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Onyx reviews: Let Me Go by Chelsea Cain

Halloween is approaching and Gretchen Lowell costumes are all the rage. The task force trying to locate her after her most recent escape think she's long gone, but Archie Sheridan knows that the beautiful serial killer won't stay away for long. She's not through with him yet, and perhaps never will be. Besides, she could hardly be expected to miss his birthday. What sort of gift will she give him this year? Another scar? And what does his no-strings-attached downstairs neighbor Rachel have in mind for the occasion?

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His main concern at the beginning of Let Me Go, the sixth book in the series, is the murder of a DEA agent, one of the men handling Leo Reynolds, the son of a local drug lord who is now working undercover inside the organization. Archie's afraid the murder means Leo's cover has been blown but the young man, who is now dating Archie's protégé, former reporter Susan Ward, is intent on seeing his mission through to the end. He's very close, he claims, to wrapping the entire organization up and delivering it to the Feds, tied up with a neat bow.

Leo is off the radar, so Archie and Susan independently decide to make contact by going to a huge masked ball on Reynolds' private island. Because of the high security, Archie can't wear a wire, so he's flying solo. The bizarre party ends with Archie unconscious, missing several hours of the night. The next day, the body of a young woman Archie encountered at the party is found near the island. Archie thinks Gretchen Lowell is involved, but it isn't until security footage from the party shows up that he discovers (to his horror or delight?) how involved she was. 

Archie's relationship with this serial killer—she was his lover when she was part of the task force trying to discover who was responsible for the murders she was committing—has always been complex. The affair (shown in more intimate detail than ever before in flashbacks) broke up his marriage, but he's still obsessed with her and she still has the power to seduce him, even after she kidnapped and tortured him, removing his spleen (a detail that has a surprising payoff here). He's still a member of the task force, but it's not clear that he really wants to capture her, and he most definitely does not want to see her killed. Something about her domination and the pain she likes to inflict on him, even during sex, excites him. He's playing a dangerous game with the heavy-duty prescription pharmaceuticals that caused him trouble in the past, too.

Gretchen's birthday gift is a huge surprise, paying off something Cain set up in the previous book. However, she has a second gift for Archie: she wants to help him catch the person who killed the partygoer. To guarantee his cooperation, she takes Susan hostage, leading to a twisty, turny adventure in underground tunnels once used by rumrunners. Archie's body suffers more physical abuse and Gretchen has her own particular way with a number of dangerous men before all is said and done.

This is a fast-paced, brutal, gory, gripping, and occasionally tense novel that makes for a quick read. It's not perfect, though. Cain's reliance on coincidence can stretch credibility at times, and Gretchen is too clever to be real. Can't she make a mistake every now and then? Isn't there someone who's too powerful for her to take on or who can get—even temporarily—the upper hand? The resolution of the murder of the DEA agent, the event that launches the novel, is less than satisfactory, too. Cain also has a tendency toward repetition. Does everyone who comments about Archie's captivity have to state that it was precisely ten days? Couldn't someone say "nearly two weeks"? 

The book takes Gretchen and Archie's relationship to the next level. Both have moral compasses that are in constant drift and one of these days when they're together their red-hot affair is going to set off a nuclear explosion. More important, though, is the developing relationship between Archie and Susan. The age difference is significant but readers are likely cheering them on. The connection between them is strong, and they have one scene of close physical contact that affects them both, plus a resolution that puts them in a comfortable place. It's nearing time for them to "get a room," or at least admit the mutual affection and see where it goes. Gretchen will always be a thorn in their sides, but they shouldn't let a sociopath get between them.

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