Top critical review
72 people found this helpful
on July 21, 2008
Second novels in a series are notoriously hard to write: the honeymoon period of just getting to know the characters is over, and look for more depth and roundness, while still demanding more of the 'good stuff' from the first novel.
If you loved _Heartsick_, you'll probably like this one. Like, not love, though. She's toned down the gruesome and replaced it with monumentally needless graphic sex and a metric ton of f-bombs. Even the exposition uses the naughty word. It makes her seem to be trying just a bit too hard to be gritty, rather like her character Susan who thinks she's edgy but is constantly out-edgied by her mother. And once again, you'll be treated to unnecessary descriptions of what EVERYONE is wearing. Seriously--why do I need to know that a morgue tech who doesn't even get a name or a line of dialogue is wearing corduroys? Or my personal favorite: "'There's a press conference at six,' Ian said. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt he'd bought at the MOMA gift store. 'You want it?'" 'Scuse me, but I'm not sure why I need to know Ian's sartorial choices at this particular juncture? Relevant to plot? No. Relevant to mood? No. Relevant to character building? Nope, we already know Ian pretty well. His clothes haven't changed from his carefully overdescribed wardrobe in _Heartsick_.
Because, oh yes, everyone's back. Remember that Molly Palmer story Susan was trying to promote in novel one? It's back, and apparently a key to a really rather trite and played out conspiracy-of-dunces scandal. And once again, the fresh dead bodies seem to take second stage to the older dead bodies, victims of Gretchen. Susan's less annoying this time, but Archie goes from a sympathetic character to a whingeing sad-sack. Take that as a double-entendre if you wish.
Gretchen is unrealistically prescient--maybe she's secretly psychic. I won't blow the plot, but please do google naloxone and vicodin before you read the climax, and you'll figure out that All is Not Right in Sciencetown. Moreover, what an *odd* thing to pack in a handbag. I'll have to remember that for my next romantic getaway.
What no one seems to remark about this series is how bloody sexist it is. Gretchen, great spooky serial killeress, dangerous yet apparently stunning at, ahem, *pleasing* men. She makes men murder for her. How? Why? By the power of her hot bod. She reminds me of what is called, in fan-fiction (shudder) "Mary Sue." Gretchen is Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS with a bit more (but not much more) medical training. Either that or she's straight out of Freudian Thanatos imagery. All she needs is some teeth down 'thar'.
Some of the physics need to be reworked as well. I suspect that it's unlikely for a woman of Gretchen's delicate build to be able, one-armedly, to haul a man's body backwards across carpet. Does the author even try these things at home? Even these basic ones? (I don't hold the botched splenectomy from book one against her, nor do I expect her to drink Drano in pursuit of literary veritas, but surely she could get a male friend to lie on the carpet and be dead weight?)
The gross is gone, the sadism is gone, the spooky only shows up at the school scene (which is quite good), and I'm sad to say but a good bit of the mysterious tarnish has worn off Gretchen. Like any woman, she just wants to be (sniff sniff) loved. And laid. Archie is trapped, but only because she can't wash that man right outa her blond flowing tresses.
Cain promises us 'more Gretchen to come.' I'm not on the edge of my seat. This book did not grip me, and I like the thriller genre. I came to this book with visions of Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series in mind, or at least Tess Gerritsen. This was okay, but honestly, there's better stuff out there, whatever you want--creepier killers, scary medical stuff, murder conspiracies. My recommendation? Wait for paperback.