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on December 5, 2008
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.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon December 21, 2010
Book 1 in the Archie and Gretchen series

The story explores what make up a psychopath and the relationship between a serial killer and his/her victims. "Heart Sick" is a gruesome tale of torture and manipulation, a fiction depicting a twisted and creepy serial killer.

Detective Archie Sheridan (main character) has spent ten years on a task force hunting a beautiful serial killer named Gretchen Lowell. Gretchen eventually turned the table and the hunter became the hunted. She lured him into a trap, tortured him for several days and contrary to her M.O. she mysteriously sets him free, leaving him haunted in many ways by the experience for the rest of his life.

The story picks up two years later with Gretchen in prison and Archie recently off medical leave and returned to duty. Still on strong medication he quickly finds himself deeply involved in another case of multiple abductions and murders. Many teenage girls have mysteriously gone missing in the Oregon area.

During this period, Detective Archie Sheridan's experiences attract the attention of the press and Susan Ward, a young eccentric journalist, is assigned the task of writing his story. In her research, she tags along and records every move he makes but unknown to her, this action leads her straight into the serial killer's web...

The gruesome torture Archie endured at the hands of Gretchen is rehashed in flashback sequences and the gory details create a graphic and violent atmosphere at times. Archie, one of the main characters, is overshadowed by the strong characterisation of Gretchen, a beautiful serial killer. The story only comes alive when she appears and dims when she is off stage. It leaves the reader wondering if this is a suspense thriller or a twisted love story between a cop and a serial killer. Susan Ward the pink hair journalist is thrown into the mix to add a touch of colour and help tell the story. This novel is riddled with old clichés, very basic suspense and is rather unrealistic at times. This does not measure up to other thrillers I read this year
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on November 3, 2009
What I like about it is there's actually a female serial killer this time and she acts close to Hannibal Lecter with some minor differences. It sure is nice to see an evil female part though. It's a refreshing sight instead of having females always being portrayed as victims. The plot got better and better through each chapter and it just seemed as if the book went by really quickly - perhaps because I was just too engrossed in the book. You get two different stories here in this book. You have the current case Archie is on, then you also have chapters in between where they are flashbacks of Archie when he was being held captive by Gretchen. They were gruesome and rather hard to swallow but it added a lot of depth into Archie's character and explains to you why he is how he is. I thought that was pretty well done as it's a great way of explaining his character and his behavior. Gretchen made a wonderful villain. Manipulative, cunning, cruel, sadistic, all in one very attractive package it was perfectly done and even in prison she still continues to fiddle with her puppet strings.

It wasn't blatantly obvious who the culprit was behind the murders of the teenage girls, which was good, and it kept you guessing. What I liked was it wasn't until the last minute when you actually found out who it was and by that time it was cleverly done that you wish you could have seen it in the first place. There were a few twists and turns with the final twist happening between Gretchen and Archie. I thought that was great and it left me asking for more.

No doubt there will be sequels and I see this as a promising series. I'm left wanting to know what's going to happen in the next book. I'm definitely looking forward to reading it. The book however, did leave me with a lot of questions unanswered, particularly why Gretchen is what she is and how she came to be this way. It does drop hints here and there but nothing too specific or defined. Perhaps it's to build up the mystery behind her character.

I do warn, some parts in this book are not meant for the squeamish. However those with a like for police serial killer novels, with a cat and mouse game and lots of twists do take this book and give it a chance. You won't regret it.

Overall a great start to a series, and I'm looking forward to more.
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HALL OF FAMEon August 24, 2008
The Shadow knows, and he also knows that said evil lurking isn't the exclusive territory of men. In this creepy thriller, Chelsea Cain introduces a heartless female serial killer named Gretchen Lowell, who's so psychopathic and cruel that she makes Jack the Ripper look almost normal.

We also meet Archie Sheridan, a detective who was tortured and mutilated by Gretchen for ten days, and yet lived to tell the tale. Unfortunately for Archie, Gretchen still has her hooks deeply imbedded, and he can't seem to release himself from her calculating clutches.

Then there's Susan Ward, a reporter with a skeleton in her closet, and a weakness for men she can't or shouldn't have. Sure enough, Susan is chosen to cover Archie's story, and this takes her deep into the territory of another serial killer who's abducting and strangling the young girls of Portland.

If you like your murder mysteries bloody and nerve tingling, and aren't too particular about the accuracy of every detail once it doesn't detract from the plot, then you should enjoy this page-turner. Cain paints Gretchen as the epitome of evil, and you can almost feel her menacing aura radiating through the pages.

This novel is about two serial killers, but one of them is certainly in a class by herself, more than making up for an unlikely ending and a few stretches of the imagination. With this book, Cain proves that when it comes to serial killing, the best man for the job just may be a woman.

Amanda Richards
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on November 17, 2008
This one didn't necessarily keep me up at night, but it was disturbing. The detective is linked to his torturer in ways that constantly surprise you as you read. The author is very good at painting the mood for a city and its environment without getting bogged down in details. This one will definitely leave you wanting more. As the author says to her daughter in the postscript "you aren't reading this until you are 21. seriously"!
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on December 1, 2010
I went back and forth on whether to give this book four or five stars. Look up - I gave it five stars, though the ending was disappointing compared to the rest of the story. Excellent characters (I remember thinking so when reading the sequel, too), excellent prose from Cain. This is one of my favourite reads of the year.
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on March 24, 2013
Best plotting ever -- get it, read it -- you will want more
Archie and Gretchen will mesmerize you -- a true cat and mouse game and not for the faint of heart!
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on November 22, 2008
I thought this book was very well written...a real page turner. The author's imagination was amazing and I hope she keeps writing more like it.
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on November 15, 2007
It seems everyone else has found this novel 'new' and 'refreshing'. To me it is just a rehash of any other cop/serial killer novels with the twist that there is a woman serial killer. Women serial killers are not as rare as one thinks (many poisoners and baby killers) but this serial killer is up front an gory. Okay, so that's new. The only thing is she could easily be replaced by a man in the book at any time. Nothing new here for me.
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