I met Chelsea Cain when she was only semi-famous, writing a humor column for the Oregonian, just after she had published Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, her hilarious parody of an aging Nancy Drew yearning for the detective days of her youth. Chelsea had just signed a contract for the first in her Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series, now in its sixth volume, Let Me Go. Like the others in the series, it’s a page-turner but not for the faint-of-heart or for the squeamish. Cain’s books feature extreme acts of violence and sexual situations; be warned.
Chelsea’s protagonists are a Vicodin-addicted cop, Archie Sheridan, and the female serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, who is every bit as twisted as Hannibal Lecter, the fictional serial killer to whom Gretchen is often compared. Gretchen and Archie have the same kind of complex relationship that Lecter and Clarice Starling have, but Cain’s intertwined characters are more dependent on one another, creating additional layers of interest that add depth and interest to these thrillers.
Let Me Go is as good as any of the books in the series (my favorite being The Night Season, even though Gretchen’s role there is reduced to a walk-on, because of Cain’s top-notch writing about a devastating Portland flood). My advice is to start with the first book in the series, Heartsick, and read forward. Cain writes pulse-pounding short chapters, with a cliffhanger (just like the Nancy Drew mysteries she loves so much) at the end of nearly every one. Another of Cain’s strengths is her use of Portland locations to give a vivid sense of place to her books, even though Ms. Cain clearly frequents parts of Portland I have never visited.