“Bleed for me” can be a command or a request voiced by more than one character in this most recent book by Michael Robotham. Fans of the series know that the stories unfold through the perspectives of either psychologist Joseph O’Loughlin or now retired detective Vincent Ruiz. In BLEED FOR ME, it is Joe’s turn. But the story starts with Sienna. Sienna cuts. “you want to know the reason? you want to know why someone would want to bleed in secret? it’s because i deserve it. i deserve to be punished. to punish myself. love is pain and pain is love….you think you understand me. you don’t. i bleed for you.”
Joe is at a hearing, waiting to make a statement as to the suitability of allowing Liam Baker to be discharged/released after three years in a secure psychiatric unit. “If I could tell you one thing about Liam Baker’s life it would be this: when he was eighteen years old he beat a girl half to death and left her paralyzed from the waist down because she tipped a bucket of popcorn over his head.” Joe is there as an advocate, an advocate for Zoe Hegarty who will never walk away from her sentence.
Joe is in his local pub when he gets a panicked call from his estranged wife, Julianne. “Come quickly! It’s Sienna. Something’s wrong! She’s covered in blood!” Sienna Hegarty, fourteen years-old, is the best friend their daughter, Charlie. Sienna has spent almost as much time at the O’Loughlin dinner table as Charlie. Her mother is a nurse on night shift and her father frequently travels on business. Sienna is almost a third daughter. The blood in which Sienna is covered is that of her father. Ray Hegarty has been murdered and Sienna is the obvious suspect. Despite Joe’s closeness to Sienna, he is asked to provide a psychological assessment. He learns how little he knows. Sienna has been abused by her father. She has surely acted in self-defense.
As in real life, Joe and Julianne have more to deal with than the Hegarty’s tragedy. Julianne is serving as a court interpreter in a case of a group of asylum seekers who barely survived the destruction of their home by an extremist group. Joe is becoming suspicious of the drama teacher at the school attended by Charlie and Sienna. Mr. Ellis seems to give his female students attention beyond his job description.
Mr. Robotham writes satisfying stories that fulfill the promise of page one. His characters are believable, especially Joe. He is in love with his wife and she still loves him but she finds it necessary to distance herself from him because she can’t live with the uncertainty of his decisions. Fortunately, Joe is dealing with Parkinson’s Disease by facing its challenges. It seems that Joe’s increasing willingness to take risks as he investigates the circumstances of Ray Hegerty’s death and the threats that his own family are facing are responses to each physical attack. Joe isn’t a victim of anything; he just drew the short straw in one of life’s unexpected drawings.
Not too long ago, one of the English languages most over used words was “resonate” but this book did strike a chord. I taught high school students and the author brilliantly writes of the stresses and circumstances that can play a significant role in the development of a healthy psyche. A fourteen year old girl is more child than woman despite appearances to the contrary. Maturity is gauged by emotional and psychological development rather than the physical one. Robotham does not write Sienna as a woman. He doesn’t write Charlie as a woman either but Charlie’s emotional development is further along because she has a healthy, albeit strained, relationship with her parents. Charlie knows her place in her family structure. Sienna doesn’t have any structure.
So, is “bleed for me” a command or a request and who is the speaker? Those two questions can only be answered by each reader and they will have a wonderful time reading BLEED FOR ME to decide on their answers.