Portland murder detective Archie Sheridan pulled a case his first week on the job. Little did he know that he’d spend the next 10 years chasing the same serial killer, The Beauty Killer, across the country, never coming close to a capture. That is until the Beauty Killer caught him. Gretchen Lowell, the infamous Beauty Killer, kidnapped Archie and tortured him for 10 days. But instead of killing him like most of her victims, she suddenly decides to spare his life. She calls 911 and keeps him alive with CPR until help arrives.
Now, two years later, Archie is a destroyed man. He’s addicted to pain pills, trying to erase his vivid memories of his ten days of torture. He’s lost his wife and kids. And most disturbing, he spends every Sunday in the prison visiting with Gretchen, the woman who came so close to killing him. Archie claims it’s the only way Gretchen will give up more names and graves of her victims, but everyone including Archie knows the truth. He’s obsessed with Gretchen and can’t stay away from her.
Then another serial killer turns up in Portland, and Archie is called off medical leave to help solve the case. Someone is snatching teenage girls off the streets and depositing their bodies back days later. This broken man has to pull himself together long enough to help stop the killing. With the help of young, feisty reporter Susan Ward, Archie begins to try to puzzle the clues together and save the innocent, and possibly even himself.
In “Heart Sick” Chelsea Cain has written one of the most thrilling suspense novels I’ve read in years. And in Gretchen Lowell, Cain has created one of the most frightening and compelling serial killers since Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Gretchen is a sociopath. She’s stunningly beautiful. She’s highly intelligent, manipulative and dangerous. But she’s also fascinating.
Through flashbacks to Archie’s 10 days of captivity, we learn in great detail just what Gretchen did to him. The way she reveled in Archie’s slow torturous march toward death left me with my mouth hanging open, and I would have to shake off the disturbing visions before reading on.
Gretchen isn’t the only compelling character in “Heart Sick.” Archie is truly destroyed and pitiable. His inability to save himself or his family is heartbreaking. Susan is feisty and believable, if somewhat mouthy and annoying at times.
Cain followed up “Heart Sick” with the sequel, “Sweetheart,” again focusing on Archie, Gretchen and Susan. With the thrilling pace and deeply buried secrets of “Heart Sick,” I look forward to diving back into the world of the damaged detective Archie and his beautiful killer, Gretchen.
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