Starting a new series can be a tricky thing for an author. Will readers follow you to another series, especially one that’s very different from the old familiar one?
Chelsea Cain needn’t worry. Since 2007, she’s been writing a series of twisty and twisted thrillers about Portland cop Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell, the serial killer who seduced and nearly killed Archie. Cain’s books are grim and fun at the same time, throwing great characters like young newspaper reporter Susan Ward into the horrific dance between Sheridan and Lowell to lighten the tone occasionally.
Cain is trying something very different with “One Kick,” a new books that kicks off a new series following Kit “Kick” Lannigan, a 21-year-old with a horrifying past. As a child, she was kidnapped by a stranger who held her in captivity for five years, molesting her and making her the star of many child pornography movies that live on a decade after she was rescued from Mel, her captor.
As a 21-year-old, Kick is training her body and gathering weapons for … something. She doesn’t know quite what, but she goes into high alert every time a child turns up missing.
Finally, after the disappearance of a young boy named Adam, Kick is approached by Bishop, a frustratingly smug and enigmatic man, apparently independently wealthy, who recruits her to help him find Adam and other missing children.
With the life of Kick’s brother threatened by a predator from their childhood – and Kick’s life and sanity in the balance – Kick goes to work, an emotionally frayed but lethal avenging angel, striking out to save children from the same fate that befell her.
Cain’s readers will find some familiar elements in “One Kick,” including an annoying mother and some unhealthy relationships. And there are some queasy moments of visceral gore.
But “One Kick” and Kick Lannigan are very different animals from Archie or Gretchen or Susan. As personal as Gretchen’s assault was to Archie, there’s nothing as horrible, as cruel, as the toll that child exploitation takes on its victims. It’s to Cain’s credit that her story adequately conveys this weight at the same time it turns the characters and situations into fodder for a gripping crime novel.