I was wrong, and I admit it. I truly believed that the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell novels would be limited to a trilogy --- HEARTSICK, SWEETHEART and EVIL AT HEART --- and that their author, Chelsea Cain, would then turn her attention and considerable talents elsewhere. Then came THE NIGHT SEASON, which demonstrated that she had more to show and tell about homicide detective Sheridan and homicidal maniac (there is no other way to describe her) Lowell, and their complicated personal and professional relationship. Now we have KILL YOU TWICE, the latest installment in the series, wherein Cain demonstrates that she is just getting things started.
“Cain refuses to engage in cookie-cutter plotting, instead utilizing a fascinating group of primary and secondary characters to keep things moving…. While KILL YOU TWICE is constructed upon a puzzling mystery, it is the characters and dialogue that make the book hum, thrum and shine.”
Cain refuses to engage in cookie-cutter plotting, instead utilizing a fascinating group of primary and secondary characters to keep things moving. Each and all of them have backstories that can, and often do, affect and propel events in each book’s here and now. The author is slowly but steadily doling out information pertaining to this or that character at this or that point in time, and utilizing a chilling and frightening story as a backdrop. The result is that KILL YOU TWICE is every bit the equal of its predecessors.
The book opens with Sheridan just beginning to crack the crime scene binder as he investigates a horrific murder. He has barely begun the process when he receives a cryptic call from Lowell, who is being treated under close confinement at the Oregon State Hospital. Lowell indicates that she has knowledge of the murderer’s identity and further infers that the killer ultimately has a specific target in mind: her child, who may or may not exist. Meanwhile, reporter Susan Ward, at the request of Lowell’s psychiatrist, visits the heavily medicated --- and physically deteriorating --- Lowell, who gives her a number of vague clues and hints to pass on to Sheridan. Sheridan is still suffering from the residuals of his ill treatment by Lowell, even as he remains by turns repelled by and obsessed with her.
Sheridan’s personal life is further complicated by the emotional aftereffects of his divorce, as well as his unresolved feelings for Ward. Then there is Sheridan’s new neighbor, a dangerously attractive woman who bears an unsettling resemblance to Lowell. It is the murder investigation, though, that takes front and center stage here. When another body is discovered, unsettling similarities to a series of murders stretching decades into the past are uncovered, all of which had previously been attributed to Lowell. Sheridan is forced to confront the possibility that another killer has been operating off the radar. Worse yet, he may have to accept Lowell’s offer, however misguided, to help. The question, of course, is how much her assistance will cost him and those he cares about.
While KILL YOU TWICE is constructed upon a puzzling mystery, it is the characters and dialogue that make the book hum, thrum and shine. Ward’s mother, the ubiquitous Bliss, is perhaps even more mentally disturbed than Gretchen. We all know a Bliss --- there is a neighborhood in my metropolitan area that is just full of Blisses, and I would rather be locked in a room with Gretchen --- but I will never listen to another Rolling Stones song (and I play one of those first five albums nearly every day) without thinking of this book and Bliss. Oh, the humanity. And if anyone ever says “pray with me” again, I will more likely take off running than take a knee. Still, this winter I am going to go back and revisit the entire series while such a thing is manageable.
Cain reveals one of her influences in the book’s dedication, and it indicates that she has many more stories to tell before she sleeps. As for KILL YOU TWICE? I don’t know if it’s the best in the series, but it’s my favorite to date. For so many reasons.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 9, 2012