|Because Joe O’Loughlin is a psychologist he feels that he has a better than average understanding of human behavior. As she enters her teen years his daughter Charlie continues to baffle him at times, but he knows this phase will pass. He is newly separated from his wife, Charlie’s mother Julianne, but they are in agreement on most child rearing issues.
When Julianne calls him one evening as he is wrapping up a social hour at the pub, he is unprepared for her announcement. Charlie’s good friend, Sienna Hegarty, was just at their house, dazed, and covered in blood. Julianne has been unable to make Sienna stay at their home, but needs Joe’s assistance in locating the girl and discovering what has happened to her. The police are summoned to Sienna’s home where they find her father, a former cop, with his throat slashed on the floor in Sienna’s room. Charlie staunchly believes that her friend is innocent, though she concedes that Sienna’s dad comes up somewhat short of the perfect dad. In fact she intimates that she would not have blamed her if she had killed him.
As Joe delves deeper into Sienna’s family history, he discovers there are several people who are not saddened by the death of Ray Hegarty. He had recently threatened Sienna’s drama teacher, Mr. Ellis, who Hegarty claims was seducing his daughter. Sienna also had a boyfriend whom, had her father known of his existence, would have read him the riot act. In addition Sienna is a “cutter”, confirmed by scars on various body parts. This fourteen-year-old has a multitude of problems which have landed her in a near catatonic state.
Beyond the puzzle of who killed Ray Hegarty, Bleed For Me is a study of familial relationships. Joe O’Loughlin obviously loves his wife and daughters and the feelings are mutual. Yet O’Loughlin suffers from Parkinson’s disease and treats his disease like another member of the family albeit an unwelcome one. The impact his condition has on the man has driven his wife to a separation with divorce looming in the distance. The Hegarty family as well has suffered from an inability to understand each other which has soured relationships between husband and wife as well as with Sienna and her older brother and sister.
There are some lighthearted moments in the story especially those relating to Charlie’s younger sister, Emma. Emma is five with just enough vocabulary to make her world confusing. She is told she is going to have a male teacher and she is thinking about the postal system. She is responsible for the invention of a family member called Notme who leaves toys scattered around her room, and cuts her hair inappropriately.
Occasionally the justice system comes under fire. Juries apparently watch too much television and cannot make decisions based on the evidence presented unless there is a wealth of forensic data for them to admire. I suspect that this observation is too close to the truth to be amusing.
One of Robotham’s other main protagonists is a retired cop named Vincent Ruiz. Although Ruiz plays a part in the investigation in this novel, he gets much less space than O’Loughlin. I like Ruiz better than O’Loughlin. He has his own laundry list of flaws but he has more strength of character than the psychologist. Hopefully, he will regain a starring role in a forthcoming novel by Robotham.
Because teenagers figure prominently in this book, teenage angst is alive and well in this tale. For those who are living with a teenager, have ever lived with one, or are young enough to remember being one, this novel will evoke memories, some more pleasant than others. The author provides an accurate description about communication between generations or lack thereof.
Robotham makes some interesting comments about detectives and husbands through Vincent Ruiz. Ruiz believes that the quality that make a good detective, that of suspicion, negates the possibility of being a good husband. Good husbands are trusting.
Bleed For Me was first published in Britain in 2010 under the same title. The American edition was just published in February of this year. Readers of British crime would do well to consult their reading list for the previous few years to ascertain whether or not they have already read this book. Fortunately the title has remained the same for both publications.