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Heartsick - Book Review

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by TheOnlyFiona (subscribe)
In real life, I do discuss food exactly like how I write in my food review articles. As always my food reviews are scored only on what I've tried and the service expected of that type of establishment.
Published June 8th 2014
A female Hannibal Lector
One lady serial killer and two stories. Gretchen Lowell, the Beauty Killer is behind bars yet she's still calling the shots. Two years ago she kidnapped detective Archie Sheridan. Powerless against Gretchen, Archie detaches himself mentally as the torture proceeds. When his ready to die Gretchen turns herself in. Archie is saved but a broken man.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

Our second story begins when there's a new serial killer on the block. Teenage girls are being found violated and chemically preserved. Archie is back at work, the hero cop who's heading the task force to catch the Afterschool Killer.To make matters worse, his flagged by gutsy journalist Susan Ward. Susan is writing a four-part exposé into the case and she's pinning all her hopes of getting the journalism medal for it.

Susan's all access pass takes her straight back to her old high school. The skeletons in her closet begin rattling and it takes one visit to see Gretchen to swing the doors right open. Gretchen is a master at reading people. Her psychopathic dreams were fulfilled through the manipulation of many accomplices. Gretchen pinpoints Susan's vulnerabilities within minutes.

As the Afterschool Killer begins to break away from their pattern, Gretchen's insight becomes even more valuable. We don't get to see how Gretchen became this way, but its crystal clear how she places herself in control. Even from behind bars, she easily manipulates Archie and those around her.

The novel refreshingly positions itself with a female serial killer. It takes this as a fact and doesn't get too hung up on unnecessary details: women can be cold hearted serial killers as well. It would have even been a bigger twist if Gretchen wasn't beautiful. If we had an unattractive female serial killer who had the same societal pressures as ostracised male serial killers often have that would be an even better novel.

Cain spins an interesting web with many red herrings and good connections. There are some great scenes focused on character development that make Heartsick a richer read than expected. The flashback motif is well executed and left you wanting to hear more about Archie's ordeal. It could be its own standalone novel.

Gretchen and Susan were complex and interesting characters, while Archie is like the female character archetype who's story line revolves around getting the guy/being hung up on the guy. Fortunately there is good character development for Archie at the end. However the dynamics between the characters is a step towards a of reversal of gender roles found in many crime novels.

Heartsick is refreshing shakeup of the genre. The web of story threads is nicely pulled together with a big twist. Cain has attempted to do something a bit different, which adds a richness to the plot.
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