Just finished Portland author Chelsea Cain’s second thriller, “Sweetheart.” Wow. Really a great read. Scared the ever-loving hell out of me.
The two books revolve around a trio of characters: Archie Sheridan, a broken, battered police detective who, frankly, is falling apart; Susan Ward, a young newspaper reporter who doesn’t always think before she acts; and Gretchen Lowell, a serial killer who has me sleeping with a night light.
Chelsea does a great job of describing Portland and Portlanders. She gets what a weird lot we are.
There is a reason why this woman is a New York Times best-selling author, and it ain’t just because she’s hot. Which, frankly, she is. She can flat-out write. If you’re not following her books because serial killers aren’t your cup of chai, do yourself a favor and read her first one, “Heart Sick.” You will be hooked.
Four-fifths of the way through Chelsea Cain’s “Heart Sick,” my shoulders sagged and I went, “Ah, dammit.” That’s because she appeared to fall back onto the weak writer’s crutch: Coincidence.
The operative word there was appeared.
OK: First backgrounder. I hadn’t read Chelsea’s 2007 thriller because it’s about serial killers. And frankly, prime time TV had ruined that medium for me. For a while there, network TV offered two or three serial killers per night on a wide array of repetitive cop dramas. Yawn
But then I went to Bouchercon – the World Mystery Convention – in Indianapolis and I met Chelsea Cain and she turned out to be as friendly and funny as she is stunning and smart. So now I’m thinking: dang, gotta read her book.
Which got me to the sagging shoulders and the dammit. And the coincidence.
OK: Second backgrounder. When creating a fictional story, it is OK to use coincidence in Act I, but not in Act II or III. Your heroine can stumble into a mystery but she absolutely cannot stumble into the solution. That’s cheating.
I will not give away the ending of “Heart Sick” but I will tell you: Chelsea fooled me. Completely. And I devour mysteries, so I am not an easy reader to fool.
The day I finished “Heart Sick” I walked to Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland’s Multnomah Village to buy the sequel, “Sweetheart.”
Nicely done, Ms. Cain.