowd, they blend in so they can get the story. I thought the pink hair and attitude made her a little too eccentric for her job.

  2. Avid Reader says:

    I thought Archie was interesting, too. All I kept thinking about was Silence of the Lambs, just remove the cop and insert the journalist and of course, Gretchen lived up to her sadistic counterpart, but in the end, Ms. Cain didn’t add anything new to this genre.

    As for Susan, I thought she was a bit eccentric as well. /SPOILER WARNING/SPACE:
    Archie requested her for his own ulterior motives because of her Op-ed pieces, which wouldn’t have been front news story anyway. I just thought Susan’s role was convenient for the plot and that deflated much of my enjoyment of the novel. /SPOILER OVER

    Otherwise, the book was a page-turner. I’m interested in Archie and his life after this case.

  3. vanessa jaye says:

    Interesting review, I agree with your take…. as far as a I got into it. For some reason I put it down. Just not quite in the right mood for it. Not even the fact that I got it from the library and there’s a huge waiting list for it so I can’t renew it is nudging me to pick it up. i do want to finish though, one day. 😛 I did skim bits at the end, and I agree, I’d like to see if the promising situation at the end pans out.

  4. Tee says:

    I read this book when it initially came out and absoluely loved it. I feel it definitely lived up to the hype (not many do!). Even now, I’m anxious for the sequel. As others have said here, Archie is a pretty riveting character and his flaws are what leads the story, I believe. He’s coping with life (both personal and professional) with many different band-aids, but they’re working for him temporarily, even though it’s obvious he shouldn’t be using them now that he’s back to work.

    The story is a stretch, to be sure, but it worked for me. I think Cain’s “Sweetheart” will be telling, in that readers will know if her style is really theirs also or not. Many an author explodes onto the scene, only to peter out the next time around.

  5. Amie Stuart says:

    Who says blogging doesn’t work LOL I picked up Heartsick because I skimmed your review. Read the first few pages–normally 3rd person present tense doesn’t work for me but I was interested enough to buy it.

  6. Pingback: Heartsick « Jorrie Spencer

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