The fifth in a series of thrillers about Portland Detective Archie Sheridan and his arch-nemesis and former lover Gretchen Lowell is both grisly and well-written: two crucial elements in a thriller worth the read. The essence of the plot is that horrendous murders are happening in apparently random ways, with only one linking piece of evidence that no one as yet understands. Detective Sheridan receives a summons to visit Gretchen, also known as the infamous “Beauty Killer,” a sadistic serial killer who is doing life in a psych ward for the criminally insane and who still maintains a psychic link with the former lover she tortured and nearly killed in a previous novel in this series. She is willing to direct Sheridan to the copycat killer he is now hunting – the “why” is played out in this novel, which unveils a whole new history of the “lovely” Gretchen.
Sheridan is mostly recovered from his horrific maiming and near-death experience at the hands of the Beauty Killer, but still suffers serious confusion about his emotional attachment to her, and it is this confusion–even as his physical healing and reduced dependency on painkillers enables him to take up his detective shield again–that lies at the essence of Kill You Twice.
Unfortunately, I have only read this fifth in the series, and there was evidently a history in and among most of the characters populating Kill You Twice which only became somewhat clearer as I made headway in this novel. Fortunately, there is sufficient depth to the characters and plot to make the (unnecessarily) bloody details a little less intolerable. Also, the character of Susan is beautifully scripted—she is a neurotic, vulnerable but brave woman with a difficult history and a strong hero worship/attraction to Archie. Her struggle with her own neurotic behavior is as poignant as her relationship to her hippie sixty-something mother Bliss is a hoot. Susan provides a much-needed and useful counterpoint to the deadly allure of Gretchen.
There are enough revelations at the end of this novel to tie up a lot of loose ends and I’m not sure where author Cain will go from here, as she’s already written two more “Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell” thrillers. I somehow doubt I will go back and read novels one through four of the series, but author Cain has a talent with the genre that can’t be denied and I might just pick up the next two in the series.