When I was given the chance to receive an advance reading copy of Chelsea Cain's latest novel One Kick, I expected to rediscover the ruthless but captivating female serial killer, Gretchen Lowell, dubbed "Beauty Killer", who has already featured in Heartsick, Sweetheart and Evil At Heart. One Kick marks a new beginning though - Chelsea has signed a three book deal with Simon & Schuster covering two books in a new series, then going back to a new Gretchen Lowell thriller. She plans to alternate books in the two series in the future.
The new series focuses on another very strong but totally different female character, Kick. Now aged 21, she was abducted as a little girl whose real name was Kitt, but after being rescued, she couldn't go back to being the carefree little girl she once was and needed a name-change to fit with her new identity. Her kidnapper used and abused her, turning her into Beth, an online child porn star whose films are still the most downloaded and viewed porn films in history. She's still damaged, but she's become an expert in everything from martial arts and target shooting to lock-picking to make sure that, should she ever find herself in such a position again, she'll be more able to defend herself.
When the mysterious Bishop breaks into her apartment, it's unclear if he is friend or foe. He needs Kick - she is the best-placed, indeed probably the only, person capable of understanding the inner workings of child kidnapping and pedophile networks - and she has an understandable but almost pathological obsession with currently missing children, so they agree to form a fragile partnership, based on mutual needs rather than trust. They get off to a shaky start and even at the end, we - and even Kick - are not really sure if he is one of the good guys or bad guys. He's not the only one to have blurred boundaries though - the fact that Kick still has daughterly feelings for her kidnapper, despite everything he put her through, shows that it's never as simple as black and white.
When I finished the book, I was initially unaware that it was the first of a series and I was left slightly unsatisfied by some of the loose ends. I now understand that these have been left hanging to be followed up in the sequels so I look forward to picking up Kick's adventures when the next book is released.
It's an unsettling read - although we're all aware of the evils of child porn and abductions, this book really opens our eyes to what goes on behind the scenes that the news reports don't reveal - and, even if it's fictional, some of it is truly heart-breaking. At times, it seemed a bit Hollywoodesque, with the heroes walking out of explosions and gun fights with barely a scratch (I could see this being taken to the big screen actually) and Kick sometimes reminded me of Lara Croft but, now that the foundations have been laid, I'm really looking forward to seeing where the next book will lead.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £7.99
release date : 14th August 2014
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.
Other reviews you may be interested in :