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Sweetheart (Gretchen Lowell 2) Hardcover – 18 Jul 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (18 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230015905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230015906
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 635,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Chelsea Cain’s debut Heartsick created quite a stir, with its heady mix of familiar serial killer motifs and some striking innovations (notably the fact that her utterly ruthless murderer was a woman: the beautiful Gretchen Lowell). Cain is very much a member of the cadre of female crime writers who match their male counterparts in extreme, unsparing violence: in other words (as her new book, Sweetheart comprehensively proves), this is a young American writer in the bloody tradition of Tess Gerritsen and Karin Slaughter – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, Sweetheart is not so much a sequel to Heartsick as a direct continuation of the events of that novel. Some weeks after the events of the first book, Cain’s battered cop protagonist Archie is at the site of the new murder scene at Forest Park. Simultaneously, Susan Ward is reporting on a political case involving statutory rape and making herself very unpopular with her paper -- notably because the senator involved is an intimate of the newspaper’s owners. But then a colleague of Susan’s is killed in what appears to be a car accident, and the lethal Gretchen Lowell, the seductive serial killer of Heartsick, is raped by a guard at the prison where she is incarcerated. He subsequently kills himself, and while Gretchen is being transferred to another prison, she persuades an attendant to commit murder in order to help her escape. And Archie, to his dismay, soon becomes the recipient of the heart of the female prison guard killed in escape.

As all of the above suggests, the plotting here is even more delirious than in the first book -- and this synopsis only hints at the truly bizarre events that Chelsea Cain orchestrates. Even though a moment's consideration might make the narrative seem absurd (and there is some dodgy science incorporated into the plotting), the outrageous panache with which Cain dispatches her material sweeps all reservations aside. For those who care about such things, this is slightly less grisly than its predecessor, but it’s just as entertaining a ride. --Barry Forshaw


'Another classy serial killer thriller...An edgy, compelling nail-biter that more than matches Cain's first book Heartsick. Bloodcurdlingly good!' -- Now magazine

'Cain is good at weaving in multiple plots and leads while building real suspense.'
-- Daily Mirror

'Charismatic, gorgeous, sadistic serial killer Gretchen Lowell taunts detective Archie Sheridan yet again'
-- Time Out

'This book is a fast-paced, page-turner and grabs your attention from the first chapter. There's also a crafty twist at the end.' -- The Yorkshire Post

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sue VINE VOICE on 26 July 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first few chapters draw you in - the discovery of a body in the woods, the reporter, Susan Ward, about to tell all on Senator Castle and then his sudden accidental death and Detective Archie Sheridan re-building his life after the serial killer, Gretchen Lowell.
After that the plot falters with the story line focusing on the Gretchen-Archie relationship form the first book, Heart Sick. This relationship between killer-victim is disturbing but it is not deep enough to be an edge of the seat psychological thriller.
The main characters are not sufficiently developed, it's more of the same and the murders added in this novel are solved as an aside. There is a mysterious child who appears twice but this doesn't go any where.
I also found the style of writing simplistic to the point that it disturbs the flow both in dialogue and prose.
This is so disappointing after the first novel which was a promising debut.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael Watson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 July 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to book 2 featuring Archie Sheridan. I didn't expect one of the few female serial killers in modern thrillers to feature quite so heavily. That Gretchen Lovell is a nasty yet confusing character does add to the thrill of the chase. That this book is almost - but not quite - an add-on from Heartsick means that you don't really need to have read the first book before involving yourself in this. In fact, if you hadn't read number 1, this thriller would be a better read!!

I was disappointed, really, although I enjoyed the experience. Chelsea Cain is a good contemporary author with a penchant for gruesome killings in her books. Archie is a detective whose character can be developed but whether I want to read a third novel featuring these two at it yet again is a moot point. Let's have closure on Gretchen Lovell and a way forward for Archie to show us that he is more than just a scarred body - physically and mentally.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By OEJ TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Feb 2009
Format: Hardcover
A lot of readers who buy/bought this book will have done so because its predecessor (and debut) novel was really outstanding, one of the best thrillers of 2007. The most memorable and most enjoyable aspect of that story was the relatively unusual relationship between a homicide cop and the object of his affections - not his patient, understanding wife, but a beautiful woman who was thought to have murdered more than 200 people in the area around Portland, Oregon one-by-one over a period of several years. But, with strong echoes of The Silence of the Lambs, the madwoman was already under lock and key in a maximum security prison for the entire length of that story. The relationship between serial killer Gretchen Lowell and Detective Archie Sheridan, told from the viewpoints of his abduction some years earlier and later when the roles were effectively reversed as he visited her in prison, was something to savour and will live in my memory for quite some time to come.

This sequel won't, sad to say. In summary, it's 'more of the same' and apart from a few minor revelations to explain the couple's strange history, there's very little new here and, frustratingly, even less to match the creepy, disturbing aura of the first novel. Gretchen Lowell escapes from prison. That's the big event, really. But whereas the corresponding event in SOTL - the escape of Hannibal Lecter - was the sensational highpoint and took up a large chunk of the story (as it should), in SWEET HEART Gretchen's escape isn't covered at all. Archie's partner Henry Sobol takes a phone call, puts the phone down, and tells Archie "she's escaped". And that's about it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Blue Cat on 7 Aug 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was very disappointed by this second novel from Chelsea Cain. The first book, Heartsick, focused on the hunt for the 'After-School Killer', with Archie's relationship with Gretchen sitting behind this, providing context. Sweetheart starts off in the same vein, but then almost dismisses the mystery behind the Senator's death and the bodies in the woods to go down a highly improbable storyline involving Archie and Gretchen. The Senator/bodies in the woods mystery is then miraculously solved at the end, based on a few guesses by Susan which the police seem to accept as fact without making any checks, and this flimsy 'evidence' is sufficient to make a highly influential politician commit suicide.

There are so many very good detective novels these days and they are all highly realistic with regard to police procedures, forensics etc - it is the many improbabilities in this book that mark it out as second rate. The fact that Archie is still on the police force given his obvious obsession with Gretchen (and the way that develops in this book) and addiction to painkillers requires a large stretch of the imagination. The plot of this book takes the improbabilities a step too far into the ridiculous.

I won't be rushing to read a third book in the series unless the focus has moved away from the Archie/Gretchen storyline - but this seems unlikely given the second book ends with Gretchen still at large...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jack on 21 Sep 2008
Format: Hardcover
A thoroughly disappointing book. Its almost a clone of the first book - the way it starts, the storylines are practically identical. I cannot believe that no-one (agents, publishers, critics) told her this before she brought the book out.
Ok, the first book Heart scare, created the kind of serial killer Gretchen Lowell, that made Hannibal lectre seem tame. The problem with the first book was, Gretchen was by far the bes part of it, and in only a few chapters. The sick chemistry between her and Archie was sharp and absorbing and all too brief. The first book was only just a good read b/c of the Gretchen-Archie dynamic; the murder case was plain and boring.
This book usese the same formula (exactly the same) as the first. What we needed / wanted was Gretchen. She is a fantastic creation, beautiful, intelligent and oh-so-deadly. I actually think that Cain should have gone back and explored the whole initial Beauty killer thing - go right back to the start with Gretchen, give us her story, her murders, her complex tale and mix that with Archie trying to get her - that would have been a major best seller b/c all the elements are fascinating.
How this book came about is almost beyond me. Susan, the politician, Archie's family life, the pill popping, the scars with Archie, the interactions with Gretchen have all been done in the first book - even the title borrows a word from the first book!!
Where as a lot of crime writers (Hayder, Slaughter, Gerritsen to soem extent) concentrate on detailed pathology and shocking details, Cain doesnt do this and relies on story only to grab you. But, if the story is poor, the whole book falls apart.
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