40 Forever: The Beauty Killer

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Beauty Killer

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Cain, Chelsea. The Night Season. New York: Minotaur Books, 2011.

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Cain, Chelsea. Evil at Heart. New York: Minotaur Books, 2009.

The Beauty Killer series takes place in Portland, Oregon where the elusive serial killer Gretchen Lowell has become a celebrity, mostly because of her good looks. Archie Sheridan is a middle-aged police detective who is
head of the task force to catch her.
In spite of his public marital problems and brief stint in a psychiatric ward, he is a well-respected local hero. An ambitious yet lovable young reporter named Susan Ward tags along after Archie and serves as his sidekick. Susan dresses like Cyndi Lauper, changes her hair color on a daily basis, and is always in trouble with her newspaper editor.

Here’s proof that you don’t need to read series books in order. I started with Evil at Heart which is #3 in the series. It was a little too gory for my taste, but I liked Detective Sheridan and Reporter Susan Ward so much that I
wanted to spend more time with them. I was all set to venture upstairs to the stacks to find the earlier books in the series, but then I spotted
The Night Season in the bestseller section and I couldn’t resist the shiny, new cover. I ended up liking The Night Season better because it doesn’t focus as much on Gretchen Lowell the Beauty Killer. (The series was in danger of jumping the shark when the local amusement park added a Beauty Killer themed ride.) It’s also not as gruesome.

The Beauty Killer books are the first detective novels that I’ve ever fully enjoyed. (I like true crime books, but most mysteries either remind me of boring cop shows, or they’re too corny like Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series* about a cat lady and her sleuthing pets.) Since I don’t usually like fictional detectives, I never would have picked up these books if there had been a sticker of Sherlock Holmes on the spine.

Even though the book trailer makes it seem scary, it’s really more of a comedy than a horror story. If I were a movie director, I’d cast Paul Giamatti (Sideways, John Adams) as Detective Archie Sheridan,

Amanda Bynes (Hairspray, The Amanda Show) as his adoring young sidekick,

and the author herself as Gretchen Lowell the Beauty Killer.

*Many of Rita Mae Brown’s books take place in Crozet, Virginia which is hosting the amazing
Campout East musical festival this summer.

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