For those unfamiliar with this fascinating series (and as I wrote in my review of the prior entry, “Kill You Twice”), Archie Sheridan, a detective now heading the Major Case Task Force in Portland, Oregon (“known for its blush-tinted scenery, and its serial killers”), for 13 years had headed what was termed the Beauty Killer Task Force, dedicated to tracking down and bringing to justice a megalomaniac serial killer whose victims were tortured and killed in gruesome ways, graphically described. Their target, Gretchen Lowell, a stunning blonde who claims she had killed more than two hundred people, almost claimed Archie as one of her victims, but despite slowly torturing him over a 10-day period [during which time, among other things, she removed his spleen - - without anesthesia, of course] and leaving him in a medically-induced coma for a month, she let him live. After her capture, she was locked up in the forensic psychiatric services ward of the State Hospital. And after two years on medical leave, and now addicted to pain pills, Archie was able to return to the Task Force, his marriage only one of the things destroyed by Gretchen.
There has always been a strong connection between Archie and Gretchen. As he says, “She will never let me go.” (Thus the title.) Years later, his scars, which still itch and sometimes bleed, are a constant reminder of her brutality, but he can no sooner escape them than he can the power and sexual pull she still exerts over him. The book opens as two important events are about to occur: Halloween, and Archie’s birthday. And Gretchen, having escaped from the asylum ten weeks ago, is determined to make both of them something that Archie will never forget. The book takes place over an action-packed three days.
Initially Archie gets involved in the investigation into the murder of a DEA agent who had been running a deep cover operation involving dirty cops and a major drug distribution organization headed by Jack Reynolds, a notorious local crime kingpin in Oregon. He and Archie had crossed paths before, when first his daughter and then his son were apparently among Gretchen’s victims.
Returning here are Henry, Archie’s best friend on or off the police force; Henry’s significant other, Claire, now very pregnant, also on the Major Case Task Force; and Susan Ward, a reporter who had been fired 7 months ago from the Herald and still very much in Archie’s life, as well as her pot-smoking mother, Bliss. Also returning are the usual ingredients of this series: a great deal of graphic sex and violence, the two often intermingling at the oddest times, including a couple of Archie’s flashbacks to his times with Gretchen. There are three story lines here: a second murder, of a young woman (the 2nd of many in the novel, of course); the murder of the DEA agent and the DEA investigation which the dead man headed; and of course the ongoing one dealing with the search for Gretchen. As are all the entries in this series, it is a dark and fast read, and one that is recommended.