Evil at Heart is the third book in the thrilling Gretchen Lowell series. With the escape of Gretchen (from the previous book Sweetheart), the media is going crazy. There are Beauty Killer tour buses; people wear “Run, Gretchen” t-shirts; Gretchen’s face graces the cover of practically every periodical. Archie Sheridan is relaxing in the psych ward of Providence Medical Center, finally kicking his Vicodin addiction and getting help for the years of emotional and mental torture Gretchen inflicted on him. Meanwhile, eyeballs and a spleen are found at a rest stop bathroom. Then other body parts are found at former Beauty Killer crime scenes, prompting police to assume that Gretchen is back or that there’s a copycat killer on the loose. Can Archie be convinced to leave the psych ward and pursue the killer?
At the forefront of this novel is the influence of the media. Every news channel, magazine, and newspaper is running stories about Gretchen Lowell. Because of the extensive media coverage, people are seeing her as a celebrity: someone to look up to or admire. I think the media in reality is very guilty of doing this. The constant coverage of dubious figures creates interest in them and a fan base. In the novel, there are fan clubs and “I Heart Gretchen Lowell” sites, as well as a Beauty Killer manicure and look-a-like contests. I was shocked that people were going to crazy about her. Gretchen Lowell becomes part of everyone’s life because she’s everywhere, whether they like it or not. I never thought about this in the course of the first two novels, but it really makes sense. This is the aspect of the book that I found the most interesting.
Needless to say, I love this series. An insane and calculated mind like Gretchen’s really can’t be found in any other novel. Every time I try to guess what will come next, I am horribly wrong and surprised. The plot twists and turns and goes places I never expect. I love that the steampunk subculture plays a small role in this book, as well as a back suspension scene that could have been taken right out of Takashi Miike’s film Ichi the Killer. This book is a fast paced read with surprises around every corner. If you are in any way squeamish, you should probably skip this series. For the rest of us, I can’t wait to see what comes next for Archie and Gretchen.