Heartsick by Chelsea Cain {Amanda’s Review}

Posted 15 October, 2012 by Amanda / 17 Comments

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain {Amanda’s Review}Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
Series: Gretchen Lowell #1
Genres: Thrillers, Suspense, Crime
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback

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.

More focus on characters than mystery.

My Thoughts on Heartsick

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.



Filed under: ESR: 7, Mystery, Review: Amanda, ,


17 Responses to “Heartsick by Chelsea Cain {Amanda’s Review}”

  1. I felt exactly the same way! I love the Archie/Gretchen parts and was “ok” with the other mystery. Book 2 (which I just finished) was better overall. Gretchen is just super scary in a crazy bad ass kind of way. I love that she is a woman serial killer and non-apologetic about it.

  2. Seeing as I’m such a fan of characterization, I’m thinking I’ll like the fact that this story is more character-driven than mystery-driven:) I’m super intrigued by Gretchen, and I need to know asap why she let Archie go, so please read the entire series this week and let me know what happens okay? Okay:)

    • Archie is broken in a different way than Will Trent, I think. I still like Will Trent better. (Speaking of which, you have the books. Why aren’t you reading them LIKE RIGHT NOW??)

      Creepy but intriguing is an apt description.

  3. From the cover: “One of the most seductive and original psychopaths.”
    They’re talking about me, right?
    *is so flattered*

    Oooooh, Amanda, I am… INTRIGUED.
    But… OK, is it just me, or are there ROMANCEY feels between the Good Detective and Gretchen? Is it just because I read so much romance I’m LOOKING for something that could be a romance in the review and synsopsis?


    MYSTERY! Fascinating. I swear the only adult mysteries I’ve read are Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden and Lily bard (cozy mysteries) or genre fiction (sci-fi, paranormal, etc), where that’s part of the plot.

    Straight mystery? Mmmm….

    • Uh… the relationship between Archie and Gretchen is REALLY messed up. Like, really. There’s a twisted, icky romance.

      I’m a BIG fan of thrillers. But if you’re a character driven person, mysteries are tough because the books are more plot driven. Unless you invest in a series and become involved in the characters. You’ll notice that a lot of my mystery reviews usually end up with about a 7/3.5 star rating. It takes a special mystery to rate 8/4 or higher. I think it’s the character thing.

      If you ever feel the need to branch out to a straight mystery, I’d be happy to help you find something you might like! :)

      • I LOVE plot driven. LOVE. Ideally, I like a good balance between plot and character, but plot driven is overrated. I much prefer a story where something HAPPENS to a story where people think about their FEELS and… :D

        OK, I love both :P
        But truly GREAT stories manage both.

        OH! I WAS ON THE MONEY! And twisted, icky romance? *leers* But really, am INTRIGUED.

        I may just take you up on that :D

    • I have BEEN to Portland before! I want to go back. But, I think that any book that brings a city alive in the descriptions will also make you want to visit. At least… that’s how it goes for me.

  4. I love a good mystery (you’ve totally reminded me how much I love the genre) and this one sounds quite excellent, especially with the most excellent-sounding characters.