In the follow-up to her SWEETHEART, Chelsea Cain continues the saga of Portland Detective Archie Sheridan and serial killer Gretchen Lowell. The novel opens with Archie hospitalized in an institution and almost fearing a life outside the safe walls. But when it appears that Gretchen has reneged on their deal - he wouldn't try to kill himself if she wouldn't kill anyone else - Archie leaves the safety of the institution to resume his pursuit of "The Beauty Killer."
Cain paints a graphic portrait of not only a sick serial killer but also a sick society in the third Archie Sheridan thriller. While she may employ hyperbole to a point with society's reactions, there is an underlying truth: we, as a society, tend to grab on to the bloody, sick headlines and make them profitable. This is the exaggerated embodiment of "if it bleeds it leads."
The dark, destructive tone of the novel is lightened by the presence of "journalist" Susan Ward. Her purple hair and purse full of mace and pepper spray add a humorous element to an otherwise terrifying plot. The other element that Susan Ward adds is reason. She wants to write a book about the pop culture reaction to Gretchen Lowell; she seems to be the only person cognizant of the insanity of the general population's crazed obsession over a psychopathic murderer. At least she's the only person until Archie is released from the institution.
Archie is a sympathetic character. He's endured more than most humans could survive and yet his main concern is still to help others. His behavior works like a penance for him.
EVIL AT HEART is a fast-moving thriller with a plot that makes readers feel as though they are walking through a fun house of mirrors. What seems to be isn't always so. What's the truth and what's not? Not knowing may be the most haunting feeling to experience. EVIL AT HEART is also a graphic plot. Readers will find detailed images of gruesome events. Cain must have had some interesting research for this novel.
I listened to this book on audio, which was read by Carolyn McCormick. This is the first audiobook I have listened to in which McCormick narrates, and I cannot say enough to illustrate how wonderful her reading is. She does an exemplary job of creating distinct voices for characters. She handles male roles very well. And her interpretation of the book was very strong. She didn't over-dramatize, but she increased tempo and emotion at appropriate points in the plot. It is an excellent reading.
EVIL AT HEART was published by St. Martin's Minotaur in 2009. The audiobook was recorded by Macmillan Audio, also in 2009.