By Dawn Ius
New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain launches into August with ONE KICK, the first in a thrilling new series featuring Kick Lannigan, a young woman whose tragic past has given her a special—and deadly—set of skills.
“Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test.”
Though a definite departure from the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers for which Cain is known, ONE KICK embodies the same heart-pounding brilliance HEARTSICK fans have come to know and love.
“This book is positioned to reach a wider audience,” Cain says. “Some readers are afraid of the HEARTSICK books—many people thinks of them as horror. I’ve dialed it down a little in ONE KICK.”
Though she admits, for some, the distinction is faint.
Since childhood, Cain has been drawn to the thriller genre, getting her literary feet wet with detective stories and mysteries.
“I wanted high stakes, puzzle and peril,” she says. “I loved looking at the yellow spines of those Nancy Drew books and knowing there was another one. There was always such a great comfort in knowing the character survived.”
Cain still has her first Nancy Drew novel, THE MYSTERY OF THE GLOWING EYE, safe on her bookshelf—severely overdue from the library—but her taste for the macabre has transformed and evolved. Now, her home is filled with prize possessions including skulls, skeletons, various pieces of taxidermy, and an old bone saw that is so beautiful, it’s easy to forget the object’s morbid function.
It is this interest in life’s juxtapositions—the beauties and the beasts—that has inspired deeply flawed, dark, characters like the infamous Gretchen Lowell.
While Kick Lannigan is no serial killer, she faces her own demons. As the former star of a child pornography ring, Kick’s story of survival is both gut-wrenching and inspiring. “Trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist, and bomb maker by her abductor, Kick could not return to the life of the average young girl. In lieu of therapy, she mastered martial arts, boxing and knife throwing; learned how to escape from the trunk of a car, jimmy a pair of handcuffs, and walk without making a sound—all before she was thirteen.”
The remarkable skill of Cain’s writing makes this all plausible, and while the issue of child pornography looms heavy in the backdrop, Kick emerges as a credible crusader for abducted youth.
“In many ways, Kick is both older and younger than her years,” Cain says. “She’s not someone who can balance her checkbook and she struggles with relationships. It was important for me, because of her youth, to give her authority, and one way to do that was to give her knowledge.”
That wisdom is expertly peppered throughout the novel without bogging down the narrative, and rather than spend time thinking about the root of the trauma Kick has endured, the reader is drawn to her serious competence.
That doesn’t mean Cain didn’t give serious thought to how she would write Kick’s backstory, and in fact, worried how fans of her previous work would view this new series.
“A lot is implied,” she says. “Many of the scenes are shown through a child’s perspective, so we see Kick surviving the experience rather than enduring it. And I want to say up front, every child in this series will be found alive!”
“One of the things I really wanted to create in Kick’s character is the feeling that she has control over her destiny. I wanted to write about a character who is a better person than she imagines.”
Cain plans to follow up ONE KICK with a second Kick Lannigan’s story. If that gives you heart palpitations, relax—Cain promises that another Archie / Gretchen thriller is definitely in the works.
“There are authors who can write two books a year,” she says. “I definitely want to be one of those writers.”
Until then, there’s ONE KICK—the nail-biting story about a kick-ass protagonist as compelling and deadly as Gretchen, but perhaps better suited for those not so faint of heart.
For more about Cain and her books, check out her website.
Chelsea Cain is the author of The New York Times bestselling thrillers HEARTSICK, SWEETHEART, EVIL AT HEART, THE NIGHT SEASON, and KILL YOU TWICE. Her Portland-based thrillers, described by The New York Times as “steamy and perverse,” have been published in over 25 languages, recommended on “The Today Show,” appeared in episodes of HBO’s “True Blood” and ABC’s “Castle,” named among Stephen King’s top ten favorite books of the year, and included in NPR’s list of the top 100 thrillers ever written. According to Booklist, “Popular entertainment just doesn’t get much better than this.”