Monday, October 6, 2008

Sweetheart - Chelsea Cain

A friend sent me Chelsea Cain's Heartsick after she read it and it is one of the best crime thrillers I've read. I took myself and my discount coupon down to Borders as soon as Sweetheart was on the shelf.

This novel pick up after the events in Heartsick and keeps the same main cast of characters Detective Archie Sheridan, his partner Henry Sobol, reporter Susan Ward, and the dark force that is serial killer Gretchen Lowell, the Beauty Killer, still exerting her power over Archie from prison. Archie is now living with his ex-wife Debbie and children, trying to resume a normal family life.

Sweetheart opens with the discovery of the body of a young woman in Forest Park, the location where Gretchen's first victim was found but this time Gretchen is not involved. Later, Susan identifies the victim who was a source for the biggest story in Susan's career.

Gretchen manages what should have been impossible, her escape. This complicates the investigation since Archie and his family are potential victims at the hands of Gretchen.

Sweetheart is a fast paced crime thriller that is difficult to put down. It is also one where I was able to suspend belief because I found it so enjoyable. Gretchen could give Hannibal Lector serious competition and her powers of manipulation seem almost supernatural at times. The relationship between Archie and Gretchen gets a much deeper treatment this time and the reasons for Archie's almost psychic ties start to become better understood.

Cain handles the several story threads expertly - the murder investigation, Susan's story, Gretchen Lowell's omnipresent influence. The effects of Archie's obsession with Gretchen on those who love him are agonizing to read.

I think there is one more good story possible out of the Archie & Gretchen relationship and I'd rather not see the story end where it does. You can see several directions Cain could take the next installment but I know I'm not sure which I would prefer. All could work.

I wouldn't mind if Cain put off writing another in this series and worked on a different project instead, coming back later with a fresh take.