Bleed for Me features Joe O’Loughlin, a clinical psychologist suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, and he sounds an awful lot like other psychologist or detective protagonists: he has marital troubles because he’s too involved in his work. What makes this particular book stand out is that he’s not just interested in profiling criminals: we see him analyzing a number of characters throughout the course of this book, notably a set of parents mourning the disappearance of their grown daughter. Also, O’Loughlin’s story stands out in terms of the insight into parenting teenage and younger daughters.
The mystery revolves around the murder of Joe Hegarty, a retired detective. His teenage daughter Sienna is accused of murdering him, and Joe O’Loughlin is assigned to do her psychological evaluation. This plot point is a bit far-fetched because Sienna is his older daughter’s best friend: it seems like a conflict of interest for him to assess a friend of the family. The other threads of the story involve a school teacher who’s too close to his female students and a racially motivated firebombing trial.
The pacing of the book, after a slow start, is good: I was very involved with the twists of the story and read the last half of the book in a very short time. Once I step back and look at the story, though, I have a couple issues: the sheer amount of tragedy that has befallen Joe’s family and the Hegarty family is a bit excessive. O’Loughlin has a terminal illness and his older daughter was kidnapped two years before this book takes place. Sienna’s father was murdered, her older sister was brutally attacked and is now paralyzed, and Sienna is accused of murder. Finally, it’s unsettling that so much of the story centers on the violent response of men to the real or alleged rape or molestation of their female relatives. It’s a gripping read, but the subject matter is extreme.
I did enjoy reading the book because it’s refreshing to read a psychological thriller that’s not centered on profiling a serial killer. Also, I liked the fact that Robotham spends time on O’Loughlin’s private life and how he’s coping with his Parkinson’s: I can think of many crime novels that don’t spend much time with the protagonist’s loved ones. I look forward to catching up on the earlier books in the series.
Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham
U.S. Publication date: February 27, 2012 (Originally published 2010)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley