Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

He thinks he sees a flash of emotion in her eyes. Sympathy? Then it’s gone. ‘Whatever you think this is going to be like,’ she whispers, ‘it’s going to be worse.’ When beautiful serial killer Gretchen Lowell captured her last victim – the man in charge of hunting her down – she quickly established who was really in control of the investigation. So why, after ten days of horrifying physical and mental torture, did she release Detective Archie Sheridan from the brink of death and hand herself in? Two years on, Archie now returns to lead the search for a new killer, whose recent attacks on teenage girls have left the city of Portland reeling. Shadowed by vulnerable young reporter Susan Ward, Archie knows that only one person can help him climb into the mind of this psychopath. But can Archie finally manage to confront the demons of his past without being consumed by them?

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain is probably not a book for the fainthearted. I’m a more casual crime reader, so my crime experiences prior to reading Heartsick is limited to Tess Gerritsen, Harlan Coben an Jilliane Hoffman. Compared to Chelsea Cain, they’re all rather tame it has got to be said because Heartsick is one of the most twisted but absorbing books I’ve ever read.  The book is actually like two books in one. You have the modern day story, of a person who’s killing brunette teenage girls, and then you have the back story, the story that I was most interested in. The story of how Gretchen Lowell kidnapped and tortured the man who was looking for her, Detective Archie Sheridan. I found the present day story to be tame, and I definitely didn’t think it was the main attraction, it was rather murder-by-numbers if you will, but Gretchen and Archie’s story is sublime.

I have never been more creeped out about a cast of characters than I have whilst reading Heartsick. My fascination with them all was borderline creepy as well, frankly. I’m not ashamed to say that I loved Gretchen Lowell, as far as serial killers go she’s one of the most compelling serial killers I’ve ever read about. There’s no doubt about it that she’s a total and utter psychopath, but there’s something so utterly right about her that just made me like her. I don’t know how to explain it, I don’t even understand how I could like her, but she’s so alluring. Like I said, creepy. Right? No crime novels I’ve ever read have ever been more honest about the serial killer and I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved the way Gretchen manipulated people, it was riveting. I thought Archie Sheridan was equally as appealing. Since his ordeal he’s become a pill-popper and I could, quite happily, have read 300 pages of Archie and Gretchen sat at a table. That is how explosive their chemistry is. It’s freaky bad. I could see it all clearly and I have no idea why it hasn’t been made into a movie. It would make an awesome movie. I didn’t much like Susan Ward. Most of the time, I thought she was still a teenager, what with her pink hair and her rubbish attitude, until I remembered she was sleeping with her boss and was indeed an adult. I never really felt that I liked her at all, I just thought she was an annoying reporter.

I seriously enjoyed the book, and I can see why Chelsea Cain has written three more novels featuring Archie, Susan and Gretchen, because they make a pretty great screwed up trio. That last scene, at the jail, with Archie and Gretchen was one of the most mind-boggling things ever. Honestly, Cain is a genuine the way she’s managed to entrap me with the novel. How despite being totally creeped out by Archie and Gretchen’s closeness, I can understand it and in a weird way, enjoy it. I think to totally understand why I like a serial killer you have to meet Gretchen yourself. I’m not strange, Gretchen is just written in such a way that you can’t help but be drawn in by her. I found the book hard to put down, because it was so compelling despite the lackluster modern day plot. Believe me, the back story and the time Archie spends with Gretchen in that house is storytelling of the highest order that you’ll forgive the other storyline. I can’t wait to read the next novel. And the next. And the next. It’s a heck of a series, and I’m saying that having only read one book.

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