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Sweetheart    by Chelsea Cain order for
by Chelsea Cain
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Sweetheart, Chelsea Cain delivers a sequel to her horrific chiller Heartsick, that introduced serial Beauty Killer Gretchen Lowell in a strange and unusual (given their respective roles) Fatal Attraction relationship with her pursuer, Portland, Oregon Homicide Detective Archie Sheridan. That first book left the lovely Gretchen in jail and Archie addicted to painkillers and slowly recovering from his brutal torture at his lover's hands.

As Sweetheart opens, a still very disturbed Archie is back home with his family, though sleeping in the study and not fully accepted by his young children. He's seeing a psychologist and trying to find his way back to his life with his (childhood sweetheart) wife Debbie. He has recently given up seeing Gretchen in prison - visits he made under the guise of persuading her to give up the locations of her multitude of victims - and misses them badly. His partner, Henry Sobol (a wonderful character who has had a variety of unusual careers and left behind a long trail of ex-wives) worries about Archie and watches over him, as does their colleague Claire Masland.

In parallel with his constant preoccupation with Gretchen, Archie investigates a new case, involving the corpse of a woman found in Forest Park. Also, blue-haired reporter Susan Ward (who has a delightful hippie mother) digs deep into a big story that will bring down the state's idolized politician, Senator Castle, and shortly afterwards mourns the seemingly accidental death of a beloved mentor. As these plotlines slowly converge, they're interrupted by big breaking news as Gretchen pulls off a prison break (leaving bodies in her wake) and threatens those close to Archie. Soon his family, as well as Susan and her mother (who were also threatened), are in protective custody - which doesn't sit well with either Archie or Susan.

His health deteriorating very fast, Archie puts together a twisted 'crazy-ass shit plan' to end his obsession once and for all, leading to a gripping, explosive finale that brings all the major characters together, up close and very personal. If you've already read Heartsick, you'll rush to acquire Sweetheart. If you haven't and enjoy truly twisted thrillers, this gruesome, gripping series is a must.

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