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.