Sunday, September 06, 2009

Evil At Heart, by Chelsea Cain

(hb; 2009: third book in the Gretchen Lowell series)

From the inside flap:

"Gretchen Lowell is still on the loose. These days, she's more of a cause célèbre than a feared killer, thanks to sensationalistic news coverage that has made her a star. Her face graces magazine covers weekly and there have been sightings of her around the world. Most shocking of all, Portland Herald reporter Susan Ward has uncovered a bizarre kind of fan club, which celebrates the number of days she's been free.

"Archie Sheridan hunted her for a decade, and after his last ploy to catch her went spectacularly wrong, remains hospitalized months later. When they last spoke,they entered a détente of sorts -- Archie agreed not to kill himself if she agreed not to kill anyone else. But when a new body is found accompanied by Gretchen's trademark heart, all bets are off and Archie is forced back into action. Has the Beauty Killer returned to her gruesome ways, or has the cult surrounding her created a whole new evil?"

Review:

Evil at Heart, like Heartsick and Sweetheart before it, is a burn-through-frenzy read. The plot and tension never let up from Word One; the characters are interesting -- especially Susan Ward, who's become decisive and life-smart, and Archie Sheridan, who, finally, seems to be outgrowing his conjoined obsessions for Gretchen and Vicadin.

What differentiates Evil from other Gretchen novels is the injection of the Gretchen-based cults that have sprung up; the existence of those possibly-proactive cults intensifies the expanding storyline.

One nit: the ending's solid (especially in how it relates to Sheridan's growth as a character), but it's anti-climactic. Cain could've easily ended this fun serial killer romp on a memorable high note with a few choice sentences, but it looks like she's going to crank out, at the very least, one more Gretchen novel.

I'll read that book, and probably like it, as Cain is an excellent, pop-culture savvy writer; however, it may very well read like a style/talent-over-substance work. I hope I'm wrong, in this case.

Check it out, don't expect a great ending.

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