First, I truly enjoyed both books. I did. One is better than the other. My opinion, subject to my preferences, but there you have it.
Heart Sick revolves around a young reporter chick, a damaged detective whose life no longer belongs to him, and a couple of serial killers. Yes. TWO serial killers. Setting is Portland, Oregon. The first serial killer is in prison and has killed 200 people, including the detective. Yes, she killed him. Yes, she.
I enjoy the revelations which happen throughout the book for all of the characters. Ms. Cain does a fine job of opening her characters up a bit at a time, keeping my interest. The flashbacks to the detective's horrific experience, including his death, are well done. Visualizing the cracking of his ribs with a nail and hammer is brutal. I hurt for Archie's present situation, his inability to live, really live.
As much as I like the reporter, Susan, I dislike her loose ethics. The way she treats other people and their things (especially her living space) really gets under my skin. Maybe it's because I'm a mom of teenagers and am doing my darnedest to teach them respect for others. But I get the why of her behavior and I want to take her in. As long as she stays away from the males in my house.
As for the first serial killer, Gretchen - there should be an entire book written about her. As much as I hate her and don't want to know anything about her (she is truly pure evil), there's a book waiting to be written. Just not by me. Getting into her psyche to write it would have to damage a person's soul, I'd think. Ms. Cain says about her, "The less we know about killers' motives, the scarier they are." She also promises more Gretchen in future novels, so I might be hitting my local bookstore this weekend.
A Field of Darkness - Ms. Read surprised me, what with this being a debut novel and all. Heart Sick reads more or less like a well done first novel. A Field of Darkness does not. Cornelia Read's wit and intelligence saturate the pages. She's earthy, pissy, erudite. I squishy heart her. In fact, I finished her second novel, The Crazy School, just prior to picking up Heart Sick. Ms. Read is amazing.
A Field of Darkness introduces us to a woman, Madeline Dare, whose life is complex and confusing and has generally screwed her over royally. The family background is one of old money from New England, but she was the poor relation, growing up the Bohemian, white trash life in California. The time period for the novel is what surprised me most, I think, set in the late eighties in Syracuse, New York. It's not really a historical piece, but not set in the here and now either. Huh.
Yes, there are murders, which I suppose is why I thought of this book when reading Ms. Cain's. But far from being hard-boiled, or a detective of any sort, Madeline is something of a wuss, snarky as all get out, but just a wounded soul trying to make her way along in a town she despises with a man she loves.
I also had this book in mind all the way through Heart Sick because I was comparing writing styles. A Field of Darkness is SO well done, not reading like a first novel at all, winning me over immediately. There is nothing about the style which screams "thriller" or "murder mystery". It reads like a book which will hold its own for generations. I like that.
Well. I hope some of you are inspired to run out to the bookstore, or at least your local library, and pick up a book this week. Of course I recommend the second if you can get only one, but the first is very good and I recommend it as well. It ends well. Unlike the book I'll be reviewing next week. :)
Until I write again ...