According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “antihero” is “a main character in a book, play, movie, etc., who does not have the usual good qualities that are expected in a hero”. We’ve seen these characters over and over in literature, film, and television — Lisbeth Salander, Jack Reacher, and Dexter Morgan to name a few. They use their unusual and often violent talents to get justice against wrong-doers. In many cases, these characters work outside of the law. The antihero is anything but likeable — they can be solitary, dysfunctional, manipulative, and lack a strong moral compass. On the other hand, they are determined, intelligent, sensitive, and understand that people are more often shades of gray than black and white.
I’m a sucker for the antihero. I would rather read a main character that makes questionable choices in their journey than one who consistently makes the “good” decision. I like to get frustrated with a main character because I find it more believable. Who hasn’t occasionally fallen for the “bad boy”? Or watched a friend fall in love with the girl who is “bad news”?
Author Chelsea Cain has perfected the art of writing the antihero. She is best known for her serial killer series featuring detective Archie Sheridan and master evil manipulator, Gretchen Lowell. The interactions between Gretchen and Archie are the ultimate cat and mouse story — a very violent, graphic version, however. You might spend the entire first book actively disliking Archie and his decisions, but it makes his character’s evolution over the series that much more satisfying.
Cain’s new book, One Kick (due out in August), begins a new series featuring Kick Lannigan. Kick was kidnapped at age six and held for five years before being famously rescued during a child pornography raid conducted by the FBI. Now 21, she has spent the past ten years learning every form of self-defense possible, while keeping a close eye on abduction cases. When Kick becomes entangled in a local missing child case, she must dig back into her own abduction in order to find the children alive. Kick’s spunk and determination are enviable, but she still battles with frustrating emotional attachments to her now-imprisoned captor. One Kick is a fast-paced, emotional ride that will appeal to fans of Lisbeth Salander particularly.
Also, keep an eye on your television schedules because NBC is working on a drama based on the book that will be co-produced by the former executive producer of Dexter. More importantly, add yourself to the hold list at the library for Cain’s One Kick.
This review was previously published by the Deerfield Review.