Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
(Gretchen Lowell, #1)
Read: 9/15/2012 — 9/18/2012
In Six Words: More focus on characters than mystery.
3. Evil at Heart
4. The Night Season
5. Kill You Twice
Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful and brutal serial killer. In the end, she was the one who caught him…and tortured him…and then let him go. Why did Gretchen spare Archie’s life and then turn herself in? This is the question that keeps him up all night—and the reason why he has visited Gretchen in prison every week since.
Meanwhile, another series of murders is tearing up the Portland streets. Archie seems to be getting closer to solving this high-profile case…until he finds himself in a fatal collision course with the killer—one that inevitably leads him back to his former captor. Gretchen may be the only one who can help do justice. The only thing she can’t do, this time, is save Archie’s life.
Why I Started Reading This Book and Final Verdict
I first heard of Heartsick from Felicia’s review. I’m a sucker for thrillers with serial killers and broken detectives, so I knew I had to read it. And, I have to admit, the first book has me very intrigued. I think that there is much more to learn about Archie and Gretchen, and though the mystery itself was not anything spectacular or amazing, this series holds a lot of promise.
In a weird way, Archie reminds me of the J.P Beaumont of J.A. Jance’s series. Of course, J.P. marries a murderer rather than being kidnapped (and then released) by one, but the twisted feelings are there. Despite Archie being a central character, he is closed off to us readers, only letting us see certain things about himself–much like how he controls the information that Susan, a reporter writing a feature on him, receives.
Heartsick is set up so that we get snippets of Archie’s time with Gretchen before she released him tucked in between the current serial killer case. I found that even though we were getting the information, there was still a lot left unsaid or untouched. Either we were supposed to fill in blanks, or there will be more information in the next few books (I’m hoping for the latter, actually). Other than knowing Gretchen is one messed up person, we don’t truly know much about her. And she is fascinating enough to want to know why she is the way she is.
The current serial killer case doesn’t necessarily strike me as a “thriller”; the thriller is more in Archie and Gretchen’s relationship and how it affects the case. I was also intrigued in Susan–the reporter–and her story. Her role in Heartsick is…never quite what it seems on the surface. I believe she continues to play a part in future stories, so I think it will be interesting to see how that develops.
And I don’t quite think a review would be complete without mentioning the setting. In some ways, Portland plays its own role in this story, as vibrant (or dreary, as the case may be) as if we were there ourselves. Chelsea Cain brings Portland alive much the same way that Karin Slaughter does with Atlanta. You feel you’re there, and that is not something that many authors can achieve with real live cities.
Overall, Heartsick is an intriguing mystery that actually depends more on its characters than the mystery itself. I look forward to seeing what becomes of all our players–the game is far from over.