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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Chelsea Cain's sinister storytelling shines on in The Night Season

When we last left Portland detective Archie Sheridan,he had managed to recapture his alluringly evil nemesis Gretchen Lowell,aka The Beauty Killer, and is now able to turn his attention back to the usual pressing police matters before him.

At the moment,everyone's attention is locked onto the rising of the Willamette River,thanks to the massive rain falls in the area,and the increasing dangers besetting the population at large due to persistent flooding.

Unfortunately,another chilling complication has emerged with the discovery of several bodies that were first believed to be drowning victims. Upon closer examination,which is difficult to do when the morgue is filling up with water,it seems that a rare poison is the true cause of death here.

As Archie and his investigative team try to see if they have a new serial killer on deck,reporter Susan Ward slips into the case with her regular brand of snarky smarts.

Her current interest in unearthing fresh information about the infamous Vanport flood back in 1948(a historic local disaster that echoes eerily towards the watery onslaught going all around them)turns out to have a few ties to the present rash of strange killings,especially with one particular key clue.

As more victims and clues rise to the surface,the stakes for Archie to find this killer grow higher as a member of his team is struck down by the mysterious murderer and his unknown toxin for which there is no known antidote.

To make matters worse,the person that he's searching for is well aware of Susan's interest in the case and the Vanport flood,making her a potential target.

The oddness factor is also on the rise as the killer has a pair of unusual accomplices,a kidnapped child and a set of blue ringed octopuses,the source of the paralyzing poison that gives his prey a slow yet steady demise:

In a race against time,nature and demented determination,Archie and Susan rely on their offbeat style of reluctant teamwork to hopefully save the day. However,this particular species of serial killer might be able to scent their blood in the water and pull them under without a chance of warning or survival.

The real challenge for author Chelsea Cain with The Night Season is in keeping interest in Archie Sheridan and Susan Ward in a story that doesn't have charismatic Gretchen Lowell,the villainous thread that links her first three suspense novels together, on hand.

Cain does exceptionally well in that regard,as her firm grip on the characters and the nuances of the plot keep the reader enthralled to finding out what happens next. As much as it was freaky fun to watch Archie match wits with Gretchen,the success of any other books in this series depends upon him being able to go up against other worthy opponents,with Susan by his side,and this fourth round is a solid knockout read:

The Night Season is now on sale at a bookseller near you and a good choice for newcomers to check out Cain's riveting prose style as well. While I've only read the first two novels in the series(Heartsick and Sweetheart) and plan to catch up on the third one,Evil at Heart,it was easy to pick up the rhythm of Archie Sheridan's world yet again.

One thing that's constant in Chelsea Cain's Portland is that misery loves company,no matter how cruel,and even metaphorical waters are dangerous to wade in alone:

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