Publication Date: September 2, 2008
In Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain, a dead body turns up in a park where Gretchen Lowell, the Beauty Killer, left some of her victims. Archie Sheridan knows that there are no coincidences. He was Gretchen’s last victim, and he’s been doing well. He’s back with his family, no longer visiting her even if she does live constantly in his mind. Susan Ward is a junior reporter on the trail of a big break. She knows the victim and wants to work with Archie to bring justice to the victim. When Gretchen Lowell escapes from prison they all know that she will kill again, and they all know she’ll come for Archie. Can he survive the Beauty Killer a second time?
Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell) is the second novel in Chelsea Cain’s Beauty Killer series.
A friend recommended Chelsea Cain’s novels to me several years ago and approximately three years ago, I read Heartsick, the first novel in the Beauty Killer series. For weeks after reading that first novel, I happily talked of little else than the awesome baddie, the interesting characters and the creative story line. For months, if anyone asked me which mystery novel I would recommend, Chelsea Cain was on the list, and yet I never read the second novel. I acquired Sweetheart in paperback just before I received a Kindle as a birthday gift and it sat on my shelf. It was only during the holiday break that I finally had time to read Sweetheart.
Sweetheart not only holds up to Heartsick, the novel exceeds its predecessor, a feat that I simply would not have thought possible.
Archie Sheridan is a man of contradictions. He and his wife are distant though Archie wants to be committed to her. He is a good father to his kids. He’s a dedicated detective and, by all accounts, good at his job. Archie is also a broken man. He is heavily addicted to painkillers and living on borrowed time. Worse than his addiction to painkillers is his obsession for Gretchen Lowell. He no longer visits her, but she is never far from his thoughts. When she is harmed in prison, he can think of nothing else and when she escapes he’s driven to find her. Cain writes a very complex character that has tender moments with his children and a drive to self-destruction.
Susan Ward, the young reporter of the piece, is typical of young America. She wants to be taken seriously while maintaining a unique style and spirit. Her style calls attention immediately with brightly colored hair and an alternative fashion sense. She acknowledges the mold and she wants to break it for personal success. While she has a consciousness that what she’s doing is only making things harder for herself, she can’t seem to find a reason to stop herself. Oddly, she scoffs at her mother’s eccentricities and dismisses her personal expression as unworthy of respect without realizing her self-defeating narcissism.
All of Cain’s characters are well fleshed out. Gretchen is deviously clever. It is rare to have a female serial killer that takes pleasure in killing at the level she does. She derives joy from the game. Instead of transitioning to a better mental state, she needs the interaction with Archie to be her continued victim since enabling him to connect with her would make him the one that got away. I found nothing predictable in this novel or, for that matter, the one before.
Archie’s wife, Debbie, is a character with whom the author takes a chance. Can she be made to be a strong and vital woman or is she destined to be a doormat? Will she be the woman that will stand by a husband that loves a killer and a drug more than anything else in his world? Cain manages to make her human, believable and an optimist. She loves Archie, and she needs reassurances from him, but she has an honest sense of a woman trying to make the best choices. I could go on and on about the characters I loved and how well Cain wrote them but why not pick up one of the novels and check it out?
Sweetheart is very much a character-driven novel and I have talked a lot about a few of the characters showcased. I would be remiss to not mention the brilliance of the plot. The twists and turns are unforeseen and with each scene, the credibility of how dangerous Gretchen Lowell can be is built. She lures people. They simply cannot resist and she uses the rush to destroy them.
If you like mystery thrillers, Chelsea Cain is an author not to be missed. Pick Heartsick and Sweetheart up today. I will be catching up on Cain’s backlist and will keep you updated as I go along.
Chelsea Cain is an acclaimed New York Times best-selling author of mysteries and thrillers. Heartsick and Sweetheart appeared on the list of Stephen King’s favorite books, a guest column he wrote for Entertainment Weekly (2008).
Read an excerpt and buy Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain on