Friday, September 05, 2008

Sweetheart Book Review

When Chelsea Cain arrived on the scene last year with her serial killer suspense novel, Heartsick, I was fascinated because many were comparing Cain to Thomas Harris, mainly because of her character, Gretchen Lowell, a.k.a. The Beauty Killer. Just like Harris’s Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Gretchen is an amoral killer with no motivation, but has the sparkling personality that make most fall under her spell. In the case of Lecter, he fell for FBI agent, Clarice Starling, and she in turn, for his superior genius mind. Gretchen is fixated on Portland, Oregon detective, Archie Sheridan because he survived ten days of truly horrific torture by her hand. Gretchen made Archie drink drain cleaner and gutted him among other things. She expected him to die, but he didn't. Because of what Archie went though, he can’t get her out of his head to the point that his sick fascination with Gretchen is more than just a major case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Archie and Gretchen’s relationship is disturbing and morbid, and Cain pushes it up a notch in the sequel, Sweetheart. Trying to figure out why these two are so stuck on each other is the fun in reading. They are each other nemesis, the ultimate good and evil battling over each other souls. They know each other, oh so well, much like lovers, which in a way they very much are, at least in their minds. They are each other’s poison as well as breathing life into one another. You know those people who cut themselves and get off watching them bleed? That is the closest comparison I can say about what Gretchen is to Archie. She is his knife that delivers both immense pain along with such incredible pleasure. Sick right? And even though this is not a romance in any sense of the word, both Archie and Gretchen’s relationship is one of the most captivating ones I have read in recent memory, even bypassing Lecter and Starling’s.

In Sweetheart, Archie is trying to recover from his wounds, but he can't stop the medication, drinking and his obsessive thinking about Gretchen, who is safely locked away in prison for the rest of her life. Archie is trying very hard to regain his life by moving back home with his ex-wife and children, along with going to therapy to get the help he deserves. But Archie has a dirty little secret- Gretchen is always on his mind. There is another case that Archie is called upon to investigate. A dead body of a woman is found, mangled beyond belief. As Archie works to find the killer, there is more to this case that meets the eye, and again, it may have to do with Gretchen. Archie can’t help it, but he needs to see Gretchen. He can hardly survive the constant pain he is in and his friends and family no longer know who he is. His wife is at her wits end and Archie’s partner and co-workers think he is going off the deep end. And then the unthinkable happens; Gretchen escapes from prison. You would think Archie would high tail it out of Dodge with his family, but no. Archie now feels more alive than he has in a very long time because he knows Gretchen is out there, waiting for him. He prays that Gretchen will find him so he will be given a chance to try and break free from this madness he feels for her.

Can I say how much I hated Gretchen? She is lethal and beautiful and is so manipulative. And because of this, Cain must have had a ball writing a character such as her. She is so deranged, and we have no clue why, because we don’t know what made her into this type of killer. And that makes her even more baffling. Does she really care for Archie or is she acting, waiting for the right moment to finish Archie off, because he is the only person to ever get away from her? Gretchen still has a hold over Archie and because of that, she has actually has won. She owns Archie in every sense. There is also a major, “OMG, how could Cain write that?” event that takes place between the two. Cain takes things between these two one step further, and you will not believe the other major revelation that comes out of left field. You get two for the price of one here! I did feel it was a bit of a slap in the face to the readers because it changes the dynamics of what Gretchen and Archie have together. I also think it is a set up of things to come in the third novel, which is slated to be released late next year. This twist may change your sympathetic feelings for Archie and make you want to take out Gretchen yourself. But, this showdown between Archie and Gretchen is eminent and one that you will not one to miss.

Sweetheart gave me some shocks, along with being appalled as well as being thrown for a few loops. Keep in mind that Sweetheart is not the type of book for everyone because it is very, very disturbing especially what goes on between Gretchen and Archie. If Sweetheart was a horror movie, I would be covering my eyes, peeking in between my fingers afraid to see what happens next. But, I would sit there hungry for more trying not to cover my eyes and scream. (St. Martins, September 2008)

3 ½ stars out of 5 stars

Katiebabs (KB)


Tracy said...

Wow. I think I'll be passing on this. Although I could sit through Hannibal and Clarice (barely) I don't know that I could read about something like that.

Really good review though, KB! :)

Janicu said...

This review makes me scared yet fascinated at the same time. I may pick up the book if I'm feeling brave one day.

Alice said...

I'm so intrigued by your review KB, yet I am scared to read it.....

naida said...

I've been seeing this authors books online alot, I have her on my wish list.
It does sound scary, but I still would like to read it.
great review.