Review–Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

Heartsick (Gretchen Lowell #1)
by Chelsea Cain

Summary: Damaged Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent ten years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful serial killer, but in the end she was the one who caught him. Two years ago, Gretchen kidnapped Archie and tortured him for ten days, but instead of killing him, she mysteriously decided to let him go. She turned herself in, and now Gretchen has been locked away for the rest of her life, while Archie is in a prison of another kind—addicted to pain pills, unable to return to his old life, powerless to get those ten horrific days off his mind. Archie’s a different person, his estranged wife says, and he knows she’s right. He continues to visit Gretchen in prison once a week, saying that only he can get her to confess as to the whereabouts of more of her victims, but even he knows the truth—he can’t stay away.
When another killer begins snatching teenage girls off the streets of Portland, Archie has to pull himself together enough to lead the new task force investigating the murders. A hungry young newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, begins profiling Archie and the investigation, which sparks a deadly game between Archie, Susan, the new killer, and even Gretchen. They need to catch a killer, and maybe somehow then Archie can free himself from Gretchen, once and for all. Either way, Heartsick makes for one of the most extraordinary suspense debuts in recent memory.  Source: I purchased a paperback.

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Heartsick was great. It was recommended to me by a friend with similar reading tastes after I finished reading Cain’s new novel, One Kick. I’m glad I picked it up.

Heartsick may be one of the most f***ed up mystery novels I’ve ever read. The things that Gretchen Lowell, a pretty notorious serial killer, did to detective Sheridan was beyond messed up. Their relationship was an odd one. At first I thought she was one of those typical serial killers turned helper, but that wasn’t really the case. It was a lot more.. complicated than that.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the novel, as detective Sheridan enlisted the help of a reporter after he was assigned to a missing children case. I liked getting to know the reporter, watch the detective piece together clues, and figure out who was murdering kids. But that wasn’t why I kept reading. I am not a big fan of mysteries and if that was all there was to the story, I wouldn’t have bought the next few books. What drew me in and what ultimately will keep me reading is Gretchen Lowell. She was twisted, smart, and cunning, but I want more examples of what she did, is doing, and will do. She destroyed what was left of detective Sheridan and their relationship was disturbing. What does she want from him? The novel gave me pieces of what happened when she tortured him in the past, but I never could quite figure out why she did it, why she turned herself in, and why she was helping him now. But those questions were answered with hints and little bits of information.

I’m hooked and I want to know more. I want to figure out who Gretchen Lowell is, what she wants with Sheridan, why she let him go, and what will become of the damaged detective. His thoughts about her are so tangled and twisted and it was interesting to read about it. I hope the next few novels explore everything a bit more. I’m not sold on Archie Sheridan as a character, I despised the reporter, and I’m skeptical that Gretchen Lowell is as put together as she seems. But first books can typically be that way and not give me enough to go on, so I am eager to continue the series and see what happens.

I definitely recommend the book, but it is not for the easily disturbed. It was dark, violent, twisted, weird, and quite gross at times. It borrows from themes from other famous mysteries, like that of the Hannibal Lecter novels without the added sophistication.



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