I normally don’t read the serial killer genre, as it’s not something that appeals to me. So imagine my surprise at falling in love with Gretchen Lowell. I still remember the day I met Gretchen; May 8th of this year. She was thrilling and beautiful. Once we were introduced I couldn’t let go. You, dear reader, probably think I’m crazy at this point. Let me explain how I met Gretchen and who my true love really is, but if you’ve read my fictional men I love post then you’ve already met him.
As previously mentioned, on May 8th I met Gretchen Lowell. I came across news announcing FX had bought the rights to develop a series based on a beautiful serial killer and a damaged police detective. My interest was piqued and searched for the first book. The synopsis was interesting and when I noticed my local library had the first book in the series, Heartsick, I immediately requested it. That evening I couldn’t walk away from Archie and Gretchen. I read the entire series in a week and cursed myself for reading too fast. Since that day, I’ve never looked back.
There’s something thrilling about solving a mystery. Whether or not you’re a mystery fan, I believe we all have a fondness for the thrill of the chase. For me, it’s the satisfaction of proving my instincts were correct. Then again, I love the ones that leave you reeling and breathless. Those make of point of proving to me that although I was off, I too have met a worthy opponent that would make any detective proud. Detectives do get it wrong in real life and like them I have no control over the outcome.
What makes the Cain series so special to me is not trying to figure out Gretchen Lowell; although I admit I do try. It’s the emotions. Archie’s emotions are the ones that get to me, but I look back at all five books and realize that each principal character has become a piece of me. I can relate to Susan’s awkwardness and her use of facts. I’ve been known to insert useless facts in company and happily recite what I know, for example: a historical fact. Archie’s inability to forgive himself for his mistake (my lips are sealed regarding this) and holding on to the past resonates with me. Then I scare myself because I want to be Gretchen. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to BE Gretchen, but the beautiful Gretchen. The one that makes men stop in their tracks and suddenly I envy her. Only in the looks department, not the psychopath she is and I remind myself that while her beauty stops traffic, it also comes with a whole bunch of other problems. Of course we also have Henry with his protective nature and always watching out for Archie. Sometimes I think Gretchen envies his friendship with Henry. Gretchen may be able to get what she wants, but she’ll never have a Henry in her life. Archie is lucky to have Henry’s support.
There’s been a lot of talk about Archie among readers. Some insist he has Stockholm Syndrome and in fact during our nightly discussion of Heartsick, I brought up the question. I’ve always believed (and still do) that no, he doesn’t have it. As we progress through the series we see why he can’t let go of Gretchen. Never mind the fact he spent ten years tracking the Beauty Killer. My heart aches for him and every time someone tells him to move on, I want to shake them and ask how? How can Archie just move past his mistakes and forget his torture? He came across corpses from the Beauty Killer that no doubt still haunt him. He never asked to be taken off the task force. Every holiday and birthday celebration for his children, if a phone call came in about a new body, he was there. His personal family life was put on the back burner so he could he find a monster and let the public feel at ease and at peace.
I know I’ve asked the question of how much more torture Archie can endure. Cain has proven Archie is strong and resilient. I still cringe at the scene in Evil At Heart with the hooks. The Archie we first meet in Heartsick isn’t the same we see in Kill You Twice. He’s grown stronger and at ease with his inner demons. As you know, I’m not ashamed to admit that I love him. Of all my fictional boyfriends, he’s at the top of the list. What he does in The Night Season for Susan made me cry. His concern for her in Kill You Twice broke me. He many not think himself worthy of love, but he’s wrong. He is and although he claims to be “emotionally retarded,” we know he’s not. And because of what he is and his actions, he’s number one.
Cain makes me love all of her characters regardless of their background. Yes even the psychotic ones. When something happens to Susan I begin to worry. If a secondary character dies I sob for hours. Cain always leaves me an emotional mess for days after. I walk around town in a sort of a zombie state wondering why no one else is affected the way I am. Do they not know Archie was _____ or that Susan admitted _______? What about what Gretchen just did? Ack! I stop myself and take a deep breath and continue to read.
Characters in a series become your friends. I love saying hi to Archie and the gang. I’m always surprised at how much I missed them and don’t realize it until I reach the end of the book. I skim favorite passages from a new book for days. When I finally put them away I’m sad, but then remind myself I can visit anytime I want. Five books await my visit anytime with a few more in the future.
Yes, in many ways I owe my relationship with Cain’s books to Gretchen. Like Archie I can’t forget the day I met her and she’s always with me.