5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating story wrapped up in something more banal,
This review is from: Heartsick (Paperback)
This is almost like two books, one a fairly run-of-the-mill serial killer tale, and the other something far more enigmatic, both horrifying and yet fascinating. Others here have already outlined the plot so I won't repeat that. The present-day story of a middle-aged male serial killer preying on teenage girls has been done to death and I hate the inherent misogyny implicit in that kind of narrative. But the other story - and the reason I read this book - is something quite frighteningly different.
The relationship between Gretchen Lowell, the beautiful and terrifying psychopath, and Archie, the detective who trailed her and her final victim, is brilliantly drawn. Calling up theories of Stockholm syndrome and then pushing them to the max, this is an obsessive symbiotic relationship, dark and very disturbing. The relationships - both textual and psychological - between this book and the Silence of the Lambs are deliberately recalled when Gretchen calls a young journalist `Clarice', but the gender inversions (both authorial and in terms of character) turn this into something quite different, albeit with something of the same shadowy humour. The final encounter, in particular, between Archie and Gretchen really ramps up the emotional stakes and the issue of who is, ultimately, in control is left unresolved and open.
Make no mistake, this is a very violent book and the accusations of torture-porn are probably correct. And yet there's something so fascinating at the centre that I was drawn in completely. In many ways, Gretchen (and the book overall) exert the same ambiguous pull on the reader as the character Gretchen does on Archie: we know it's not good for us, we know we probably shouldn't carry on and yet we just can't help ourselves...