Since I rejoined the ranks of starving students, I haven’t been able to spend money on books as I once did (as a bibliophile, it pains me to write that sentence!). I found Heartsick on the “Take One Leave One” shelf at my university library. It intrigued me because a female serial killer isn’t a common thing. Period.
A Brief Synopsis
Detective Archie Sheridan has been off the force for two years, after having been held hostage and tortured by the deadly and beautiful Gretchen Lowell. Gretchen’s now spending a lifetime behind bars, but her twisted relationship with Archie continues as she tantalizes him with information on her past victim in return for his attention. Archie’s attention is diverted, however, when the emergence of a new serial killer in his city begins preying on young teenage girls, earning him the eponym the “After School Strangler.” Teaming up with a young reporter, Susan Ward, Archie returns to his career of apprehending psychopaths, but it becomes apparent to everyone (himself included) that he’s not the man he was before Gretchen sank her claws into him. Can a man as broken as Archie overcome Gretchen’s hold on him and return to his former life? Or better question: will Gretchen let him?
Some Thoughts on Heartsick
I’m not a crime thriller reader. I find the genre to be filled with predictability and reliable tropes. Which is not a bad thing, persay, but it’s just not for me. However, I couldn’t put this book down. Chelsea Cain knows the genre, knows the tropes, and she makes them work for her. Instead of giving us a book that is compelled only by the detective who’s vowed to track down his arch-nemesis, the serial killer super villain, Cain gives us a man who’s been beaten by the arch-nemesis, but survived because she chose to let him live. The “After School Strangler” features in Heartsick only as a means to test the strength of Gretchen’s hold on Archie.
The true strength of Cain’s narrative is in the slow reveal of Archie and Gretchen’s relationship. It’s something a lot more twisted than love, and a lot less understandable than hate. Their sick dance of Stockholm Syndrome and obsession draws Archie back to Gretchen again and again, like a moth to flame, and I found myself turning the pages because I truly did not know what Archie would do next. Would he solve the “After School Strangler” murders? Of course, because that’s what happens in a crime thriller. But the true tension is in whether or not Archie will ultimately become what Gretchen wants him to be: just like her.
Read if you enjoy crime thrillers with an unusual twist. I’m currently working on the second in the series, Sweetheart.
Happy reading, my friends.