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.