As soon as I finished Cain’s first book, “Heartsick,” I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, “Sweetheart” and continue with troubled murder detective Archie Sheridan and his obsession with the beautiful but deadly serial killer Gretchen Lowell.
“Sweetheart” opens with Archie’s life much improved. He’s no longer going for his weekly visits with Gretchen. He’s moved back in with his wife and is going to therapy to help him get through his problems left from his days spent being tortured by Gretchen. The scars she carved in his chest and the physical pains left from Gretchen cutting his spleen out will never heal. But maybe, with enough time, some of the emotional trauma will fade, and Archie can get on with his life.
But then Gretchen escapes from prison and everything Archie is working for is ripped away from him. Archie has to find her before she kills anyone else. Again with the help of reporter Susan Ward, Archie sets out to find the most deadly woman he’s ever known. He knows he’s the only one who can catch her.
“Sweetheart” was a bit of a let down for me. It was still thrilling and suspenseful. Cain’s writing is both disturbing and compelling. The problem for me lies in the character of Archie. He was slightly annoying to me. He did ridiculously stupid things and risked his life unnecessarily. Cain tried to portray a man so obsessed and torn that he would stop at nothing to stop Gretchen, but she failed in this sequel. Archie came across as pathetic and sorry, and I no longer felt sympathy for him the way that I did in “Heartsick.”
I was a little disappointed in Gretchen this time, too. She wasn’t as scary or deadly. She seemed much more like a teenage girl with a crush, which is ridiculous behavior for a serial killer, especially one that was so fascinating and deadly the first time around. With no flashbacks to show just what Gretchen is capable of, she seemed a lot more docile and tame and much less psychotic and cruel.
I would still highly recommend this book to anyone who has read “Heartsick” because with a third novel, “Evil At Heart” and a fourth, “The Night Season” in the series, my hope is that Cain will rebound from her sophomore slump and give us all the gory, terrifying detail she did the first time around.
Cain stays true to the psychological tension and thrilling chase that made “Heartsick” such a terrifying, exciting novel. But with Archie less than sympathetic, and Gretchen a little less scary, “Sweetheart” didn’t stand up to the high expectations set in the first novel. However, it was by no means so disappointing that I’m willing to give up on the series. I’ve already got “Evil At Heart” waiting in the wings for an upcoming read.
Have you read “Sweetheart?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.