Reviews by title
Reviews by author
Onyx reviews: Evil at Heart
It says a lot about a character when her presence is felt on virtually every
page of a novel, especially when she barely shows up in person. In this third
"heart" novel, Gretchen Lowell appears to have fallen off the wagon
again, returning to her old, murderous ways, despite her promise to former lover
and nemesis, Detective Archie Sheridan.
Archie's not doing so well these days, two months after Gretchen escaped from
custody and immediately set her sights on Archie again. He's managed to kick his
painkiller habit, but his other habit still has him in its grasp. He has checked
himself into a psych ward, claiming that he's a danger to himself when, in fact,
his fear is that he is a danger to those around him. Gretchen is the jealous
type, and she has a particularly lethal way of dealing with any romantic rivals.
However, the main character in Evil at Heart is really the media, as
personified by Portland Herald reporter (journalist?) Susan Ward, the colorful
young woman with the multicolored hair who worked with Archie on his previous
escapades. Her stories about the Beauty Killer (including How to Make a Gretchen
Lowell Halloween Costume) have helped further her career with the newspaper.
She's not the only one writing about Gretchen, though. The killer's face moves
copies, so she frequently appears on the covers of magazines and on the front
pages of financially strapped newspapers. There's even a Gretchen Lowell tour in
Portland, people are selling Gretchen T-shirts, and web sites are built in
tribute to her. Now that she's an escaped fugitive, she has a growing legion of
fans who hope that she'll never be caught, despite the heinous crimes she's
perpetrated. Some people even think she might be innocent, despite the fact that
she has confessed to dozens of murders—far fewer than the number that she's
Susan is a much more interesting and colorful character than Archie. The
detective's actions are sometimes difficult to fathom. Falling in love with
Gretchen was, perhaps, understandable given the circumstances of the way they
first met, but his ongoing obsession with her isn't as easy to credit, nor are
his actions in this novel when he is the captive of a disturbed young man.
Susan, on the other hand, seems to see the world exactly as it is. She's a
wealth of information, especially about the myriad ways people die. She wants to
write about the media and public's attraction to Gretchen Lowell, and no one is
more fascinated by the killer than Archie, so she covets his input—but he's
been keeping a very low profile.
Of course there are more killings—the necessary catalyst to get Archie out
of his funk and free from the "looney bin"—but the bodies are being
left in places associated with Gretchen's earlier crimes, and she's not someone
known for repeating herself. So the question becomes: Is Gretchen killing again,
or are these murders being committed by a copycat, someone enthralled by the
Gretchen Lowell phenomenon? Perphaps by a group of Gretchen Lowell fanatics who
may have crossed the line between adulation and emulation.
The novel is a fine entry in the series, neither weaker nor significantly
stronger than the previous two books. There's a lot to be said for consistency,
and Cain has found an interesting way in this book to revisit old ground but to
tackle it from a fresh perspective. The novel also has an interesting, ambiguous
ending, as the question of who actually committed a particular crime is never
resolved, and the implications of that uncertainty cast one of Archie's
decisions in a dubious light.
It's difficult to guess where Cain will go next, given the way the book ends,
but there is probably more fertile ground for her to explore when she next decides to revisit Archie, Gretchen, Henry and
Susan in deadly Portland.
Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent
2009. All rights reserved.