From the Publisher
“She's the most twisted--and most beautiful--serial killer on the planet, and she's back... It's not to be missed.” USA Today
“You have to hand it to Cain, who's made the serial-killer genre a thoroughly female-friendly experience. . . . [She] churns stomachs with a delicate touch.” The New York Times Book Review
“Remember the old debate about which is mightier, the pen or the scalpel? In Evil at Heart, both are in the same hands, and both cut all the way to the bone.” The Oregonian
“Cain is among a new breed of women writers stepping way out of the stereotypical female comfort zones… serving up meatier and more gruesome stories…. Cain knows how to keep readers fortified with psychological drama.” Chicago Sun Times
“The narrative bounces along with Cain's trademark mix of tight plotting, creepy characters, and body parts.” Charlotte Observer
“Cain continues to display her remarkable ability to probe the psyches of her characters... Popular entertainment--the kind that mixes crime, horror, and even a little black comedy--just doesn't get much better than this.” Booklist (starred review)
This unconventional thriller brings together Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell, certainly one of the oddest couples in crime fiction history. Homicide detective Sheridan has somehow survived the ordeals recounted in Heartsick and Sweetheart and is resting not so comfortably in an Oregon hospital, attempting to cure his addiction to Vicodin and his obsession with serial killer Lowell. Meanwhile, "Beauty Killer" Gretchen is still on the run and rapidly becoming an improbable folk hero, complete with fan websites and slay site fan tours. As if all that is not tasteless enough, new murders begin to surface that raise an ominous question: Are these tribute killings by a copycat or is Gretchen back on the prowl? Taut plots; characters with captivating dysfunctions; an author to watch.
Gretchen Lowell strikes again—or does she?—in bestseller Cain's grisly third thriller to feature the female serial killer who takes sadistic pleasure in taunting Portland, Ore., detective Archie Sheridan (after Sweetheart and Heartsick). A violent attack that leaves body parts in a rest stop bathroom, along with Lowell's signature heart design, persuades Sheridan, a recovering Vicodin addict, to leave rehab and rejoin the hunt for Lowell. As he and newspaper reporter Susan Ward dig deeper, they discover that while the corpses cropping up around town are reminiscent of Lowell's nasty handiwork, they might also point to one of the myriad fan clubs dedicated to the killer, who has become a media sensation since she escaped from prison in Heartsick. Even though readers may wonder how much longer this extended game can play out, Cain delivers her usual blend of organ-ripping, blood-soaked gore and compelling flawed heroes—and antiheroes. (Sept.)
Just two months after serial killer Gretchen Lowell, aka the "Beauty Killer," escapes from police custody (see Sweetheart), body parts begin showing up in random Portland, OR, locales. Meanwhile, devastated Det. Archie Sheridan continues to languish in a mental hospital, while irrepressible journalist Susan Hunt longs to save him and her story. Her story—and the essence of this thriller—goes beyond Gretchen's certifiable status as a psychopathic killer and instead examines society's morbid glorification of gruesome, ritualistic killings. Have Gretchen's despicable acts spawned more evil? Archie reemerges, determined to kill Gretchen this time, but then puzzling inconsistencies suggest that a copycat killer is at work. Archie and Susan match their wits against the opposition, meeting people who defy all the rules and experiencing horrors beyond comprehension. VERDICT This sequel can't top the jaw-dropping horror of Cain's Heartsick, but her snappy pace and sustained creepiness keep the pages turning at a steady clip. Not for the faint of heart, this addictive thriller will be quickly devoured by serial killer addicts. Gretchen Lowell has taken on a persona not unlike Hannibal Lector. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/09; library marketing campaign and 200,000-copy first printing.]—Teresa L. Jacobsen, Solano Cty. Lib., Fairfield, CA
Detective Archie Sheridan (Sweetheart, 2008, etc.) continues his danse macabre with serial killer Gretchen Lowell in what might well be the year's most repellent novel. She's extracted his spleen, hammered nails into his chest, broken his ribs, whittled away at him with an X-Acto knife, but these and an array of other scarifications, emotional as well as physical, have not dampened Archie's ardor. He remains crazy about Gretchen Lowell, aka the Beauty Killer. And crazy, too, in the sense that as the result of her ministrations, he currently resides in Portland, Ore.'s Providence Medical Center, termed by Archie "the loony bin." As for Gretchen, until recently she's been residing in the slammer, where Archie helped put her. Having busted out, however, she's up to her old tricks-murdering with undiminished enthusiasm, leaving her signature heart carved into the torsos of her victims, usually before they're dead. Seldom indeed, when in the hands of Gretchen the grotesque, does anyone die in a hurry. And now, perversely, she's become a media darling. Her glam photographs seem omnipresent. She sells newspapers, she boosts ratings, she has fan clubs: global constituencies, gleefully marking the days their hero has been able to elude slew-footed police forces-76 and counting. So suddenly the question takes on an unsettling nuance. Is it Gretchen and Gretchen alone who's been dismembering and disemboweling? Or has she been joined by copycats? It's enough to get Archie into his clothes, out of the hospital and back into bossing his catch-Gretchen task force, the trauma of it all having driven him sane. Archie wallows in victimhood and Gretchen is a mindless, robotic monster. Is loathsomeness asgood a sales driver as sex? Clearly, Cain's publisher has decided to bet it is.
Read an Excerpt
The rest stop off I-84 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River was vile, even by rest- stop standards. Graffiti covered the white subway- tile walls; the paper- towel and toilet- paper dispensers had been emptied, their contents now strewn on the concrete floor. Two of the metal stall doors were pulled off their top hinges and hung at odd angles. It smelled like a parking- garage stairwell, that peculiar marriage of urine and cement.
Eighteen miles from the nearest bathroom, and they end up at a rest stop trashed by hooligans. There was no alternative. Amy put her hands on her hips and stared at her eleven- year- old daughter.
"Come on, Dakota," she said.
Dakota’s blue eyes widened. "I’m not going in there," she said.
This is what the whole road trip had been like. They had been making the annual drive up from Bakersfield to see Erik’s family in Hood River every summer since Dakota had been a toddler. She had always loved it. This year she had spent the whole trip texting friends and listening to her iPod. Maybe if Dakota hadn’t been
such a little jackass for the last two days, Amy would have been more sympathetic.
"Just squat over the bowl," Amy said.
Dakota bit her lip, leaving a glob of pink lip gloss on her front tooth. "It’s gross," she said.
"Want me to see if the men’s room is any better?" Amy asked.
Dakota’s cheeks flushed. "No way," she said.
"You said you had to go," Amy said. In fact, after not going in the restaurant they had stopped at for dinner, Dakota had quickly begun insisting that her bladder was going to burst and that if it did she was going to use it to seek emancipated minor status under California law. Amy didn’t even know what the fuck that was, but it seemed serious. So here they were, at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere.
There was a banging at the door. "What are you guys doing in there?" Erik called. They were twenty minutes from his sister’s house. If they didn’t get there soon, Amy knew that Erik was going to lose it. He had already been white- knuckling the wheel for the past ten miles. Who was she kidding? She was the one who was going to lose it.
"She doesn’t want to use any of the toilets," Amy called to her husband.
"Then come outside and go behind a tree," Erik called back.
"Dad!" Dakota said.
Amy pushed open the door to the last stall. It was cleaner than the rest, or at least less filthy. Toilet paper in the dispenser. No visible human waste. That was a start. "What about this one?" Amy asked her daughter.
Dakota took a few tentative steps up behind her and peered into the toilet bowl. "There’s something in there," she said, pointing limply to the pale pink water in the bowl.
Amy didn’t have time to explain to her daughter the effect of beets on pee. "Just flush it," Amy said. She turned and walked over
to the row of white sinks and waited. She heard the toilet flush and felt a little bit of the tension bleed from her shoulders. They would be on the road soon. Erik’s sister would have wine waiting. Erik’s sister always had wine waiting.
"Mom?" Amy heard her daughter ask.
Amy turned and saw her daughter standing in the stall, the metal door swung open. Dakota’s face was white, blank, her hands balled into fists. The toilet was overflowing, water spilling over the lid onto the floor, forming a puddle that seemed to almost have a tide. Only there was something in the water. It swirled with veins of red. It looked almost menstrual. And for a second Amy thought, Did Dakota get her period?
The bloody water streaked down along the outside of the white toilet bowl, onto the floor, under Dakota’s sneakers, and toward where Amy stood frozen. There was something in the toilet, something that had bobbed to the surface and now sat at rim level. A piece of something raw. Flesh. Like some maniac had skinned and drowned a rat. It sat on the edge of the bowl for a moment and then slopped onto the floor and slid forward, skimming Dakota’s sneaker and disappearing under the next stall.
Dakota shrieked and scrambled forward out of the stall into Amy’s arms, not even looking back when her iPod slipped from her hands and landed at the base of the toilet with a deadening splash.
Amy forced herself to swallow the warm saliva that rose in her throat, marshaling her will not to gag. It wasn’t a rat. It was definitely not a rat.
"Mom?" Dakota said.
"Yes?" Amy whispered. The iPod was still playing. Amy could hear some tinny pop song coming out of the half- submerged white earbuds. Then, just like that, it stopped.
"I don’t have to go to the bathroom anymore," Dakota said.
Excerpted from Evil At Heart by Chelsea Cain.
Copyright 2009 by Verite Inc.
Published in September 2009 by St. Martin's Press,.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.