Review–Sweetheart (Gretchen Lowell #2) by Chelsea Cain

Sweetheart (Gretchen Lowell #2)
by Chelsea Cain
Summary: Portland detective Archie Sheridan, the former head of the Beauty Killer Task Force, hunted Gretchen Lowell for years before she kidnapped him, tortured him, and then let him go. Now that she is behind bars, Archie is finally piecing his life back together. He's returned home to his ex-wife and their two children. But no matter how hard Archie tries, he just can't stop thinking about Gretchen.
When the body of a young woman is discovered in Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the first corpse he discovered there a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer's first victim, and Archie's first case. Then, the unthinkable happens: Gretchen escapes from prison, and once the news breaks, all of Portland goes on high alert; but secretly, Archie is relieved. He knows he's the only one who can capture Gretchen and now he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all. Even if it means becoming her last victim.

Source: I purchased a paperback.

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Sweetheart began just a few months after the events of Heartsick Archie stopped visiting Gretchen, he was moving forward with his life and moved back in with his ex wife. Still, he remained obsessed, but I think he was at least attempting to pretend normalcy.

I enjoyed Heartsick, but it was very much a whodunnit kind of novel and the sessions with Gretchen in prison resembled that of Clarice and Hannibal. I enjoyed the flashbacks to Archie’s experience when he was being tortured, but I didn’t enjoy the present as much as I would have liked. It make me hesitant to continue, but I finally decided to read Sweetheart and it was much better than I anticipated.

Sweetheart, while still a mystery crime novel, seemed a lot more character based and I had already been acquainted with the key players in the previous novel. Archie was struggling with pretending to be normal and his feelings for Gretchen were conflicted, probably unhealthy, but real, nonetheless. The people around him were trying to look out for him and there was a lot more interaction with them and his kids in this novel. Susan made a reappearance, but she was actively working on a story unrelated (or so it seemed) to the crimes that were occurring in the park. Seeing the ways that her story, the crimes, and Gretchen Lowell were connected was interesting and it gave the book a little less of that stale crime novel feel and that’s what ultimately kept me reading.

Sweetheart was incredibly twisted. While Heartsick had a little bit more gore as Archie was being tortured by Gretchen, Sweetheart had emotional and psychological twists, especially since Archie was dealing with the aftermath of being both physically and mentally damaged by his experiences with Gretchen. Nothing in his life felt right or normal. New things were revealed about the characters that shed light on some conflicts.

I’m a lot more eager to read the next book than I was when I began the series. I’m intrigued by the characters and I’m anxious to see what will happen next.


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