The Night Season is the fourth of Chelsea Cain‘s Gretchen Lowell and Archie Sheridan series, and I grabbed it on a whim, seeking a fast and easy mystery. In The Night Season, Portland is flooding and people are dying, and the two things may or may not be related. Gretchen Lowell, the beautiful and bewitching serial killer who previously batted Archie Sheridan around like a cat playing with a wounded mouse, moves from a central figure in the story to an ominous and ever-looming presence. She’s never really gone and certainly not forgotten, tucked away safely in prison for now, but still drowning Archie just as much as the water that floods into the city around him.
Let me start by saying California is in the midst of a drought, and all the rain in this book was making me crazy! We’ve had some days here where the humidity feels like it just can’t hold, like the sky will have to burst open and rain, but the rain doesn’t come. When the soggy, sand-bagged, and serial killer-infested floodwaters of a thriller make you pine for rain, you know something is very wrong.
For those unfamiliar with the twisted love story of the Gretchen Lowell and Archie Sheridan series, it started with Heartsick in 2007. That book introduced us to the bold, unabashed premise of a cop so enmeshed with the serial killer he hunted and ultimately put behind bars that he’s in love with her, that he needs her like he needs the next fix of the pain pills he’s popping. After tracking Gretchen Lowell for 10 years, Archie Sheridan wasn’t sure where the line between obsession and love was drawn, and that was just how the sadistic Lowell liked it. Heartsick overtly asked all sorts of important questions about the dependence of those who fight evil on that evil, in the same vein as Thomas Harris‘s Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs.
Despite the dark, depressing threads of possession running through these books, I love Cain’s comic characters, especially Archie Sheridan’s spunky sidekick, crime reporter Susan Ward. The Night Season features a cast full of oddballs, as we’d expect nothing less from Cain, but none are so odd that they become caricatures or stereotypes of real life. I would love to see a Susan Ward spin-off series where we explore her world a bit more without Sheridan, although I realize Cain would then be required to create an unusually high amount of odd happenings in Portland for Ward, as a journalist, to discover and document away from her police pals. There’s something innately likable about Ward and the gusto with which she crashes crime scenes, a gal who brings her hippie momma’s goat into the living room to keep him out of the rain, and who stomps about the floodwaters with punky hair and big boots.
And Ward does provide much needed comic relief–Cain doesn’t ever turn away from an opportunity to describe a gruesome scene, as these are definitely thrillers. Especially in Heartsick, the first book, there are some descriptive moments of torture where the gore factor is very, very high. If cozy mysteries are more your thing, and you steer clear of the blood and guts, you may want to think twice about checking out this series.
Chelsea Cain also has a new book out tomorrow, One Kick, which I’m hoping to read soon, as the premise sounds a bit cheeky but irresistible. Kick Lannigan was kidnapped as a kid, and trained by her abductor for five years to be a lethal killing machine. She pursued her odd abilities after her escape, and by her twenties she sounds like a well-rounded secret agent, as she’s studied martial arts and knife-throwing. Then, other children get kidnapped, and Kick realizes what she’s spent her life training for. If Kick is as oddly charming as Susan Ward, then One Kick sounds like a promising combination of misery, humor and ka-pow.
Heartsick (Gretchen Lowell and Archie Sheridan #1) on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org – this is only $2.99 on Kindle right now, a great deal.
ChelseaCain.com – she is going on tour for One Kick, with dates announced on her official site.