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Heartsick
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Product Description

Damaged Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent ten years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful serial killer, but in the end she was the one who caught him. Two years ago, Gretchen kidnapped Archie and tortured him for ten days, but instead of killing him, she mysteriously decided to let him go. She turned herself in, and now Gretchen has been locked away for the rest of her life, while Archie is in a prison of another kind---addicted to pain pills, unable to return to his old life, powerless to get those ten horrific days off his mind. Archie's a different person, his estranged wife says, and he knows she's right. He continues to visit Gretchen in prison once a week, saying that only he can get her to confess as to the whereabouts of more of her victims, but even he knows the truth---he can't stay away. When another killer begins snatching teenage girls off the streets of Portland, Archie has to pull himself together enough to lead the new task force investigating the murders. A hungry young newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, begins profiling Archie and the investigation, which sparks a deadly game between Archie, Susan, the new killer, and even Gretchen. They need to catch a killer, and maybe somehow then Archie can free himself from Gretchen, once and for all. Either way, Heartsick makes for one of the most extraordinary suspense debuts in recent memory.

Chelsea Cain steps into a crowded, blood-soaked genre with Heartsick, a riveting, character-driven novel about a damaged cop and his obsession with the serial killer who...let him live. Gretchen Lowell tortured Detective Archie Sheridan for ten days, then inexplicably let him go and turned herself in. Cain turns the (nearly played out) Starling/Lecter relationship on its ear: Sheridan must face down his would-be killer to help hunt down another. What sets this disturbing novel apart from the rest is its bruised, haunted heart in the form of Detective Sheridan, a bewildered survivor trying to catch a killer and save himself. --Daphne Durham

Questions for Chelsea Cain

Amazon.com: Gretchen Lowell haunts every page of Heartsick. Even when she actually appears in the jail scenes with Sheridan, she reveals nothing, and yet it's obvious she's anything but one-dimensional. What is her story?

Cain: I purposely didn't reveal Gretchen's past, beyond a few unreliable hints. I thought there was a really interesting tension in not knowing what had driven this woman to embrace violence so enthusiastically. The less we know about killers' motives, the scarier they are. Maybe that's why people spend so much time watching 24-hour news channels that cover the latest horrible domestic murder. We want to understand why people kill. Because if we can peg it on something, we can tell ourselves that they are different than us, that we aren't capable of that kind of brutality. Plus this is the launch of a series and I thought it would be fun for readers to get to learn more about Gretchen as the series continues. I just finished Sweetheart, and I promise there's a lot more Gretchen to come.

Amazon.com: As a first-time thriller author, you've got to be elated to see early reviews evoke the legendary Hannibal Lecter. Did you anticipate readers to make that connection, or are there other serial series (on paper or screen) that inspired the story of Gretchen and Sheridan?

Cain: I thought that the connection to Lecter was inevitable since Heartsick features a detective who visits a jailed serial killer. But I wasn't consciously inspired by Silence of the Lambs (or Red Dragon, which is the Harris book it more accurately echoes). I grew up in the Pacific Northwest when the Green River Killer was at large, and I was fascinated by the relationship between a cop who'd spent his career hunting a killer (as many of the cops on the Green River Task Force did) and the killer he ends up catching. I'd seen an episode of Larry King that featured two of the Green River Task Force cops and they had footage of one of the cops with Gary Ridgway (the Green River Killer) in jail and they were chatting like old friends. They were both trying to manipulate one another. The cop wanted Ridgway to tell him where more bodies were. Ridgway is a psychopath and wanted to feel in control. But on the surface, they seemed like buddies having a drink together at a bar. It was kind of disturbing. I wanted to explore that. Making the killer a woman was a way to make the relationship even more intense. Making her a very attractive woman upped the ante considerably.

Amazon.com: Reading Heartsick I was actually reminded of some of my favorite books by Stephen King. Like him, you have an uncanny ability to make your geographical setting feel like a character all its own. Do you think the story could have happened in any other place than Portland?

Cain: Heartsick Hawaii would definitely have been a different book. (Archie Sheridan would have been a surfer. Susan would have worked at a gift shop. And Gretchen would have been a deranged hula girl.) I live in Portland, so obviously that played into my decision to set the book here. All I had to do was look out the window. Which makes research a lot easier. But I also think that the Pacific Northwest makes a great setting for a thriller, and it's not a setting that's usually explored. Portland is so beautiful. But it¡¯s also sort of eerie. The evergreens, the coast, the mountains--the scale is so huge, and the scenery is so magnificent. But every year hikers get lost and die, kids are killed by sneaker waves on the beach, and mountain climbers get crushed by avalanches. Beauty kills. Plus it has always seemed like the Northwest is teeming with serial killers. I blame the cloud cover. And the coffee.

Amazon.com: In a lot of ways, Heartsick is more about the killer than the killings, and it¡¯s hard not to suspect that Gretchen killed only to get to Sheridan. That begs the question: is the chase always better than the catch? As a writer, is it more exciting for you to imagine the pursuit--with its tantalizing push-and-pull--than the endgame?

Cain: The most interesting aspect of the book to me is the relationship between Archie and Gretchen. Really, I wrote the whole book as an excuse to explore that. The endgame is satisfying because it's fun to see all the threads come together, but it's the relationship that keeps coming back to the computer day after day.

Amazon.com: Your characters--Susan Ward in particular--are raw, tautly wired, imperfect but still have this irresistible tenderness. It's their motives and experiences that really drive the story and ultimately elevate it way beyond what you might expect going into a serial killer tale. How did you resist falling into something more formulaic? Did you know what shape Susan and the others would take going in?

Cain: I knew I wanted flawed protagonists. I'm a sucker for a Byronic hero. Thrillers often feature such square-jawed hero types, and I wanted a story about people just barely hanging on. The psychological component is really interesting to me, and I liked that Susan's neuroses are, in their own ways, clues. In many ways, I embraced formula. I love formula--there¡¯s a reason it works. And I decided early on that I wasn't going to avoid clich¨¦s for the sake of avoiding them. Some clich¨¦s are great. My goal was not to write a literary thriller, but to take all the stuff I loved from other books and TV shows and throw them all together and then try to put my own spin on it. Heartsick is a pulpy page-turner with, I hope, a little extra effort put into the writing and the characters. Basically, I just wrote the thriller that I wanted to read.

(photo credit: Kate Eshelby)



Customer Reviews:

  • A good, solid thriller.
    This is very _Silence of the Lambs_-esque, but a with a gender reversal. All in all, highly enjoyable and not as predictable as I feared halfway through. It's set up to be a series, and if that is the case (or even if it isn't) I will definitely continue to read this author. While this isn't my favorite thriller of 2008, it was certainly one of the more entertaining ones, but I probably wouldn't overly recommend it......more info
  • Twisted and Sexy
    Loved it. Rarely do I read novels in the male perspective, but the characters were interesting and likable. Even the serial killer in her own twisted way. It's set in Portland and the writer does a great job of describing my home town and it's gloomy but comforting characteristics.
    It's graphic and sadistic but it's well written. It's a MUST READ for those not faint of heart or stomach! :)...more info
  • Brilliant Manipulator
    Gretchen Lowell is a brilliant manipulator. After choosing to go to jail, she is still controlling the torture of Detective Archie Sheridan in addition to wounding others like journalist Susan West. It's true that it would be very unlikely that pink-haired Susan would be given an assignment to write about the After School Strangler, except that Gretchen has subtly and deliberately brought her into the investigation by letting Archie know that Gretchen likes Susan's writing. And why does Gretchen drop this hint? Because the After School Strangler is a serial killer created by Gretchen and aimed at Susan. After Gretchen creates the After School Strangler, she betrays him by giving Archie enough hints to refocus his investigation. All this to keep Archie close so she can keep torturing him psychologically. I found the story hard to put down. Each chapter left me wanting more. But instead of being disappointing, it pulled me further into the book. It's kind of like the idea that modest dress is more seductive than showing everything to everyone....more info
  • intense thriller, exciting new characters
    Cain's debut thriller introduces us to several incredible characters: Archie Sheridan, a Portland (OR) homicide detective who has been on medical leave for the two years following his imprisonment by twisted serial killer Gretchen Lowell, now in custody; Susan Ward, a young reporter who is looking for her big break, a chance to stop writing features and start covering the crime beat; and Lowell, a chilling killer who still has a stronghold on Sheridan, even from prison. Other characters, including Archie's partner and his estranged wife, are equally compelling. These people are flawed, striving, and believeable. The story shifts between Sheridan's captivity two years ago and the case that has brought him out of the haze of his painkiller addiction -- a case in which high school girls are being strangled.

    Unlike a few reviewers, I found both threads very interesting, and look forward to other books in the series. The writing is great and the story is ... well, thrilling. NOT for young readers....more info
  • Cain tears me up with a twisted tale of love and murder
    If there was an award for scariest dedication, Chelsea Cain wouldn't have any competition. Her national bestseller, Heartsick, starts off with: "For Marc Mohan, who loved me even after he read this book". I had to pause before I started the first chapter. What in the hell was I getting myself into?

    A pickle, that's what. I have a bit of a problem here. I am giving this book our highest marks and I am about to lavish some serious praise on it, but I am by no means recommending this book to everyone. If anyone passed by and bought this book because they saw my five stars, and now you are back to determine what in the world I was thinking, all I can say is: I didn't tell you so. Because you didn't listen.

    People I would not recommend this book to: My father, who just had a heart attack and can't stand the stress of watching CNN. My mother, who would love the book, but I wouldn't want her to know that I think she would. Anyone with PTSD. People that live alone or with someone else that they feel is incapable of adequately protecting them. Very young people. Very old people. Squealers. Anyone who has ever fainted.

    I apologize to those of you that I left out, you can never think of everyone.

    For those of you that are left-oh boy are you in for a treat. Cain has created in this book two characters that I will remember for the rest of my life and details a bond between them that is incomprehensible and real at the same time. First you meet Archie Sheridan, a detective that would seem cliche if not for the justifiable roots of his behaviors. A sullen man addicted to pain meds who can not balance work and the home life sounds like every other gumshoe in the genre. In fact, his melancholy is decidedly noir-ish. But what makes him one of my favorite characters in all of fiction is that we are privy to what made him this way. Instead of a false facade, a broken detective with a vague past of minor abuses, we are allowed inside the process whereby these self-destructive men are made. In gory detail we are presented with the precise steps necessary to completely dismantle good men.

    Steps that obviously benefit from a lady's touch.

    Steps that could only be carried out by the sickest, most evil, vilest creature perhaps ever concocted for a disbelieving audience. Annie Wilkes from "Misery"? Mother Teresa. Hannibal Lecter? Santa Claus. Meet Gretchen Lowell, Cain's revolting antagonist, the worst fictional abomination I have ever read about. At one point about halfway through the book, as I was lying in bed allowing this foul wench to torment my soul, I realized, looking at the unread half, that there was no guarantee that anyone was safe from her. She is locked in a prison cell and all I can think of is the nefarious nature of this most wicked author who gave birth to a hell-spawn and granted her the power to do anything within her creation. She could set her free on the inhabitants of this book. Sick her on people that I care about. I had to set the book aside for a moment and explain this horrid revelation to my confused wife (one of the people I will not recommend this book to). In short: I had become frightened. Of an imaginary character. Who had done no more than clasp a man's wrist with her manacled hands. Yeah.

    That is how good this book is. Heartsick. What a perfect name. I am only realizing it as I write this review, but what Chelsea Cain was able to do for me was to create these polar emotional opposites, further apart than I was prepared for; she forced me to feel the electrical potential between this anode of agony and cathode of catharsis. The resulting sparks between Archie and and Gretchen are the shocking, killing kind.

    Because of this, I felt more pure love and pity for Archie than I have for any character since I met Ender Wiggins, 20+ years ago. At the same time Cain was able to instruct me in new levels of hatred and revulsion with Gretchen Lowell. And between these two extremes is where the book takes place. Love and Disgust. Heart and Sick. Bouncing back and forth between them was exhausting and exhilarating. It made me want to finish the book immediately and to have it go on forever. I was loving the book while I wretched repeatedly.

    It wasn't until the last page of Heartsick that I finally broke down, exhausted. And then I cried. Not because of the tenderness of a single moment, nor was it due to the culmination of a brilliant journey-it was because I was safe. I cried out of relief. I had made it through to the other side and there was nothing else that Chelsea Cain could do to me, good nor bad.

    If you don't belong to one of the myriad groups that I listed above, how can I give any higher recommendation than this? This book was an experience for me. The only complaint that I could make would be its 337 pages. Twice that would have been nice. Which makes me sound tough, I'm sure, but Chelsea has a sequel out there that I could go pick up right now and start reading. There are more pages of torment and satisfaction at my fingertips. And what am I doing to back up my call for an encore? I am wussing out for a few weeks, that's what. I'm going to go read something else, let the wounds scar over, and wait until I am dumb enough to think I can take more.

    If your hyperbole sensor is beeping, it is broken. A quoted sample of adjectives other people have used to describe Heartsick:

    ...twisted tale...contorted thriller...razor edged...unyielding...gory...dark, distressing, and disturbing...exquisite pain...downright gruesome...

    For those of you that are rushing off to buy a copy, you should be in a database somewhere. They should be keeping tabs on you people. I have a legal right to know if you live in my neighborhood....more info
  • Great Thrill Ride
    I almost had a major quibble with a plot point with this book, which right at the end got explained beautifully. Don't worry, no spoilers here. This is a great ride. I finished the book in two sittings which should tell you how drawn into it I was. Archie, the tortured detective (both physically and spiritually) and Gretchen the serial killer who held him captive before turning herself in, have a twisted yet fascinating relationship, that's as interesting as it is disturbing. I loved that I thought I knew where the book was headed, and then it steered me of into completely different waters. Unlike Tana French's "The Woods" which is more of a cerebral thriller, this is just a bite your fingernails, crouch down in the cushions, as it careens to the end. ...more info
  • Violent and Decidely Less than Thrilling
    The plot's a bit contrived but just okay. The main character isn't someone I'd immediately admire or fear for. Honestly, I just don't care about him. Most of the characters are cardboard cutouts of the people they're supposed to be: the teacher, the writer, the cop, etc.

    The premise is interesting but the whole thing feels like a fantasy gone all wrong. There are MUCH better fiction books out there....more info
  • Creepy...Chilling...Thrilling...
    HEARTSICK, a dark, twisted, disturbing psychological thriller by Chelsea Cain, is of a genre that I do not normally read. I do not like blood, gore, or torture, but somehow, this novel got under my skin and really surprised me. I could not put it down. I HAD to know what happened next, and I read it cover to cover in almost one sitting.

    The writing is outstanding. I was immediately grabbed and drawn into this vivid, perverse world. The atmosphere created by the mood, voice, and tone is truly amazing, dark, and creepy. I had to keep looking outside my window to reassure myself that it was still daylight. I have not been this affected by the atmosphere of a book since INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE by Anne Rice many years ago. The characters are mesmerizing in a distressing, twisted way. Our "hero," detective Archie Sheridan, was the final victim of a truly brutal psychopathic female serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, whom he tracked for nearly 10 years. He is also the only victim to "survive" her torture, if you can call Archie's current life and state of mind survival. Although Gretchen is in a maximum security prison for life, she still pushes Archie's buttons, and he is still dancing to her sick, terrifying tune. The chapters detailing Archie's prolonged captivity and the supreme agony and brain-washing inflicted upon him by Gretchen nearly two years ago are deftly interwoven between the chapters describing Archie's hunt for a new serial killer. This very unique and successful device lets us glimpse inside Archie's warped and troubled mind as he works to solve his current case.

    HEARTSICK is gripping, sinister, page-turner of a thriller that keeps you riveted until the final page. While you may think you have it all figured out, believe me, you don't. The twists, turns, shocks, and surprises carry on to the last words of the final page.
    ...more info
  • Compelling... a page-turner
    When I find myself unable to stop reading a book, I know that its pace and story were written for a reader like me. Granted, the premise of the story is unusual to say the least (women serial-killers are extremely rare), but the creepiness and psychological twist of this story kept me enthralled to the very end. Highly recommended; I'm ordering her other book right now....more info
  • Hannibal Lecter Redux
    I'm torn in my opinion of Chelsea Cain's bestselling thriller: on the one hand, it has interesting characters in intriguingly intricate relationships that spin out in satisfying ways. On the other hand, it owes such a huge debt to Thomas Harris that it feels like a reprise of Hannibal Lecter's Greatest Hits.

    Portland, Oregon, police detective Archie Sheridan dedicated his entire career to tracking down Gretchen Lowell, who seems to be the lost daughter of the Green River Killer. The hunt culminated when she captured him, tormented him into submission for over a week, and inexplicably turned herself in.

    Two years later, Sheridan is on medical leave. He's estranged from his family, living in an endless mental tape loop of his ten days with Gretchen, and popping enough Vicodin to make Doctor House look abstemious. That is, until another serial killer, preying this time on teenage girls, drags him out of isolation.

    The problem is, if I told you only what I've said in the last two paragraphs, and handed you a copy of Red Dragon, you could write this book yourself. Its plot is so dependent on the arc of Thomas Harris that you could map the story in advance without looking ahead. Why should I pay money for a book I've already read?

    Nor am I being flippant in my repeated references to Thomas Harris. This is a debt that even the author acknowledges. In chapter 31, Gretchen Lowell refers to another principal character, Susan Ward, as "Clarice." Why steal from a better author and then call your audience's attention to the theft?

    In fairness, the characters' relationships are interesting. The twisted symbiosis that lingers between Gretchen and Sheridan holds interest and could pay dividends for Freudian analysis. And Susan Ward's elaborate layers of self-deception afforded some genuine surprises as I read.

    Still, this isn't enough. Especially when relationships of such potential are hostage to the tender mercies of a plot lifted paint-by-numbers from more path-breaking author, these virtues pale. I knew who did it and why less than halfway through the book. The only reason the protagonists don't know is because they don't realize they're in a novel.

    I can honestly recommend this book for people who like to only read what they already know they're going to like. Since this book cherry-picks the best of the crime thriller genre, it has a large guaranteed audience. Readers who like to wear novels like a favorite old shirt will love this book.

    But readers like me aren't part of that audience. I like mysteries, from Inspector Dupin and Sherlock Holmes all the way up to Thomas Harris and Ian Rankin. I like them because they plumb the range of human psyche in new and revolutionary ways. And there's not one new or revolutionary idea at any point between these covers....more info
  • This was hard to put down...
    I ended up reading Heartsick by Chelsea Cain as a prep for a review of her follow-on novel Sweetheart. Having never heard of this author, I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy the series. Turns out it hooked me solid. Cain did an outstanding job in her debut as a crime thriller novelist, and it didn't hurt that all the action takes place in the city I live in, either.

    Archie Sheridan is a Portland police detective with a rather nasty history. He was lured into a meeting with a female serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, and she proceeded to take him to the brink of death before bringing him back to life and turning herself over to the police. Turns out she's killed 200 people, but no one knows the names and victims of them all. She'll only reveal the names and places to Sheridan one at a time during his weekly visits with her in the Oregon State Penitentiary. The problem is that Sheridan has an emotional attachment to her, crossing the line into an addiction. His personal life is in shambles, as the torture during his captivity messed him up both physically and mentally. He's hooked on painkillers, and his wife and children take a back seat to his fascination with Lowell. Sheridan is brought back onto the job to help capture a different serial killer who is killing young sophomore high school girls. He enlists the help of a young newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, to give the case some press play to lure the killer into the open. Ward's own personal history comes into play as she follows Sheridan around, narrowing in on a shrinking number of suspects who had access to the girls. The more Sheridan digs around, the more likely it is that Ward is a key to solving the killings...

    Having the story set in Portland Oregon automatically drew me in, as I could readily imagine the scenes and locations. It took awhile to figure out how Lowell came into play, as she was in prison during all the current killings. It was tempting to think that somehow she was driving them, but then I realized that her role was more along the lines of explaining Sheridan's life. Their time together during his captivity is told in flashbacks during the course of the book, and the torture scenes are highly graphic. It's still somewhat unclear as to why she was driven to kill others so easily, as well as why she was fascinated with Sheridan. But the mix of the current crime and the psychological twists of his past made for a story that wasn't easy to put off to the side.

    I am definitely looking forward to reading the next installment......more info
  • A deadly nightmare you can only pray to wake up from...
    Archie Sheridan is a detective with the Portland PD. During his rookie year as a detective, eleven years ago, he'd joined the task force that had been set up to capture the serial killer known as The Beauty Killer. For years, they tried to capture the killer, who evaded them, until a beautiful woman came into the picture. She approached the task force, introduced herself as a psychologist, and baited Archie until she kidnapped him, and tortured him. She kills Archie, but, unlike her previous victims, she brought him back, dialed 9-1-1 and turned herself in. And yet, she's not done torturing Archie, and he knows it.

    Two years later, divorced from his wife, refusing to see his kids and addicted to prescription drugs, Archie is asked to head a new task force for a new serial killer, one who kidnaps teenage girls, strangles them, rapes them, douses them with bleach and dumps them in the river. With barely any clues or leads, they are on the hunt for the After School Strangler.

    Meanwhile, Susan Ward, feature writer for the Herald, is assigned to follow Archie and write a feature about him. Dogging his heels, Susan sees things most reporters wouldn't unless they were to stumble upon a body themselves. For Susan, the After School Strangler hits close to home, for, years before, she'd actually gone to one of the murdered teenagers.

    And all the while, hunting for a new serial killer, Archie continues his visits with Gretchen in prison every Sunday. The reason? Supposedly because she will give up a body of one of her victims; name and location of burial, but it has to be Archie. Does he go simply for closer to her victims families, or is there something more? Will they catch the After School Strangler before the fourth victim is found dead?

    Incredible novel! Throughout the book, we visit Archie's past, during the time when Gretchen tortures him. The torture is described as such that the reader feels it, and it's gut-wrenching! She not only does a number on his body, but fractures his mind as well. Gretchen is such the narcissistic psychopath that just listening to the way she talks gives you the shivers while your stomach jumps in revulsion. Archie is very much now a broken person in mind as well as body, for her marks may heal, but they scar, both ways.

    Susan, the reporter, is as screwed up as Archie, in a totally different manner. Having lost her father at 15, she rebelled, and hasn't been the same since.

    And while this new serial killer is nowhere as bad as Gretchen, the killer is just as screwed up in the head as she is.

    There may not be much action in this novel except at the end, it's the mind games and past torture that really grip you. You continue reading, as fascinated as you are repulsed, and even though you close the book, thinking there's no way you can continue reading it, you'll pick it right back up, wondering what else Gretchen does to Archie, wondering who the new serial killer is. I sooooo can't wait to get my hands on Sweetheart, book #2 in the series....more info
  • Utterly Chilling.....
    2 years ago, Archie Sheridan spent 10 days being tortured by Gretchen Lowell. For 10 years, Archie was on the task force that was investigating the serial killer, dubbed the "Beauty Queen Killer". Then Gretchen Lowell walked into his office and offered her services as a consulting psychiatrist. Not only was she off-the-charts intelligent, but she was also extremely beautiful. Little did anyone expect she was actually the killer. Very few serial killers were woman. Especially one this brutal. Besides, who would have thought the killer would be so arrogant as to insert themselves into the investigation?? But Gretchen did, and she came for Archie.

    But in a weird twist, after 10 days of torturing Archie to the brink of death, Gretchen actually saved his life. In fact, she called 9-1-1 for medical assistance and sealed her fate. She was caught, but through plea bargaining, she avoided the death penalty. Part of her agreement was that she would tell the police where to find the bodies of the 200 + victims she had tortured and killed. But there was a condition to this agreement. Gretchen would only speak to one person -- Archie.

    Now, 2 years later, another serial killer has surfaced. Nicknamed the "After School Killer", he is abducting high school girls on their way home at night. Archie has been asked to come out of retirement and head the new task force. But Archie is a broken man. Not only has he not worked since the incident, but he takes enough Vicoden on a daily basis to sedate a small elephant. He has a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions from anti-depressants to Xanax to sleeping pills. His wife divorced him. And every Sunday Archie drives to the prison to speak to Gretchen Lowell. He's obsessed with her, and not in a healthy way.

    Susan Ward is a features writer for the local Portland newspaper. She'd love to be serious reporter, but so far, she hasn't been given the chance. Spunky and independent,with bright pink hair, Susan has been tapped to do a story on Archie and the task force. She doesn't know why she was requested for this assignment, but she isn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Following Archie around is definitely the biggest thing that has ever happened in her career.

    Because Gretchen is in prison for most of this book, there are the obvious comparisons to another literary killer -- Hannibal Lecter. But in my opinion, Gretchen Lowell makes Hannibal Lecter look like a Sunday School Teacher. Through a few small chapters that flash back to the ten days Archie was captured, we get a small glance at how incredibly brutal this woman really is. The kinds of torture she put her victims through are so twised, I had trouble reading about them.. And not only was she brutal in her kills, but she is equally so with Archie. She is a master manipulator. She "killed" most of him during those 10 days. But now she is keeping him in a prison of her own making. He can't seem to let go of her. It's almost like a weird form of Stockholm Syndrome.

    The Susan storyline was a little weak in comparison to the Gretchen storyline. You just didn't get as much of a chance to get to know her as well. But her character is likable. She is tough, although not as tough as she thinks she is.

    But Archie is such a wonderful character. He is flawed almost to the point of destruction. Chelsea Cain has created a man so human, there are some chapters it's almost painful to read. You just want to yell at him, then hug him the next minute.

    On top of the great characters is a really fast-paced, riveting story. One that will keep you turning page after page, just dying to know what's going to happen next. An extremely enjoyable thriller, HeartSick will keep you on your toes. And just praying you never see Gretchen Lowell on a street corner in your neighborhood!! I was so impressed with this book, that I immediately started Book #2 - SweetHeart. If you are a fan of the thriller/serial killer genre, this is a definite must-read for you. Even if you aren't a big fan, this is a very enjoyable book!...more info
  • A good, solid thriller.
    This is very _Silence of the Lambs_-esque, but a with a gender reversal. All in all, highly enjoyable and not as predictable as I feared halfway through. It's set up to be a series, and if that is the case (or even if it isn't) I will definitely continue to read this author. While this isn't my favorite thriller of 2008, it was certainly one of the more entertaining ones, but I probably wouldn't overly recommend it......more info
  • great!
    This was darn good. Engaging characters, with appropriate character flaws and psychic damage, although the story line was somewhat predictable (but let's face it, the heroine...well, I won't spoil the surprise)....more info
  • Cain tears me up with a twisted tale of love and murder
    If there was an award for scariest dedication, Chelsea Cain wouldn't have any competition. Her national bestseller, Heartsick, starts off with: "For Marc Mohan, who loved me even after he read this book". I had to pause before I started the first chapter. What in the hell was I getting myself into?

    A pickle, that's what. I have a bit of a problem here. I am giving this book our highest marks and I am about to lavish some serious praise on it, but I am by no means recommending this book to everyone. If anyone passed by and bought this book because they saw my five stars, and now you are back to determine what in the world I was thinking, all I can say is: I didn't tell you so. Because you didn't listen.

    People I would not recommend this book to: My father, who just had a heart attack and can't stand the stress of watching CNN. My mother, who would love the book, but I wouldn't want her to know that I think she would. Anyone with PTSD. People that live alone or with someone else that they feel is incapable of adequately protecting them. Very young people. Very old people. Squealers. Anyone who has ever fainted.

    I apologize to those of you that I left out, you can never think of everyone.

    For those of you that are left-oh boy are you in for a treat. Cain has created in this book two characters that I will remember for the rest of my life and details a bond between them that is incomprehensible and real at the same time. First you meet Archie Sheridan, a detective that would seem cliche if not for the justifiable roots of his behaviors. A sullen man addicted to pain meds who can not balance work and the home life sounds like every other gumshoe in the genre. In fact, his melancholy is decidedly noir-ish. But what makes him one of my favorite characters in all of fiction is that we are privy to what made him this way. Instead of a false facade, a broken detective with a vague past of minor abuses, we are allowed inside the process whereby these self-destructive men are made. In gory detail we are presented with the precise steps necessary to completely dismantle good men.

    Steps that obviously benefit from a lady's touch.

    Steps that could only be carried out by the sickest, most evil, vilest creature perhaps ever concocted for a disbelieving audience. Annie Wilkes from "Misery"? Mother Teresa. Hannibal Lecter? Santa Claus. Meet Gretchen Lowell, Cain's revolting antagonist, the worst fictional abomination I have ever read about. At one point about halfway through the book, as I was lying in bed allowing this foul wench to torment my soul, I realized, looking at the unread half, that there was no guarantee that anyone was safe from her. She is locked in a prison cell and all I can think of is the nefarious nature of this most wicked author who gave birth to a hell-spawn and granted her the power to do anything within her creation. She could set her free on the inhabitants of this book. Sick her on people that I care about. I had to set the book aside for a moment and explain this horrid revelation to my confused wife (one of the people I will not recommend this book to). In short: I had become frightened. Of an imaginary character. Who had done no more than clasp a man's wrist with her manacled hands. Yeah.

    That is how good this book is. Heartsick. What a perfect name. I am only realizing it as I write this review, but what Chelsea Cain was able to do for me was to create these polar emotional opposites, further apart than I was prepared for; she forced me to feel the electrical potential between this anode of agony and cathode of catharsis. The resulting sparks between Archie and and Gretchen are the shocking, killing kind.

    Because of this, I felt more pure love and pity for Archie than I have for any character since I met Ender Wiggins, 20+ years ago. At the same time Cain was able to instruct me in new levels of hatred and revulsion with Gretchen Lowell. And between these two extremes is where the book takes place. Love and Disgust. Heart and Sick. Bouncing back and forth between them was exhausting and exhilarating. It made me want to finish the book immediately and to have it go on forever. I was loving the book while I wretched repeatedly.

    It wasn't until the last page of Heartsick that I finally broke down, exhausted. And then I cried. Not because of the tenderness of a single moment, nor was it due to the culmination of a brilliant journey-it was because I was safe. I cried out of relief. I had made it through to the other side and there was nothing else that Chelsea Cain could do to me, good nor bad.

    If you don't belong to one of the myriad groups that I listed above, how can I give any higher recommendation than this? This book was an experience for me. The only complaint that I could make would be its 337 pages. Twice that would have been nice. Which makes me sound tough, I'm sure, but Chelsea has a sequel out there that I could go pick up right now and start reading. There are more pages of torment and satisfaction at my fingertips. And what am I doing to back up my call for an encore? I am wussing out for a few weeks, that's what. I'm going to go read something else, let the wounds scar over, and wait until I am dumb enough to think I can take more.

    If your hyperbole sensor is beeping, it is broken. A quoted sample of adjectives other people have used to describe Heartsick:

    ...twisted tale...contorted thriller...razor edged...unyielding...gory...dark, distressing, and disturbing...exquisite pain...downright gruesome...

    For those of you that are rushing off to buy a copy, you should be in a database somewhere. They should be keeping tabs on you people. I have a legal right to know if you live in my neighborhood....more info
  • Heartsick
    First rate thriller...the chapters that focus on Archie and Gretchen are riveting...the only flaw is the hunt for the latest killer is not as compelling as the backstory...the author does a great job of pacing, giving you small doses of Gretchen (like Lecter in SOTL) where you find yourself anticipating her next appearance. Gretchen Lowell is definitely one of the more unsettling characters to come around in awhile. Highly recommended. ...more info