Saturday, May 19, 2007


Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
Sept 2007, 278 pages

Portland detective Archie Sheridan was captured by serial killer Gretchen Lowell and tortured for ten days. During that time, Archie was somehow changed, and a twisted relationship grew between them. Finally, Gretchen let him go rather than kill him, as she usually would do to her victims. Two years later, Archie is slowly recovering and is called back to work to find a new serial killer. Although he still has many issues relating to his capture (drug abuse, horrible flashbacks, residual feelings for Gretchen, etc), he works on the new case, tailed by journalist Susan Ward who is assigned to write about the human interest aspects of the case, given Archie's history.

I liked this book for a few reasons. Most immediately is the setting in Portland, Oregon, a town I love. Archie and Susan visit areas such as Sauvie Island, Cleveland High School, and spots downtown. It's a fun way to have connection to a book, but is also a bit distracting. (I found myself in the middle of some suspenseful section suddenly thinking excitedly, "Hey, I've been there!")

More generally, I liked this book for the in-depth look at the twisted relationship between Archie and Gretchen. One would expect Archie to have only negative feelings for his captor, but instead there is a much more complicated situation there. The author takes the time to really look closely at that, despite how uncomfortable it may be.

Also, as might be expected in a detective novel, the plot zooms along as we eagerly follow the developments of the investigation and make guesses as to who might be the killer. We also get flashbacks to the investigation of Gretchen two years before that led to Archie's capture. All of these story lines are captivating.


jacqueline said...

So the first serial killer (Gretchen) is female? That'supposed to be very uncommon.

I just saw the movie Monster last weekend which is based on the first known American female serial killer. A strange movie as you kinda identify with the woman a little (even tho she is clearly a little unballanced). I wonder if Gretchen is similar in character....

rednib said...

It's amazing how good writing can get us to identify with or sympathize with even the worst characters. I really like it when a story can get me to do that.

I haven't seen "Monster" so I can't address if the characters are similar. This book doesn't really get into her character all that much, it's more about her affect on the main character who was kidnapped by her, and how even in such horrible circumstances, feelings can blossom. Totally strange.