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Untimely Book Review: Let Me Go(2013) by Chelsea Cain

Nothing epitomizes the untimeliness of this blog, Untimely Culture, more than writing a review of a book from 4 years ago that is the 6th, and thus far final, book of a series as the first review of any sort on a blog that is, ostensibly, about popular culture and media. It would seem logical that, in order to not alienate my intended audience, that I would go back to the first book of the series, Heartsick, which was published in 2007(which would still, clearly, make it rather untimely). However, I refuse to be cowed into submission by your societal expectations. Instead, I will review the book that I finished last week, Let Me Go, and you’ll deal with it.

Never let it be said that I am not both untimely and unpredictably stubborn. Now that we have that out of the way, why don’t we get to the actual review?

Oh, and a word of warning, I don’t have any qualms about spoilers, and in fact enjoy them, so I will rarely, if ever, give a spoiler warning in anything I write. If this isn’t your jam, I would avoid reading anything I write about something you’re afraid will be spoiled. Also, I would point you to some great research that shows that spoilers actually increase enjoyment of media. But to each their own, right?

As I stated at the top, Let Me Go by Chelsea Cain is the 6th, and most recent, book in the ongoing saga of Detective Archie Sheridan, freelance journalist Susan Ward, and brutal serial killer Gretchen Lowell. In the previous 5 volumes of this saga, we have seen that Archie, the leader of the Portland Police Department’s Major Crimes Task Force, which began life as the Beauty Killer Task Force, is a very damaged man. Before Heartsick, the first novel in the series, even began, he had been tortured nearly to death by the Beauty Killer(the aforementioned Gretchen Lowell), who he also happened to be having an affair with. Granted, he didn’t know that she was the serial killer when he started sleeping with her(he wasn’t quite that damaged then), but it is clear that this relationship is not one of the healthy variety. Through the course of the first 5 books, the reader has been treated to an evolution of that relationship, at least on Archie’s end, from obsession to fixation to, at least it seems at the beginning of this novel, somewhat revulsion.

At the same time, the true female lead of the series, intrepid(and occasionally incompetent) reporter Susan Ward has gone from a horribly dysfunctional staff writer for the Portland Herald, who was sleeping with her older, married boss, to a not quite as dysfunctional freelance journalist, who is dating the son of a drug trafficker who also happens to be an undercover DEA agent while being madly in love/infatuation with the same damaged Archie Sheridan mentioned above.

The final member of the lead trio of these novels, Gretchen Lowell, has gone from being a high-security prisoner to being an escaped felon to being an inmate in a mental hospital to, as this novel opens, being an escaped felon, yet again. Considering she is supremely sadistic serial killer who has killed upwards of a confirmed 50 people with many more suspected, her being out and about, doing as she pleases, is less than optimal.

I should stress that these books, while fantastic and highly recommended for the entire series, are batshit insane. Whether it is the exploration of the darker sides of desire(Archie is, as this novel opens, sleeping with his downstairs neighbor who looks very much like Gretchen Lowell and, it turns out, is a call girl who has been hired by Gretchen for exactly this purpose), the seedier sides of covering crimes in media(Susan often hits roadblocks when trying to tell both her and Archie’s stories in relation to Gretchen), or the crazy lengths that police go to to do their job(all the cops in these books are a bit too invested in their cases for anybody’s good), Cain is able to make these novels, about some seriously disturbing shit, some of the most entertaining types of absolute mayhem that you can hope to find on the printed page. From the opening pages to the closing moments, it is impossible not to root for Archie and Susan to both defeat their opponents and realize that they should be together, goddammit! It also, in a much more shocking way, makes it almost impossible to not feel something resembling fondness for the serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, who clearly cares deeply about Archie and his life, if not his well-being(she has tortured him on numerous occasions, after all).

If you are a person who enjoys a good serial killer novel, crime thriller, or just a pulpy genre piece, I cannot recommend this entire series highly enough. However, if you think that cursing, sex, and grey areas are things that should not be included in your media consumption, well, I would highly recommend that you find a different blog to read, as I’m probably going to piss you off a lot. Life is too short for that.

In the Archie Sheridan/Susan Ward/Gretchen Lowell series, Chelsea Cain has created a universe that I have truly enjoyed visiting for 6 books. I hope that she visits it again sometime soon but, if not, I will cherish the time she did spend there, as this is one of my favorite series that I’ve read in recent years and I, truly, cannot recommend it highly enough.


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