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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

‘Kill You Twice’ by Chelsea Cain

Published by Minotaur Books,
August, 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-312-61978-7

Archie Sheridan, a detective at the Major Case Task Force in Portland, Oregon, for years had headed what was termed the Beauty Killer Task Force, dedicated to tracking down and bringing to justice a megalomaniac serial killer whose victims were tortured and killed in gruesome ways, graphically described.  Their target, Gretchen Lowell, a stunning blonde who claims she had killed more than two hundred people, almost claimed Archie as one of her victims, but despite slowly torturing him over a 10-day period [during which time, among other things, she removed his spleen - - without anesthesia, of course], she let him live.  She is now locked up in the forensic psychiatric services ward of the State Hospital.

Six years later, now forty-one, Archie has only recently returned to work after two years on medical leave.  He is called to a murder scene as the book opens; soon after another body is discovered with striking similarities.  As Archie says about Portland, it is “known for its blush-tinted scenery, and its serial killers.”  There is still a strong connection between Archie and Gretchen, and ultimately he accedes to her calls asking him to come see her, at which point she says she can help him find the killer.  His scars, which still itch and sometimes bleed, are a constant reminder of her brutality, but he can no sooner escape them than he can the power and sexual pull she still exerts over him.

The characters in the series are vividly drawn, and fully fleshed out.  Susan Ward, reappearing three months after being fired from the local newspaper, the Herald, still very attracted to Archie; Susan’s mother, Bliss, a former hippie, whose “eyes looked sparkly and spacey, like an anesthetized rabbit;” Henry, Archie’s best friend and partner, himself recovering from a narrow escape from death, and trying without much success to keep his relationship with a fellow cop under wraps; Leo Reynolds, an attorney and the son of a drug kingpin whose sister’s killer Archie had caught; among others.

In trademark fashion, as the investigation proceeds and the solution is in sight, the tight plotting grabs the reader by the throat and doesn’t let go till the end, and the author pulls off one unexpected twist after another.  And lest you think the book is entirely comprised of graphic violence, be assured that there are regular doses of humor in these pages.

Parenthetically, in case you’re wondering, the title of this book comes from a couplet:  “Sweet as sugar, hard as ice, hurt me once, I’ll kill you twice.”  If this is your introduction to the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series, you’ll understand it better after you read the book not necessarily an easy read, certainly, but a highly recommended one.  The next book in the series, “Let Me Go,’ is due out in August of 2013, and I for one can’t wait!
Reviewer: Gloria Feit
Chelsea Cain  Journalism, that was my college goal at the University of California, at Irvine. I also went to graduate school in journalism at the University of Iowa where I wrote a column for The Daily Iowan. But there was one thing about journalism that Chelsea says she didn’t like at all: talking to strangers. Writing books, on the other hand, requires talking to far fewer people. And Iowa City, home of the lauded Iowa Writers Workshop, was full of people writing books. Then she moved from Iowa to Portland to New York and back to Portland with brief stays in Florida and Pennsylvania, and in the process wrote a dozen books over the next ten years, but not all were published.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

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