Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain
Series: Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell, 5
Setting: Portland, Oregon, USA
KILL YOU TWICE is the fifth novel in the series to feature Portland homicide detective Archie Sheridan. Note: This series does not stand alone well at all. There are heavy references to the previous books in the series. The author doesn’t provide much background info to catch readers up. New readers will have to start with the first book, HEARTSICK.
A bit about me: I love to read about damaged people. I do and Archie Sheridan is the epitome of damaged. The series so far has been following Archie and his relationship with a serial killer named Gretchen Lowell, who goes by the moniker of “The Beauty Killer.” Gretchen’s beauty has led many men to kill for her. She is the ultimate femme fatale and as others have noted she’s the female Hannibal Lecter.
Archie was manipulated by Gretchen’s sexual charms and barely escaped alive. She infiltrated his task force, kidnapped him and tortured him in her basement. She carved a heart in his chest that has healed over time. The two of them developed a bond that normal people don’t understand (nor want to) while he was in her basement. The two of them have been playing mind games back and forth with each other. Even behind prison bars Archie can’t escape her. It’s only fitting that those scars on Archie’s chest begin to bleed as Gretchen is once again manipulating Archie, this time from her state hospital bed.
I won’t go into the plot details, as you can read more about the book here along with an excerpt. My thoughts on this entry: solidly written but average read for me. The pacing seemed kind of off and as usual, this book follows the pattern of the earlier novels with a homicide in the city of Portland that takes place three months after the last book ended. Catching up with Archie, he’s off the pain killers and living alone. He’s divorced and sees his kids on the weekends. Even though he still has Gretchen on the brain, he hasn’t been returning the calls to her doctor who seems persistent in getting in touch with him.
In the last book, Gretchen was more in the periphery but in here she has a more significant role. Gretchen uses Susan Ward, an ex-journalist and recurring character in the series, to lure Archie to her, giving her an exclusive story. There are homicides in the background for Archie and his staff to investigate as they chase after another serial killer with a link to Gretchen’s past. We learn more about Gretchen in here and her origins.
My thoughts: I felt the story was padded pretty good with unnecessary details about people’s hygiene and other stuff. This tended to slow the story down a lot. Buried within this 336 page book was a story somewhere. That is my biggest gripe. The author’s dark humor is here but sparsely used. The violence is back in full force but I skipped over some of those details where I could. There are people who enjoy the shock value at what Gretchen can do with her knife and other tools with descriptions that are long, graphic and gratuitous. A bit about the violence, I think a lot of readers have come to expect this from Chelsea Cain and wouldn’t have it any other way. I have a weak stomach and skipped over the gruesome parts. I think out of all of the earlier books this was one more gory which leads me to believe that the author overcompensated since her last book wasn’t as gruesome.
KILL YOU TWICE has it’s moments with Susan and her hippie mother, Bliss, return along with Archie’s partner Henry Sobol. In every book Susan’s hair is a different color. This time around it’s burnt orange. The author continues to insert Portland references which is enjoyable and informative. There’s plenty of angst for Archie and his playing games with Gretchen if you enjoy that sorta thing. Me? I’m kind of over it after five books. I mean I get confused with Archie’s true feelings for Gretchen. Sometimes he throws a curve ball and in here it’s no different. The investigation and it’s findings are somewhat tension filled and suspenseful. The ending gave me a “oh no not again” moment.
I guess fans who continue to enjoy the damaged cop/serial killer dynamic will love this story. The main draw for me is Archie and his being completely effed up. He’s barely hanging on even though he’s clean but he’s on the edge. I guess what was surprising in this book was two things: his unlikely love interest and his relationship with Susan. I won’t say more on the latter but it’s not so much surprising but my worst fears realized. The first two books in the series are still the best to me. I thought the series started to plummet with EVIL AT HEART though and has been on a downhill slide ever since then. Kind of hard for me to grade a book that didn’t blow me away and left me underwhelmed. Not bad but not great either. My grade, C. The reading order for the series is here.
Source: Publisher sent me a finished copy