I've officially entered a mourning period.
No, really. It seems silly when I think about it, but when I turned the last page of Chelsea Cain's third in the Gretchen Lowell serial-killer series, Evil at Heart, I couldn't stop the pang of emptiness that filled my chest. Yikes - a bit dramatic there, huh?
It isn't that I'll never see Gretchen again. As Karen pointed out, Gretchen is Cain's "money maker" and though the other characters have important and compelling roles, the star of the show is Gretchen. I'm confident she'll be recast in Cain's next book - though I'm not sure when I can expect its release.
Maybe that's the issue. Because whenever it is, isn't soon enough.
I'm not alone in my obsession, as Evil at Heart can attest. Several people in the book are wearing the very same "Run Gretchen" t-shirt I'm begging my handsome husband to buy for me, and, gasp, some of them are sipping their daily java from the I'd kill for a cup of coffee mug I think every thriller writer should own.
But at least I haven't started my own Gretchen fan site (aside from several blog posts about a fictional serial killer) - and in Evil at Heart, there are more than four hundred web links devoted to an unhealthy adoration of one of fiction's creepiest - and most beautiful - killers. These sites, naturally, inspire some copycat killings and lure (still) tortured cop Archie Sheridan from the loony bin and back into the field. He's accompanied, of course, by Susan, whose hair is now purple. It must be her colour of power because she's less passive in this book, and Cain's Nancy Drew influences are seeping through.
I can't divulge much of the plot - I wouldn't want to ruin your experience. But in essence, Cain makes a powerful statement about pop culture and society's obsession with celebrities, even those who should not be celebrities. Making stars out of criminals isn't new - I have several movies on my DVD shelf excusing a variety of illegal behaviour - but Cain makes it seem new. Gretchen's face is on billboard posters, on bus advertisements, on TV commercials for the next episode of America's Sexiest Serial Killers (is that a real show?) - it's no wonder Archie can't get her out of his heart, and why the world seems smitten by the Beauty Killer.
As with Heartsick and Sweetheart, there is an apt amount of blood and gore throughout the novel, and some truly amazing parts near the end. Cain has a knack for horror. The subplot is strong, particularly since the "other" murders are executed with Gretche-esque flair. There are the trademark twists that never cease to amaze me, and the beautifully constructed sentences that make me weep with envy. The ending is crisp. The emotions are brilliantly evoked. In short, it's spectacular.
The whole series is incredible.
And now it's over. Finished. Kaput.
For only Cain knows how long. Sigh.
I'm struggling with what to read next. I know that Cain is not the only writer in the world to inspire such literary passion, but after reading all three of her books so close together, I'm trying to decide whether to switch genres altogether or stick with thriller - especially since I've absorbed so much about thriller writing craft just from reading about Gretchen. (My Mario seems like such a pansy by comparison...)
To say Cain's novels are perfectly written would be a lie - what book is? But to suggest they are written with brilliance simply isn't saying enough.
So, RUN Gretchen. As fast as you can.