Fresh Blood

Name: Chelsea Cain

Title of Book: Heartsick

'This is a stunning debut...'

He thinks he sees a flash of emotion in her eyes. Sympathy? Then it's gone. 'Whatever you think this is going to be like,' she whispers, 'it's going to be worse.'

When beautiful serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, captured her last victim, the man in charge of hunting her down, she quickly established who was really in control of the investigation. So why, after ten days of horrifying physical and mental torture, did she release Detective Archie Sheridan from the brink of death and hand herself in?

Two years on, Archie remains driven by a terrifying obsession that was born during his time alone with Gretchen. One thing is clear - Archie does not believe he was ever truly freed. Now Archie returns to lead the search for a new killer, whose recent attacks on teenage girls have left the city of Portland reeling. Shadowed by vulnerable young reporter, Susan Ward, Archie knows that only one person can help him climb into the mind of this psychopath. But can Archie finally manage to confront the demons of his past without being consumed by them?

Cain opens with a truly grisly scene of horror and torture and I guarantee by the end of page one, you’ll be hooked!

Lowell has kidnapped Archie Sheridan and is slowly killing him, but to find out what really happens to him - and how he manages to get away - you need to keep reading. This story is retold in memories throughout the book, cleverly interwoven between the current case he is working on.

Some may see the complex timelines as frustrating, but, after reading the book and seeing how the story and relations develop between the characters, this is the only way the story could have been told.

This is a stunning debut with strong characters, a strong storyline and the only real disappointment is having to wait for the next novel from Cain to be released.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) As it slowly evolves and increases in popularity, crime fiction seems to be organically sub-dividing into a number of widely diverse categories. Which genre (or sub-genre, even…) of crime novel would you say you write in?
I think I cross over between the tortured-Byronic-hero-haunted-by-his-past-yet-still-excellent-at-his-job-solving-crimes genre and the gory serial killer genre.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
Series. Definitely. One of the things I love about the genre is that it so often allows you to revisit characters again and again. Stand-alones make me angry. Because they end.
3) Will this be a standalone or will Archie be returning in a follow up novel?
I have a three-book deal, so there will be at least two more. In fact, I just finished the second one. It’s called SWEETHEART and will be out in about a year. If the first three work for readers, I plan to keep writing them until enough people ask me to stop.
4) 4)Will Gretchen emulate Hannibal Lecter and assist Archie in future cases?
My lips are sealed. Suffice it to say that Gretchen will be back. With a vengeance.
5) Was the serial killer in your book based on any true-life case?
Not so much the serial killer as the cop, Archie Sheridan. When I was growing up there was a serial killer at large in the Pacific Northwest called the Green River Killer. He killed dozens of young women, mostly prostitutes. He was at large for almost twenty years and there was a task force assigned with the job of catching him. I remember being really aware of this case as a kid. He was the boogieman of my youth. And at the same time, I was aware that there were these cops who were chasing him. By the time they caught him, there was one cop left on the task force. (It has been years since they’d found any bodies, and everyone else had been moved to other cases.) This guy had spent much of his career on this one case. I was fascinated by that obsession. So I created a detective, Archie Sheridan, who is obsessed with a killer he spent ten years hunting. But she kills much differently than the Green River Killer. And she’s way hotter.

The other serial killer in the book, The After School Strangler, is based on a real killer. When I was seventeen a girl from a nearby town went jogging with her dog. The dog came back a few hours later. She didn’t. They found her body in a creek bed. She had been raped and strangled. I didn’t know the girl, but I had friends who did. The cops had no leads. A crime re-enactment show came to town and I was asked to portray the girl, because I looked so much like her.I went to her mother’s house and met her mother and her dog and ran along the road she disappeared on. I even went to the creek where they found her body. It had a lasting impact on me, obviously. They never did catch the guy who killed her. So when I was trying to conjure another killer, someone as scary to me as the Beauty Killer Archie had been hunting, I remembered this girl. They couldn’t catch her killer. But I could create the After School Strangler, and catch him.
6) Why do you think that serial killers capture the popular imagination and feature so heavily in crime fiction?
There’s something especially scary about someone who can kill and get away with it. It’s not a crime of passion, which I think we can all on some level get. We’ve all said to ourselves, God I could just kill him. We might not ever do it in a million years, but we can see how it might happen. But the person who hunts other people. Who kills because he likes it. That’s something different. I think too in some way we are trying to understand our own capacity for darkness. What makes him capable of that and not me? Maybe we read serial killer novels to reassure ourselves that we are not blood thirsty homicidal psychopaths. Or maybe we read them because they are exciting.
7) Without giving away the plot, which book - yours or by another author - included your favourite plot twist of all time?
I’m not a big fan of plot twists for the sake of plot twists. I’m more a fan of the slow reveal, where something dawns on you, and it changes your reality of the read. Like Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
8) What is your favorite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
The Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy.
9) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I love Val McDermid’s Tony Hill/ Carol Jordan books because the characters and relationships are so compelling. I love Raymond Chandler because the writing is poetry. And I love Robert B. Parker’s books because he allows his characters to be witty just to impress one another and not to necessarily move the plot forward.
10) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
Red Wind (a short story in “Trouble is My Business”) by Raymond Chandler.