Scott's Reviews > The Night Season

The Night Season by Chelsea Cain
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's review
Jul 22, 2012

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bookshelves: crime, horror
Read in September, 2011

As a proud Portlander, I get a thrill reading Chelsea Cain's murderous novels set in our beloved town. While her villain, the serial killer-psychiatrist Gretchen Lowell, may be the demented love child of Hannibal Lecter and Clarisse Starling, Cain's hero Archie Sheridan is a terrifically Portland creation. A depressed white knight in rumpled clothing, Sheridan is a perfectly Pacific Northwest hero.

Perhaps realizing that Sheridan needed to break out from Gretchen Lowell's shadow, Cain left Lowell on the sidelines (in prison) for most of "The Night Season." Instead, Sheridan gets to track down another serial killer. At first it seems that the murderer might be Mother Nature, as the rising Willamette River is drowning the unwary and is threatening to wash away downtown Portland. But then we discover that some of the victims didn't drown, but were poisoned before hitting the water.

Steeped in local lore, "The Night Season" never quite plumbs the demented depths of Cain's other novels. Cain's best work saw Sheridan at Lowell's mercy, subject to her various loving tortures and schemes. Here, the murderer is rather pedestrian - a poisoner (with an admittedly exotic weapon) acting out some deep-seeded impulses. There's a mildly intriguing subplot involving a young boy who may be working with the killer, but all in all the murderer just isn't all that scary or interesting.

"The Night Season" is a brief book - you can plow through it in a few casual hours - and almost seems like a palate-cleanser for Cain as she decides to take Archie Sheridan, and perhaps Gretchen Lowell, in a new direction. It's not bad by any means, and perhaps one day it will be seen as a crucial minor piece in Cain's overall body of work. But for fans of Cain's novels who anxiously await her next offering, it was more than a bit of a letdown.
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