Fresh Meat: Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain

Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain
Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain
Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain is a contemporary suspense novel and the fifth book in her series featuring Portland homicide detective Archie Sheridan and serial killer Gretchen Lowell (available August 7, 2012).

Nothing makes Portland detective Archie Sheridan happier than knowing that Gretchen Lowell—the serial killer whose stunning beauty is belied by the gruesome murders she’s committed—is locked away in a psych ward. Archie can finally heal from the near-fatal physical and emotional wounds she’s inflicted on him and start moving on with his life.

To this end, Archie throws himself into the latest case to come across his desk: A cyclist has discovered a corpse in Mount Tabor Park on the eastern side of Portland. The man was gagged, skinned, and found hanging by his wrists from a tree. It’s the work of a killer bold and clever enough to torture his victim for hours on a sunny summer morning in a big public park and yet leave no trace.

And then Archie gets a message he can’t ignore—Gretchen claims to have inside knowledge about this grisly murder. Archie finally agrees to visit Gretchen, because he can’t risk losing his only lead in the case. At least, that’s what he tells himself . . . but the ties between Archie and Gretchen have always been stronger, deeper, and more complex than he’s willing to admit, even to himself. What game is she playing this time? And even more frightening, what long-hidden secrets from Gretchen’s past have been dredged up that someone would kill to protect?

I am such an unabashed fangirl for this series that when the opportunity presented itself to get my hands on an advance copy I believe I may have offered up one of my vital organs. Given the inventive, and horrifying, ways in which Gretchen Lowell tortures her victims, that almost seems fitting—albeit in a sick and totally inappropriate way.

Chelsea Cain starts Kill You Twice right where the last book, The Night Season, left off. Portland, Oregon, is no longer flooded, but a stink hangs over the city. Tortured, in more ways than one, detective Archie Sheridan is off the cornucopia of pain pills he was once shoveling down like Tic-Tacs and is fighting insomnia. He’s also getting late night phone calls from Patrick, a young boy who played a central role in the previous release. As if his life weren’t complicated enough, work begins to pick up again when it appears they have a new serial killer on the loose—a man who delights in torturing his victims and leaving their bodies in extremely public places.

Into this fray Cain populates her story with her returning cast of characters. Freelance journalist Susan Ward is back, and continues to muck up everything seemingly by just existing. Archie’s main partners with the Task Force, Henry and Claire, are also back and with exciting news to share that Archie seems too distracted to notice. However the one character everyone wants to know about, the one character that was largely absent in the previous book, is most definitely back in this one—and with a vengeance. With Kill You Twice, Cain more than makes up for the sheer lack of Gretchen in The Night Season. Gretchen is everywhere here, pulling the strings even as she’s lying doped up in a mental hospital; toying with Archie even when he refuses to go see her—until, of course, he can no longer refuse. This is where Cain excels in hooking her reader, by displaying the chemistry she creates between her two fascinating characters.

“Hello, sweetheart,” he said.

She tried to shift her position, and then raised her head and looked down at the leather straps that bound her wrists to the sides of her bed. She dropped her head back on the pillow and smiled at him.

“What are these?” she said. “Afraid I might hurt you?”

Archie got up off the windowsill and walked slowly to her bedside. He kept his hands in his pockets so he could let his fingers brush against the three Vicodin he had stashed there. He leaned close to her, slowly. He had to do everything slowly around Gretchen, because if he didn’t, he’d make a mistake, show her too much.

“No,” he said, in a low whisper. “I just like seeing you tied up.”

Her nostrils flared and she smiled again, her once white teeth now a pale shade of gray. “There’s my boy,” she said. Her eyes were bloodshot, but they were still very blue. She traveled his body with her eyes.

“I thought you’d come sooner, so you could see what you’ve done to me,” she said.

What makes this series so compulsively readable are not only the characters, the chemistry, the shocking brutality and starkness of the writing—but also the flashes of dark humor. Archie and Gretchen are at their best when they’re playing off of each other, looking for any way to attack and cloud the judgment of the other.

“I don’t want you seeing Susan,” he said. “You need to leave her out of this.”

“Out of what, darling?” Gretchen said.

He knew what she wanted to hear. But he hated saying it. “Us.”

She gave him a pretend pout. “You weren’t returning my calls.”

“I’ve been seeing other serial killers,” Archie said. “I knew you’d be jealous.”

A book like this needed a book like The Night Season to precede it. That previous entry was a step back for Cain in every good way. It gave fans a breather from Gretchen, a character who could very easily “jump the shark” without a deft hand. Now that we’re all back from vacation, we’re once again ready for more Gretchen, more chances for her and Archie to dance around each other. It also is a book, in a lot of ways, which pushes Cain’s other characters into a breaking point situation. Archie, Susan, Gretchen, Henry, Claire—there’s a lot going on here, and a lot that develops over the course of the story. Not only do I now want book six, I wanted it yesterday.


Want to read more? Check out the excerpt of Chapter 1 and our exclusive deep cut excerpt of Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain!

Wendy Crutcher, Fighting For Truth, Justice and the Right to Read What You Want.

Read all posts by Wendy Crutcher on Criminal Element.

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