three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
By: 
Chelsea Cain
user_rating: 
0

A-HeartsickBeautiful and twisted, psychiatrist Gretchen Lowell tortured and killed 200 people before turning herself in just as detective Archie Sheridan, her last victim, clung to life. Now she is behind bars, and Archie visits her weekly to find out where she buried the bodies. He is scarred, addicted to painkillers, and hooked on her mind games. When another serial killer targets their hometown of Portland, Archie returns to the force to lead the pursuit. Sassy reporter Susan Ward shadows the detective to cover his much-anticipated return. More important, who is killing high school girls? And what does Gretchen know?
St. Martin's Minotaur. 336 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0312368461

Seattle Post Intelligencer 4 of 5 Stars
"A thriller novel is a lot like a thrasher movie-besides the cult factor, you read it for the page-turning quality, the insatiable need to see how it all turns out. But the journey to the end of Heartsick is more pleasure than pain, which is a lot to say for a book about a serial killer." Lisa Albers

South FL Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"While dozens of authors have tried to emulate the Lecter-Clarice Starling dynamic, [Chelsea Cain's] story goes beyond that cat-and-mouse game. Cain's focus on Archie and Susan, two damaged people, each with a different link to Gretchen, elevates Heartsick into a nuanced novel about surviving that which threatens to destroy us." Oline H. Cogdill

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"For all its heavy-handed touches, Heartsick is not a cookie-cutter book. In a genre that is rife with copycatting, Ms. Cain deserves some credit for having gotten a potentially interesting new series off the ground." Janet Maslin

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"Lurid and suspenseful with well-drawn characters, plenty of grisly surprises and tart dialogue, it delivers what readers of this particular kind of thriller expect. But the risk of emulating a virtuoso longtime best seller like The Silence of the Lambs is failing to equal it. Heartsick is not as elegantly conceived as its model." Kathryn Harrison

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"The setup may be familiar, but Cain's greatest accomplishment is creating a hybrid-marrying the explicit content of splatter cinema to the conventions of an airport novel. Three things distinguish Heartsick: some sharp writing, a great locale (drizzly Portland is a sullen, noirish, minor-key backdrop), and the third main character, young reporter Susan Ward." Kevin Allman

Critical Summary

Chelsea Cain, the author of Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, a well-reviewed Nancy Drew parody, and Dharma Girl, a memoir about life in a hippie household, now offers a thrilling crime investigation interspersed with graphic, sexually charged torture scenes. The flashbacks to Gretchen's stomach-turning treatment of Archie turned off some critics, as did the novel's too-neat-to-believe conclusion. And while Gretchen is nowhere near as memorable a character as Hannibal Lecter, the young reporter Susan Ward adds an unexpected twist to the now-cliched story line. Since Heartsick is the first novel in a trilogy, most critics are looking forward to reading more, with a request by the Washington Post: more Susan, less Gretchen.