The Resource Heartsick, Chelsea Cain

Heartsick, Chelsea Cain

Statement of responsibility
Chelsea Cain
Title variation
Heart sick
Addicted to painkillers and still bound to Gretchen Lowell, the beautiful serial killer who had abducted and tortured him before turning herself in, Portland detective Archie Sheridan is caught in another deadly duel with a murderer targeting teenage girls
Member of
Writing style
Library Journal Best Books, 2007.
  • /*Starred Review*/ It's a long way from a Nancy Drew parody (Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, 2005) to one of the most original serial-killer thrillers to appear in several years, but Cain makes the leap unscathed. Throw out all your assumptions about the sameness of serial-killer novels; this one breaks the mold. Yes, the notorious Gretchen Lowell is behind bars throughout the novel (a la Hannibal Lecter), and, yes, she counsels the Portland, Oregon, cop who is chasing a new sociopath, but unlike in Silence of the Lambs, Archie Sheridan, Cain's detective hero, was one of Lowell's victims. (After kidnapping and killing more than 200 people, Lowell captured and tortured Sheridan, then inexplicably let him live.) So two plotlines unfold alternately, each feeding the other: the grisly backstory of what Lowell did to Sheridan ("Whatever you think this is going to be like," she whispers, "it's going to be worse"), and the real-time account of Sheridan's search for a new serial killer who is preying on teenage girls from Portland's high schools. The plots are thickened by costar Susan Ward, a pink-haired, punky reporter, and by Sheridan's addiction to prescription drugs—and his unbreakable emotional attachment to Lowell, his torturer and savior. Cain never misses a beat here, turning the psychological screws ever tighter for both Sheridan and Ward while drawing us deep into the nightmare that lives inside Gretchen Lowell's head. Sheridan will remind thriller fans of Ridley Pearson's Lou Boldt, and Cain's use of Portland as a setting—contrasting the charm of the city against the horror of the crimes—echoes Pearson's similar use of Seattle. But Heartsick is in no way deriviative. This could well be the thriller of the year. -- Ott, Bill (Reviewed 06-01-2007) (Booklist, vol 103, number 19, p5)
  • Adult/High School— The shocking opening chapter of this thriller lets readers know they're in for a rough ride through the minds of damaged people, including a drug-addicted police detective and an ambitious newspaper reporter. Two years earlier, a sadistic female serial killer captured and tortured Archie Sheridan, the lead detective on the Beauty Killer Task Force, leaving an indelible impression on his psyche and numerous physical scars. Now a new serial killer is stalking Portland, OR, and Archie is called back to duty to head a new task force. Susan Ward, a bright, offbeat reporter, is surprised to get the inside track on the investigation from him. It seems that he is finally willing to expose his feelings about Gretchen Lowell, the Beauty Killer, but Susan will have to reveal her secrets as well. Vaguely reminiscent of Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs (St. Martin's, 1988), with the setup of the serial-killer psychiatrist trading information while working her own angle, the novel has plenty of gruesome details, building suspense, false leads, and startling imagery in a setting so realistic that readers will feel damp and chilled. This one is for teens who like their stories gritty, grim, and gory.—Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI --Charli Osborne (Reviewed August 1, 2007) (School Library Journal, vol 53, issue 8, p143)
  • /* Starred Review */ In this outstanding thriller, the first in a new series, Cain (Confessions of a Teen Sleuth ) puts a fresh spin on a scenario familiar to fans of Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs . When someone starts dumping the bodies of teenage girls around Portland, Ore., after soaking them in tubs of bleach, Archie Sheridan, a police detective addicted to pain killers, turns for help to Gretchen Lowell, an imprisoned serial killer who once tortured him (the big scar on his chest “was shaped like a heart”). Covering the crimes is reporter Susan Ward, a smart-alecky punk with pink hair and authority issues. The suspense builds as the narrative shifts between Sheridan’s new case and his ordeal with Lowell, who in her own way is as memorable a villain as Hannibal Lecter. The damp Portland locale calls to mind the kind of Pacific Northwest darkness associated with Ted Bundy and Kurt Cobain. A vivid literary style lifts this well above the usual run of suspense novels. 200,000 first printing; author tour. (Sept.) --Staff (Reviewed July 16, 2007) (Publishers Weekly, vol 254, issue 28, p143)
  • /* Starred Review */ Portland, OR, never felt drearier than it does in this thriller debut. Without a doubt, psychopathic Gretchen Lowell, a convicted serial killer, pulls all the strings from her prison cell. Just consider her current exploitation list: Archie Sheridan, the Vicodin-addicted detective whom she kidnapped and almost killed two years earlier; Susan Ward, the spunky, young newspaper features writer who's attempting to profile Sheridan; and, finally, the current serial killer, who is targeting high school girls and putting the entire city in lockdown mode. Using flashbacks and psychological tension, Cain (Confessions of a Teen Sleuth ) has crafted a gory suspense piece that is absolutely impossible to put down. Sheridan's current case, a hurried analysis of local high school suspects, is almost secondary to the horror of Lowell's personality. Sheridan's suffering makes him an empathetic hero, and Susan's foolish mistakes give the novel its requisite twists. Readers may figure out the "new" killer's identity early on, but Cain never lets up on the pace. Stylistically, this is great stuff for true-crime readers and for those who enjoy Jan Burke's Irene Kelly series. Recommended for all popular collections; expect a series. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 5/1/07; a 200,000 first printing.]—Teresa L. Jacobsen, Solano Cty. Lib., Fairfield, CA --Teresa L. Jacobsen (Reviewed August 15, 2007) (Library Journal, vol 132, issue 13, p63)
  • A detective, emotionally damaged after his own kidnapping, pursues a serial killer of young girls in Portland, Ore.Two years ago, homicide detective Archie Sheridan was kidnapped while tracking beautiful but treacherously demented serial killer Gretchen Lowell. After torturing Archie for days, Gretchen eventually saved his physical life by calling 911 and turning herself in, but Archie's existence has been fundamentally ruined. Separated from his wife, he is addicted to various prescription painkillers and remains on disability from his work as a homicide detective. Every Sunday Archie visits Gretchen in prison, ostensibly because he is the only one to whom she'll disclose the locations of her 200 (!) murder victims. In fact, he is addicted to her control over him. Despite Archie's fragile emotional state, when someone starts murdering 14-year-old girls, the police department asks him to take charge of the case. As the cop who survived a kidnapping, Archie has become a celebrity, and the local paper arranges for a young reporter, Susan Ward, to profile him as he works the new case. Susan does not realize that Archie is manipulating her. He hopes her revealing articles about him spurs Gretchen, who has recently gone silent, to offer up the whereabouts of more bodies. Susan finds easy access to interviews with Archie's ex-wife Debbie, who turns out to be a sophisticated artist, his doctor, who describes Archie's torture as unimaginably cruel, and even Gretchen, who is frighteningly on target about Susan's own ghosts. Susan's father died when she was 14. As a freshman at Cleveland High, where one of the recent victims attended school, she may or may not have had an inappropriate sexual relationship with her drama teacher. Archie realizes almost too late that Gretchen has actually been setting her own trap, and Susan is the intended victim.Despite obvious red herrings, Cain (Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, 2005) creates a cleverly contorted thriller plot and characters with memorable personalities. (Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007)
Cain, Chelsea
Dewey number
no index present
Literary form
Series statement
Archie and Gretchen thrillers
Series volume
  • Murder
  • Police
  • Women serial murderers
  • Women journalists
  • Interpersonal relations
  • Portland (Or.)
Heartsick, Chelsea Cain
"A thriller"--Cover
Carrier category
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
Content category
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
25 cm
First edition.
326 pages
Media category
Media MARC source
Media type code
  • n
Heartsick, Chelsea Cain
"A thriller"--Cover
Carrier category
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
Content category
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
25 cm
First edition.
326 pages
Media category
Media MARC source
Media type code
  • n

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