Grab on to your bra straps and belt buckles, faithful readers, because you are about to enter the seedy, “what lies beneath” world of Bath, England, where young girls are kidnapped, vicious boys can paralyze you (literally and figuratively), and pedophiles reside.
Bleed for Me, by Michael Robotham, is SO GOOD. I mean SO SO SO SOOOOOOOO GOOD.
It’s part mystery, part marital drama, part buddy story, and part parenting analysis. The mystery will make you bite, while the characters keep you eating.
Joseph O’Loughlin is a psychologist battling Parkinson’s and an impending divorce. His 14-year-old daughter, Charlie, doesn’t help matters, as she knows better than anyone how to devastate him with one word. When her best friend, Sienna, is accused of murdering Sienna’s father, Charlie hopes her father will help free Sienna. As Joseph helps the police investigate the crime, he is pulled into the orbit of Annie Robinson, the counselor at the school Charlie and Sienna attend, while at the same time finding himself increasingly outside the realm of Julianne, his estranged wife.
Evidently, Bleed for Me is part of a series, but I have not read the others. It might have helped, as we learn fairly early in the novel that Charlie was once abducted and held in a kidnapping. Vincent Ruiz, a retired cop who assists Joe, is a character also featured in another Robotham novel. Still, though, you can go in cold, as I did, and not suffer any missing information. The benefit to reading the other books is knowing a little more of the O’Loughlins’ back story, but, like I said, Robotham fills us in where he needs.
One of the things that struck me about this novel is that you have Bath, an English town featured in Jane Austen novels, appear as a character in itself. Not as bucolic as we might assume, the town’s subdermal side is seedy, to say the least. We have drug dealers, prostitution, pedophilia, incest – everything you’d hope to find in suburbia. Joe slowly peels back the layers, thinking he should not be shocked, but finding himself shocked nonetheless. It begins with some observations he makes about the accused:
Sienna’s nostrils barely move as she breathes and I notice the faint tracings of blood vessels on her eyelids, which seem to flicker as she dreams. It is the face of a child on the body of a woman.
Her lips are cracked and there are scratches on her cheek. Her hospital gown has fallen open along her thigh to her hip. I want to pull it down to protect her modesty.
Gazing at her arms, I notice a network of fine white scars that run along the inside of her forearms. She’s a cutter. Self-harm. Self-abuse. There is more to Sienna than meets the eye; layers that are hidden from the world. Perhaps that’s why she scratches at her surface, trying to find what lies beneath.
Those last lines apply to Bath itself, as well as Joe’s family, and the girls’ school.
Then there is Joe himself. Julianne accuses him of becoming too involved in his cases, and while she is frightened for him with his Parkinson’s, it isn’t enough to keep her in the marriage. She is realistically written; I couldn’t decide – I still can’t decide – if I like her or not.
I don’t want to say too much about this, because I don’t want to give anything away. Suffice it to say, Bleed for Me is a very good novel. It will suck you in, and you will find yourself lost in its world. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy. You will not regret it.
Published by Mulholland Books and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.