Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

by Kristopher Cook
Heartsick by Chelsea Cain - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

I’ve been going through a bit of a gritty-gruesome reading phase of late; The Silence of the Lambs, All She Was Worth and now Heartsick.

I first saw this book on Goodreads and noticed a certain Chuck Palahniuk had endorsed the book. After doing a bit of digging I noticed they have crossed paths in writing groups, and given the book is set in Portland, Oregon they’re likely friends.

Either way, if it’s good by Chuck, it’s good by me.

The story focuses around Archie Sheridan, a cop who spent the best part of ten years tracking down, and eventually capturing serial killer Gretchen Lowell. In doing so, it cost him everything he had, including his marriage, his child, and his mental wellbeing.

Whatever you think this is going to be like,” she whispers, “it’s going to be worse.
Chelsea Cain, Heartsick

He was tortured for ten days by Gretchen, until she mysteriously decided to spare him his life and turn herself in; but why?

Two years on, he’s asked back into the force to help investigate a spate of copycat killings of teenage girls in the area.

Teaming with hungry news reporter Susan Ward, they must find the killer before he does too much damage. A simple catch-the-serial-killer plot, in theory at least.

It quickly becomes apparent that Archie is still heavily dependent on the ‘beauty killer’ Gretchen.

Heartsick is a gruesome read that reaches dizzying heights and equally brutal lows with its well-versed characters and likeable serial killer. The problem here is stepping too close to its original model; The Silence of the Lambs.

It can easily read as a pale comparison due to its similar premise of ‘use captured serial killer to help capture the current one’.

Although not as well-written as its predecessor, Heartsick does change a few key elements. Whereas Clarice went back to Hannibal Lecter for the necessity of solving the case, it appears that Archie only returns to Gretchen out of a warped sense of Stockholm syndrome.

Lecter’s mannerisms are formed around fine art and intellectual witticisms, where Gretchen’s are much more coarse and vulgar in nature. This can make it a lot less convincing on why Archie keeps returning to her every Sunday afternoon. No wonder his marriage broke down.

There’s the usual twists and turns you’d expect in a thriller of this nature, most of which hit the mark.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re a fan of the Hannibal series, as I am, then I’m sure you’ll love this book. It contains the same levels of sadistic violence, crime scene gore and psychological torturing.

With compelling characters and a well-thought-out plot, this is a series that I’ll be keen to explore more as the year goes on.

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