Sunday, August 26, 2007

Twisted Little Monkey

I pride myself on writing semi-coherent reviews. Plot synopsis, opinion, what worked and what didn't. But every once and while I just want to write something like:
Squee! I lurved this book! It is like the awesomest book evuh!
And leave it at that.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain has been getting The Big Promotional Push by St. Martin's and now that I've read it I totally see why. It's got a great hook, female serial killer Gretchen Lowell, and it's a projected trilogy. What's interesting here is that while St. Martin's has put on the full court press regarding the Gretchen Lowell character, she's not really the focus of this story. No, Gretchen is more like the puppet master. She's behind the scenes, with the main characters still dealing with the aftermath.

Archie Sheridan spent his entire police career working on the infamous Beauty Killer case. Then the Beauty Killer herself, Gretchen, kidnapped and tortured him for weeks. As her final act of manipulation, she let him live - barely. He's been on disability for the last couple of years, and is now popping Vicodin like breath mints. He's a wreck - but he somehow manages to get his old job back. This time the Beauty Killer Task Force is looking for a killer targeting pretty, dark-haired teenage girls.

After years of letting Gretchen manipulate him, Archie is looking to turn the tables - so he asks Portland newspaper writer, Susan Ward, to follow him around and write a series of stories. The paper obviously jumps on this offer, but little do they know that Archie has manipulated this turn of events to get what he wants - closure.

This sounds like a fairly basic serial killer/suspense novel - but it's really not. The suspense here is almost incidental. This is more like a character study, as readers watch Archie further descend into his pain and addiction, watch Susan follow leads and make disastrous romantic decisions, watch Gretchen sing her siren song that's always calling Archie "home," and watch Archie's wife, Debbie, deal with the fact that her ex-husband ultimately chose a psychopath over her. It makes for messy entanglements.

Swirling around all this is this new threat - the After School Strangler. A man who kidnaps girls, rapes and murders them. Obviously this is not a sunshine happy book. I wouldn't say the author paints the details terribly gory - but sometimes just planting the suggestion is enough. If there was even a doubt that Gretchen Lowell was one twisted little monkey, it's pretty much wiped from my mind when I hear about what she once did with a crochet hook. Seriously, the girl has major issues.

I started out life as a mystery reader, and to this day nothing gets my blood flowing quite like a page-turning suspense yarn. If it weren't for some of the more gory details, I think Heartsick has massive crossover appeal. The characters here are really fantastic, and while the suspense itself is well done, it's these people that made me come back for more. They were the reason why I kept picking up the book and reading. And I'm suddenly filled with a wonderful sense of euphoria to know that two more books are in the works. Let's hope Cain brings some of these original cast members back for those future installments.

Final Grade = A. Honestly, I'm not doing this book justice. Official laydown date is September 4, and both of my sisters really need to get on the library waiting list for this one. Like now you guys.


Big Sis said...

OOOO, goodie. I'm the first on the hold list at KPL. I loved the promo videos they did for this. Is it wrong to picture my ex-husband as the victim? KIDDING, KIDDING!
I'm finishing up Motor City Blue, then I'll read Angel Eyes, then this is next on my list.
Can't wait. Thanks for letting me know about it. Aren't we a little twisted for being so excited about this book?

Kerry said...

Oh, this does sound good. I can't stand serial killer books, but I do make an exception for Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series. Have you read them? It sounds like this might be a read-alike for that series based on the in-depth character study.

Alison Kent said...

Oh, wasn't it good! And I love how Gretchen is the puppet master, as you say, and how the story is more about Archie and Susan and all the secondaries. I loved Anne and Henry even. I'm sending mine to HelenKay to read. Can't wait to see what she thinks!

Rosie said...

Okay you've succeeded in creeping me out AND intriguing me. I hate when that happens.

Gail K. said...

Hmm, I seem to share your taste for Megan Hart and Erica Orloff so I may give this one a shot. but damn, I clicked on those youtube vids you posted and HEARTSICK has seriously creepy vibes! this ain't no dom/submissive book, right?

Kristie said...

I have it on hold too! I read an article about it in some newspaper article and was interested right away.

Wendy said...

No it isn't. It's a straight up suspense novel with some gory bits. As for gore level - it reminded me quite a bit of Tess Gerritsen's The Surgeon, also Patricia Cornwell's earlier Scarpetta novels. If that helps at all....

I think you'd probably like this one then. I wouldn't really call it a "serial killer" book - tis a bit deeper than that, and I really thought the character development was fab. And I haven't read the Dexter books yet.

I loved Susan and thought Anne was really great too. Just a good, solid book - can't wait for the next two (rumor has it they'll both be out before 2009)

Big Sis: Now that's not very nice :D Glad you liked Motor City Blue enough to pick up the second book!

Gail K. said...

Thanks for the clarification, Wendy. To tell you the truth I've *never* been a big mystery reader and the suspense in romantic suspense inevitably makes me LOL (not in a good way). But I was intrigued by what you wrote about HEARTSICK as a character study (love those) so I'll be ordering this one!

HelenKay said...

Between your review and Alison's, I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Anonymous said...

I thought that this read like James Patterson (for pacing and chapter length) meets Tess Gerritsen (for content and writing). Overall, I loved it and kind of secretly hope that the story of Archie continues, even though I hate sequels.

Wendy said...

That is a wonderful analogy!

Leya said...

I have to read this one! I have to....Thanks Wendy!:D

dancechica said...

*GASP* I read Bears In The Night when I was little too! I loved that book! I always thought it was funny how spooked the bears were...It's like a blast from the past seeing that cover. *Dorky book lover moment here* LOL.

Shelly @ Bewitched said...

I read about this one at Alison Kent's blog and put it on my wish list. Now I feel the need to go ahead and order! I enjoy serial killer books but this sounds like a great twist.

sybil said...

yay great review... I have a review for it from Connie and it she is still new to the whole review thang and it doesn't give enough info

She loved it. Of course she loves a good serial killer... LOL and it does sound interesting but I can't imagine the hell I will get to it.

So I can link to you at the end for people wanting more serial killer lurve. hee