REVIEW: 'Sweetheart' by Chelsea Cain

Sweetheart is sure to scare the pants off readers.Sweetheart (2008) by Chelsea Cain is the sequel to last years, New York Times bestseller, Heartsick. The story is told in third person present tense and is set in Portland, Oregon.

The story takes place two months after the events of the last book.

Detectives Archie Sheridan and his partner, Henry Sobol are investigating a Jane Doe found in Forest Park. They also discover a couple of bodies found in the Beauty Killer’s old stumping ground, too.

Alongside that story arc, Susan Ward, the journalist for the Herald, who wrote those articles about Archie while he was investigating the After School Strangler case, is continuing her story involving a high ranking public official that promises to be a huge scandal for the city of Portland.

To briefly recap, damaged cop, Archie Sheridan was the Beauty Killer aka Gretchen Lowell’s last victim. She infiltrated his task force to get to him and tortured him in her basement. Without explanation, Gretchen lets him go, while he barely clings to life and she turns herself in to the authorities.

Gretchen is now serving a life sentence in the state pen and has a plea deal with the state to help close some 31 open homicide cases. Archie’s visits to Gretchen every Sunday destroyed his marriage and strained the working relationship of his colleagues. Many couldn’t understand their relationship or why Archie felt somehow comforted in her presence.

Since the last book, however, Archie has moved back in with his ex-wife Debbie and their two children and he is seeing a shrink. He still takes his meds to keep up appearances. He’s also discontinued his Sunday visits with Gretchen, however images of her still haunt him.

The dynamics of Archie and Gretchen’s relationship is still at the heart of this series. In this entry, readers will learn how Gretchen and Archie’s relationship began. I can’t say that I was completely surprised at the developments in this story. I’m sure some of you had already seen what was coming. I mean, the title is apropos.

Susan Ward’s tenacity in seeing her story get published in the Herald makes her a target of people who have a lot to loose politically and that was an interesting thread to follow to it’s predictable ending. She also works with Archie again and helps him solve his Jane Doe murders.

The other thread that revolved around Gretchen and her manipulating the prison system leads to an all out manhunt, which provided for an increase in tension and suspense, which I liked. Also, the events that follow next, say that last 1/4 of the book, will have readers talking.

I prefer mysteries to have more substantive plotting than what was in here and with a villain who has more depth. There is an attempt to give readers an explanation or motive behind Gretchen being this cold-blooded killer. Don’t be surprised at what you may discover.

I also liked that we got to follow Susan into the news room and see her do her job. Especially since the source for her expose, Molly Palmer, is not returning her phone calls. Her editor threatens to sit on the story unless they speak to her but an unexpected event almost knocks it off the table completely.

Sweetheart has great pacing and has an assembled cast of characters to help keep the pages turning. There are a couple of new characters who had supportive roles namely Bliss, Susan’s mother, who is a colorful character. There is also the return of graphic violence that seems to be a hallmark of this series. The denouement was rather interesting in that it left me with a different view of Archie.

Upon finishing Sweetheart, I find that these two books so far in this series are very quick reads. There isn’t very much to challenge the reader here and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Despite my minor complaints, I still enjoyed Sweetheart for what it was: a page-turning thriller. My grade, B.

Sweetheart is available now in hardcover at your favorite bookstore.


About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Grade B Reviews, Mystery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to REVIEW: 'Sweetheart' by Chelsea Cain

  1. Tee says:

    I’m delighted to see that you’ve read this book and taken the time to write a review on it, Keishon. My copy should be arriving soon from the library (one can hope). I absolutely loved “HeartSick” last year and enjoyed how well Cain drew the characters, flaws and all. I was hoping the second book would be equally drawn; and from your comments, it appears as though it is. Thank you again. I am really looking forward to reading this one, especially at a time when good books seem to be few and far between (for me).

    On another note and definitely off topic, “Smoke Screen” by Sandra Brown (especially when compared to “Play Dirty”) was a big disappointment for me. I see that it’s one of the books you’ve been reading. How goes it for you?

  2. Avid Reader says:

    Hey Tee – as always, I am curious to see how you like Sweetheart. As for Smokescreen I’ve set it to the side twice but I plan to finish it. It didn’t grab me like Play Dirty did.

  3. Peggy P says:

    Thanks for the review, this sounds like something I may like but I haven’t read Heartsick, do I have to before reading Sweetheart? I’ve been meaning to check Chelsea Cain out but as usual, too many books & too little time.

    BTW, I listened to Smokescreen this weekend, it’s the #1 download right now on Audible so I thought – eh, why not? I do find Sandra Brown sort of hit or miss but I did enjoy Smokescreen. Victor Sleazak does a great job with the voices and I thought the mystery & all the secondary characters were well done. Sometimes it’s easier to listen to a book, especially a light story while I clean, do laundry, yard work, etc. than to sit and read it and this one fits that bill for sure.
    I’m going see about downloading Play Dirty, Victor reads that also.

  4. Avid Reader says:

    Thanks for the review, this sounds like something I may like but I haven’t read Heartsick, do I have to before reading Sweetheart?

    Heartsick was pretty good Peggy P, so I’d strongly recommend you start there first only because the dynamics of Gretchen’s relationship with Archie is the focus of this series.

    Plus there are loose ends from the first book that carry over into the sequel. But I don’t think you’d be lost if you were to start with Sweetheart first since the author gives a little of the backstory but it’s been awhile since I read this book so I’m not 100% sure.

  5. Tee says:

    Well, I finally received my copy from the library today and I’m already half way thru it. So far, the story is riveting. Archie is still a fascinating character. I’ll get back to you with my final thoughts when I finally finish reading it, which will probably be sooner than I expected.

  6. Avid Reader says:

    Hey Tee, I was wondering if you’d read it or not. Can’t wait for your thoughts on it. No doubt these are very quick reads.

  7. Tee says:

    Well, I’ve finished “Sweetheart,” Keishon, and it was thrilling to the end. First off, I loved the book, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some other thoughts about it, too. Archie has remained complex in this book, but I’m wondering about his relationship with his kids and ex-wife. I have a different perception of him when I think in those terms. There has to be some masochism in him somewhere. He’s very flawed and I’m wondering what Cain has in mind for him for a future book. I think the Gretchen relationship could become thin after a while. But for this book, it worked very well. Certainly had me on the edge of my seat for a while there. I know you gave it a B, but I’m going to say A- on my end of it. That could also be due to the fact that I’ve not had a good book to read in a while and this fit the bill very nicely, thank you.

  8. Avid Reader says:

    I think the Gretchen relationship could become thin after a while.

    There was a scene in there where I was hoping Gretchen would be shot. That’s how ready I am for her to move on. [g] BUT – third book is pivotal (for me) in that we get to see how far across the line Archie goes (in my mind he’s already jumped over it) and where the dynamics of this Gretchen Lowell and Archie Sheridan relationship will go as well. I was somewhat sorry to see him regress.

    I think Chelsea Cain is very talented and her two books are compulsively readable but I don’t think I’d continue if it’s only gonna be about their dysfunctional relationship.

    I rated it a B because I wanted more of the public official story (yes, I’m selfish that way) and less on Gretchen/Archie but oh well. There was another thing that bothered me – the ending. Weak. Same as the last book. Glad you enjoyed it, Tee.

    Have you read Alafair Burke? I plan to review her latest book and have it up for Friday.

  9. Tee says:

    From Avid Reader: I think Chelsea Cain is very talented and her two books are compulsively readable but I don’t think I’d continue if it’s only gonna be about their dysfunctional relationship.

    Yes, those were my exact thoughts as I was closing the pages of the book. Enough is enough. I gave it an A-; but as I’m thinking about it today, it’s probably more a B+. Not much of a difference, but a little. I definitely enjoyed the action in the last third of the book. But now that it’s said and done, it reminds me a lot of the song that Peggy Lee made famous in the late ’60s, “Is That All There Is?” I wanted more and it wasn’t there in “Sweetheart.” To be sure, “HeartSick” was brilliant; maybe it should end with “Sweetheart.” I had compassion for Archie in the first book and lost it in the second one, but only toward the end.

    No, Keishon, I have never read Alafair Burke. Maybe I should give her a try? Sounds like you think I should. I’ll look her up. Thanks.

  10. Nicole says:

    l LOVED Heartsick and Sweetheart!!!
    do you think that there will be a third?

  11. Avid Reader says:

    Hi Nicole – I’m pretty sure there will be. I did an interview with her that you might want to read.

  12. Pingback: Heartsick and Sweetheart « Jorrie Spencer

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