Author – Chelsea Cain
Published – 2008
Genre – Crime fiction
I seem to be following the review of my favourite book so far this year with one of the worst I have read. Not every book you read can warrant a wholly positive review, and sometimes it’s nigh on impossible to find something complimentary to say. So abandoning the adage of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” here goes.
This is the second book in the Gretchen Lowell series by Cain. Things don’t start too badly – an unidentified woman’s body has been found in a park and Detective Archie Sheridan and his partner have been assigned the investigation. It becomes clear that Sheridan is suffering, both physically and mentally, from an encounter with Lowell, who we learn was a female serial killer (known as the Beauty Killer). Sheridan seems to have an ongoing relationship with Lowell, paying her regular visits in prison, despite the fact that she seriously injured him. Lowell is clearly manipulating him, something which is plain to his ex-wife and partner.
We’re then introduced to the second character we follow in the book – reporter Susan Ward. Her paper is poised to run an expose she has written, when two unexpected deaths put the whole story in jeopardy. Out of frustration she offers to help Sheridan publicise his case. She and Sheridan appear to have some shared history from a case called the After School Killer.
So far so good. But then Lowell manages to escape from prison and any credibility the book had escapes with her.
I found it impossible to feel sympathy for any of the characters. Sheridan is weak and unrealistic, not least in his obsession with Lowell. Ward is naive and seems inexperienced and it was a stretch of the imagination to think that she would be allowed to follow a pair of detectives so closely. Even Lowell doesn’t hold the fascination that you feel with Hannibal Lecter – a great baddie could have made up for some weakness in the other protagonists.
The plot really asks you to suspend your disbelief, and whilst that may be the case for a lot of crime fiction, it’s rare that it is to such a huge extent. The basic premise of the escaping killer is poor, and it just got worse. And the nicknames for the serial killers – Beauty Killer, After School Killer. Really?
I certainly have no interest in reading either the preceding book in the series, or the next one. There are just too many other books out there that I’m itching to start!