Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sweetheart - Chelsea Cain

TITLE: Sweetheart

AUTHOR: Chelsea Cain

SUMMARY: When the body of a young woman is discovered in Portland''s Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the last time they found a body there, more than a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer''s first victim, and Archie''s first case. This body can''t be one of Gretchen''s-she''s in prison-but after help from reporter Susan Ward uncovers the dead woman''s identity, it turns into another big case. Trouble is, Archie can''t focus on the new investigation because the Beauty Killer case has exploded: Gretchen Lowell has escaped from prison. Archie hadn''t seen her in two months; he''d moved back in with his family and sworn off visiting her. Though it should feel like progress, he actually feels worse. The news of her escape spreads like wildfire, but secretly, he''s relieved. He knows he''s the only one who can catch her, and in fact, he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all. Chelsea Cain has topped her own bestselling debut thriller with this un-put-downable, unpredictable, edge-of-your-seat read. - From Publisher

REVIEW: A twisted, and at time lurid, ride that had me in its grasp and didn't let go.

Gretchen Lowell (AKA Beauty Killer) has had a stranglehold on Detective Archie Sheridan ever since she wedged herself into the investigation as a psychiatrist while he hunted for the elusive serial killer. Even while in jail she controlled and manipulated him, but now she's broken free changing the game and managing to break the small thread that was holding Archie somewhat together.

Cain doesn't offer us moments of hope in this second installment of her Lowell series, she just keeps chipping away at Archie and those around him. That was probably the hardest element while reading this book, the utter hopeless that seemed to be Archie. His dependency on Gretchen continues to show up and twists you all about while we also get into their history making for some interesting and revealing insights.

Despite the mess that is our Detective those around him that love or care for him (excluding homicidal serial killers) don't believe he's a lost cause. In fact, that's what makes it so obvious how lost and broken Archie truly is. It's painful to watch Debbie, his ex-wife whom he still lives with, try to hold onto something that died the moment Gretchen entered Archie's life. Debbie is probably the one character that while I sympathize with, I don't understand how she's stuck through it all.

The continuation of Susan Ward's, our eclectic journalist, journey into Archie's dark world was brilliant. I love how Cain uses her characters, especially Susan. She's grown so much from the first book yet she's still the same. Cain manages to allow her characters to grow without them becoming unknown. We also get to see the outcome of Susan's previous story she was working on about a beloved Senator sleeping with his 14 year old babysitter and the cover up that subsequently occurred. I enjoyed that while Gretchen breaking free was the focus Cain didn't drop the plot line that she'd introduced in book one, nor did she cop out by telling us what happened. She managed to weave it all together and at times, offered us a small refrain.

Along with Cain's well written characters she delivered a plot that didn't leave room for you to get bored with. This is a definite must read for those that love a gripping thriller. However, Cain doesn't shy away from details. When she writes a crime scene you get a detailed and descriptive scene, causing some gruesome mental images to pop up but it's part of what makes this series so vivid. Not once have I read a scene where I felt like Cain shied away from her material, it may cause you to wonder what the hell a character was thinking or shift uncomfortably while you read but never like she robbed you.

RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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