Australian writer Michael Robotham has created another winning psychological thriller in BLEED FOR ME. Told in the first person, by a trusted narrator, he says, "Very few writers of genre fiction do it [write in the first person] because it is so difficult to manage the plotting; you can't have anything happen not in the consciousness of your central character.” Readers will remember Joe O’Loughlin, the Bath clinical psychologist who starred in former books. He is a man struggling with a separation from his wife and family of two daughters as well as a steadily degenerating case of Parkinson’s disease. "I'm losing my brain without losing my mind," he keeps reminding himself.
"Michael Robotham’s style is pithy, and he leads readers on a foundation of high tension. When it comes to writing formidable mysteries, this man is at the top of his game."
His older daughter’s best friend, Sienna Hegarty, shows up at the O’Loughlin home frozen in fear and covered in blood. Her father has been murdered and is lying face down in a pool of his own blood in Sienna’s bedroom. He is a former policeman with a stellar reputation and a great deal of respect from those on the force who worked with him. In a split second, the police arrest Sienna and charge her with murdering her dad. O’Loughlin and the police find out pretty quickly that she is a cutter, a 14-year-old who is inflicting wounds on herself. Why? What happened to this girl who turned into a self-mutilating child?
Things rush into action quickly. O’Loughlin begins his own investigation and calls upon his friend, Vincent Ruiz, a former detective inspector with the Metropolitan police. Together they attempt to outrun the police who are not looking for another suspect. Their tunnel vision is focused on Sienna, who claims she cannot remember what happened. It takes a long time for her to finally tell O’Loughlin that her father was sexually abusing her.
While all of this upheaval is going on, Julianne O’Loughlin has quit her high-powered job to bring up her children. She has taken a part-time position as an interpreter for the court system covering a murder trial. Three men are accused of killing an asylum family by firebombing their house. Despite the shocking evidence that emerges in the courtroom, she and her psychologist husband have been able to maintain a good relationship. Readers are skillfully kept in the dark about whether or not they will divorce or get back together. O’Loughlincertainly misses his family and wants to reconcile. His future is dim because of his disease, and he counts his ticks and shakes as if he is marking time with each one. But that does not factor into his love for his wife and daughters.
One of the most entertaining and interesting things readers will find in BLEED FOR ME is following O’Loughlin’s inner thoughts and the way his mind works trying to figure out the psychology of the players. Michael Robotham’s style is pithy, and he leads readers on a foundation of high tension. When it comes to writing formidable mysteries, this man is at the top of his game. He is smart enough to write in such a way that you need not read his books in order.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on March 29, 2012