With Beauty Killer Gretchen Lowell locked away behind bars once again, Portland detective Archie Sheridan can finally rest. Meanwhile, the city of Portland is in crisis. Several people have drowned in heavy rains that have flooded the Willamette River. But the medical examiner discovers that in fact the latest victim was poisoned before she went into the water—she didn’t drown. A little detective work shows that so far three of those previously thought to be accidental drownings have actually been murdered. Portland has a new serial killer on its hands, and Archie and his task force have a new case. Meanwhile reporter Susan Ward is following up on an entirely separate mystery: the dramatic flooding has unearthed a skeleton, a man who might have died during catastrophic flooding more than sixty years ago that washed away an entire neighborhood and killed at least 15 people.
As Archie follows the bizarre trail of evidence and evil deeds to catch his killer, he has to battle the rising waters of the Willamette first.
Late last year, a publicist for St. Martin’s whom I follow on Twitter tweeted a photo of the advanced readers copy of Chelsea Cain’s THE NIGHT SEASON. I begged for a copy. I wasn’t the only one. And Liz was great to send out a half dozen or so ARCs for review. THE NIGHT SEASON releases today.
I’ve made no secret about reading thrillers almost exclusively. Or the fact that I love recurring casts. Rizzoli and Isles. Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne. In THE NIGHT SEASON, Chelsea Cain brings back the team of Archie Sheridan, Susan Ward, Henry Sobol, et al. The one character she doesn’t bring back as part of the plot is Gretchen Lowell. That’s right. This isn’t an Archie and Gretchen book. Gretchen’s presence is always felt, always influencing Archie, and she does make an appearance. But this is a straightforward thriller, one missing the psychological twists of an Archie and Gretchen story. That doesn’t make it any less a success, any less compelling and suspenseful, or any less a twisted plot.
It’s storming in Portland, Oregon, the Willamette River rising, the city in danger of flooding in an eerie parallel to a real life flood that swept away the working town of Vanport decades before. Three bodies, drowning victims, have washed up, as well as a partial skeleton which Susan Ward quickly connects to the Vanport disaster.
When a fourth victim is found draped on a carousel ostrich at an amusement park, the medical examiner makes a stunning discovery that connects the drowning victims – none of whom are drowning victims at all. No, each is a victim of a deadly toxin and all have been poisoned by a killer seeking vengeance for wrongs brought to light by Susan’s Vanport story. The search for the killer becomes personal when one of Archie’s team is attacked. It’s a race against time to keep others from falling prey, and to do so while the city is under siege from the continuing deluge.
I’ve been a fan of Cain since Heartsick. She is fearless in making her characters suffer, and she shows no mercy in THE NIGHT SEASON. Watching Archie and his team pull together the clues and battle the raging river made the book impossible to put down, especially with the ticking clock of the poisoned team member. There were secondary characters to root for and to mourn, and heart stopping rescues and losses.
If I had any quibble, it was with the weakly (imo) and rushed explanation of the killer’s motivation. And I wanted more from the “keys” left at the crime scenes. The story of the killer’s “apprentice” seemed tacked on. He was a great character, and I loved how smart he was as the book reached its climax, but the motive for his being there at all felt thin. None of that kept me from enjoying THE NIGHT SEASON immensely. Cain is one of “my” authors who doesn’t write fast enough, and since she’s already said in an interview that the next book will be more grisly, I can’t wait.