Heart 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.
[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.