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.
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.
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. How she did it is mentioned, and I can't help but feel that this should have been fully fleshed out over several pages if not chapters because it would have added something to the story - across the two books we never really see very much of Gretchen Lowell without Archie in the same picture, so it would have been at least a little more interesting to see what she gets up to when she's acting without him. That's because this is a woman responsible for hundreds of horrific and sickeningly tortuous murders and it would have added a new dimension if the author had described the Beauty Killer's modus operandi in full detail as it happened - after all, Chelsea Cain has demonstrated that she has more than enough in the way of a dark and twisted imagination to conjure up unspeakable horrors but they have always been related in the historic sense, things Gretchen did years earlier.
Instead what we are given is a might-have-been-interesting 'plot' about a Senator facing exposure for an act of underage sex with a baby-sitter in years past, a plot that never really gets off the ground, never becomes the central focus of the story, and fades away quickly at the end in such a way that the reader will feel that they never cared about it in the first place. That's because once again the spotlight is on Archie Sheridan and his inevitable re-union with the killer he is utterly obsessed with, a woman now on the run but rather bizarrely (given her obviously high intellect) seems to make little effort in fully diappearing from the region. Anyone else would have fled the country - even super-smart Hannibal Lecter did that - but this woman seems happy to stay within the state of Oregon, and of course she quickly invites a police detective round for some slap and tickle. That really is stretching the boundaries of credibility, I feel.
Gretchen Lowell has lost some of her magical enigma, too. She becomes almost ordinary at times, she has weaknesses that any human being would have and that was hugely disappointing for me. In the first book, she almost chose to be in prison and seemed the victor (over Archie, her nemesis) in spite of it. This time it's the same, only different. The fatal flaw is that she should be in even greater control - she's free, after all - but for reasons that are never satisfactorily explained she appears to be more vulnerable. We knew all along that Archie was vulnerable, that was a large part of his appeal, but when his counterpart and controlling opposite number shows vulnerability too, it takes away that intriguing dominatrix/slave element and makes Gretchen Lowell less scary. Without her scariness, the main themes of this story are diluted substantially.
What is even more frustrating, given the excellence of the first novel HEART SICK, is that the third in the series - EVIL AT HEART - which comes out later in 2009, appears to re-unite the two protagonists yet again. I am beginning to think that the first novel should have been a stand-alone, that this sequel wasn't really necessary and that Ms Cain should apply her superb writing skills to new characters and new stories. She is in danger of becoming a one-trick pony, of overkill with regard to what had been a brilliant fictional creation. SWEET HEART isn't a bad novel and I'm not sorry to have bought it, but anyone familiar with what went before is bound to be disappointed.
on 21 September 2008
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.
If there is a third book (And im sure there is) then please - give us Gretchen lowell - like Hannibal she is fascinating, brilliantly evil and the chemistry between her and Archie alone made the first book worth reading. This is simply a rip off of the first book and its very disappointing. There is the potential for a rip-roaring, edge of your seat thriller with Gretchen, but sadly the first two book have not deliivered.
on 7 August 2008
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...
on 16 February 2009
A novel doesn't have to be 100% believable but if an author is going to make the story absurd, she has to at least build up to the absurdity. In this novel the author makes no effort to make any part of the story the slightest bit believable. Right from the start we get Archie who is back on the force in spite of constantly popping pain killers. Does anyone really think a man who takes four Vicodin at a time would be trusted with a gun?
But then the whole premise of the story is ridiculous. Does anyone really think that the worst serial killer in a state's history would be able to escape from prison? Does anyone really think that a guard would help her escape the day after another guard that was helping her was killed by her?
Please, if you want to write a fantasy then add dragons and magic spells. The story started off fairly promising with the death of a senator and a link to a possible serial killer. But then the author just couldn't give up Gretchen, a character who is so powerful in this novel that she practically does cast magic spells and ride dragons. I found myself rolling my eyes and predicting what would happen next by simply thinking of the stupidest possible plot twist. So I recommend that you don't waste your time on this book.
on 20 August 2008
I enjoyed the first book and was really looking forward to the next in the series. I was really disappointed, I found most of it was a re-hash of the first and to be honest I wish Gretchen would hurry up and get rid of him to put us out of his misery!!.. For me there was no tension, no pace and it just fell flat.
Unfortunately, it looks like the third could just be a repeat and that would be a real shame - some characters I feel are not meant to be a series - a one off is enough and I felt that Ms Cain had done herself an injustice by rushing out a poor sequel to an excellent first book.
on 19 July 2008
I eagerly anticipated Chelsea's next book, as her first was a 5 star for me. Disappointed is an understatement though.
Archie is still obsessed with Gretchen Lowell, and he finds himself investigating 3 murders, and 2 possible accidents. These murders become so trivial in the end, I have no idea why Chelsea even put them in. Most of the plot is pointless, and leads no-where. It's more or less book one, with a couple of murders added in.
If Chelsea had concentrated on expanding Archie's skills as a detective, and putting him on new murder cases, instead of dwelling on the previous book, Sweetheart could of been more of a compelling read.
Events that happen within the book, are some-what far fetched, and are certainly an 'eye-roller' but there are parts that are still good, and Susan and Bliss are still around to add to that.
I hope Chelsea's next book, if Archie is in it, will let Gretchen fade out more, and let Archie try and recover his life back.
on 18 November 2008
At the opening of Sweetheart I found that the story somewhat depended on the content and characters of the first installment - Heartsick. This in itself is fine, if you read Heartsick within the last month or so! If like me you read the first book in this obvious series 8 months ago, with about 50 books inbetween, you can find yourself a little lost with who's who and what they are all about. The cast members are the same with Archie Sheridan as the main character and Gretchen as the villain - most of the time. A sub-plot runs throught the book and does get you thinking was it Gretchen the mad-multiple-murderer or something/somebody else?
The story was actually full of dark humour which I think anybody would find amusing in parts, me? I was laughing out loud.
An all round OK story with a running text that wasn't boring or that unbeleivable (maybe you had to stretch to believe somethings) but not a tale that would stay with me more than a couple of weeks, rather like the first book. Read it, enjoy it, toss it aside and move onto the next novel. Not earth shattering, but not totally usless either.
on 21 March 2009
I received this book as a present. After reading Chelsea Cain's previous novel, "Heartsick" and giving it a rating of 3 out of 5 stars, I was curious to see if her second book will prove any better. Um, no, not a chance unfortunately. Boys and girls, "Sweetheart" is even worse.
The characters are the same as in the previous book, some quite cheesy and not developed at all and I had to check the book cover a few times to make sure I wasn't reading her previous book "Heartsick" over again, haha. The events in the story and at the ending of the book are very predictable. The reactions and behaviour of the main character policeman Archie are just ridiculous at times and make you slap your forehead and shake your in amusement. I am surprised that authors like Val McDermid and Tess Gerritsen gave "Sweetheart" such high rating (according to the book cover and inside) and that people compared her debut to "The Silence Of The Lambs"!
Disappointing and cheesy book. I don't think I will search and purchase any of her future novels.