BOOK REVIEW: 'The Night Season': Portland's flooding in Chelsea Cain's latest Archie Sheridan thriller

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Night Season': Portland's flooding in Chelsea Cain's latest Archie Sheridan thriller
Portland, Oregon is  flooding and they can't blame it on Beauty Killer Gretchen Lowell in "The Night Season" (Minotaur Books, 336 pages, $24.99) Chelsea Cain's latest Archie Sheridan police procedural/thriller. 
The deadly serial killer beauty,  who tortured Archie in Cain's 2009 novel "Evil at Heart,"  makes an appearance in "The Night Season," but the big villain is the relentless rain and the rising Willamette River that cutsPortland in two. There's an appreciable dialing down of the gore of "Evil at Heart" and "Heartsick" in "The Night Season," but there are subplots that draw on an aspect of Portland's history that many may not be aware of.

When a body turns up at an amusement park, Portland Police  Detective Archie Sheridan  thinks it's just another drowning, until an autopsy reveals strange marks on the corpse. The marks come from the bite of a poisonous octopus, the kind that comes from a place more exotic than the flooding Willamette River. The victim was poisoned before she went into the river.  Still, with the city threatened by the worst flood since May 30, 1948, when  Vanport City, north of the city along the southern banks of the Columbia River,  was wiped out Katrina style when dikes protecting the city collapsed, Archie and the police have their hands full. With a peak population of 40,000 Vanport City was the second largest city in Oregon during WWII.


The picture changes when three more presumed drownings turn out to be murders by venomous octopuses (yes, that's the correct plural, not Octopi, according to an octopus expert in the novel). Portland has a serial killer on its hands and it's not Gretchen Lowell, who is safely behind bars.Archie's friend Susan Ward, a reporter for the Herald (read Oregonian), is covering the story and, in what she thinks is an event unrelated to the drownings, writes a column about a skeleton discovered not far from the site of the lost community of Vanport City, built during World War II to house workers in the shipyards of Portland and Vancouver, WA,  with a population 40 percent black in a state that was once controlled by the Ku Klux Klan. True fact: the college built at Vanport City in 1946 to provide higher education for returning veterans was transferred to downtown Portland after the flood and was renamed Portland State University.  It has the largest enrollment of any university in the state, about 23,000 --bigger than the University of Oregon in Eugene and Oregon State in Corvallis.


The connection between the two bodies becomes apparent as Cain develops a bizarre story of forbidden love, kidnapping, a heroic rescue of a child by Archie, and another cop facing peril. Susan plays a bigger role in "The Night Season" than in the 2009 novel. This is a well-plotted thriller and fans of Cain will enjoy it, as will those of other police procedural thrillers from the likes of Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch)  and John Sandford (Lucas Davenport) to name just two writers and their true-to-life flawed protagonists.


About the author
Chelsea Cain’s first three novels featuring Archie Sheridan—Heartsick, Sweetheart, and Evil at Heart—have all been New York Times bestsellers. Also the author of Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, a parody based on the life of Nancy Drew, and several nonfiction titles, she was born in Iowa, raised in Bellingham, Washington, and now lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.
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