This is the fourth installment of the Joseph O’Laughlin series, and Joe himself is once again our narrator – and once again in the first person, present tense. Although I have to say that the tense didn’t bother me as much this time – I think Robotham is getting better at it, sometimes having Joe explaining what just happened instead of in the moment, which makes the narration somewhat more believable.
While Bleed for Me was just as intense as the earlier books, I didn’t enjoy it as much as Shatter. I think this was partially because the victims/intended victims were very young. There is something inherently uncomfortable about people who prey on the young and innocent, and consequently this book was disturbing to me. It was done well, and in many ways addressed the dangers of placing too much trust in people we don’t really know, but it was still troubling.
The personal troubles between Joe and his estranged wife continue, leaving me feeling consistently annoyed with the wife, who I actually really liked in the first couple of books. But she basically comes out and says that she can’t handle the person Joe has “become” since he found out he has Parkinson’s, which is why they have now been separated – not divorced – for two years. So here’s Joe, gradually dying of a degenerative disease, separated from his home and beautiful daughters because his wife feels like Joe is too morbid (or something, I’m honestly still not clear on what her issue with Joe really is – she just keeps saying things like “I don’t love you in the right way” whatever the heck that means), and that just seems cruel. Sure, they still share duties with the daughters and work together on parenting, but it’s not the same as living with them, which is obvious from the way that Joe hangs around his old house like a stray dog, hoping for glimpses of all the little family-life details that he’s missing.
I guess I just don’t understand why that makes a better background story for Joe than having him stay married, with him and his wife working together through the difficulties of life. Instead, it’s just another couple (or at least half a couple) who are willing to give up on over two decades of relationship because things have gotten hard.
ANYWAY I do love series like this because I love recurring characters and seeing a bit more of them every time. Vincent Ruiz is still one of my faves, just as gruff and honey badger-ish as ever –
Political correctness is not one of Ruiz’s strong suits. He once told me that being politically correct was like pretending you could pick up a dog turd by the clean end.
He’s also a great friend for Joe, and I love the way that their friendship has progressed since the first book.
The story itself was very gritty and done well. The bad guy was so slimy, and watching him slither through loopholes was incredibly frustrating. However, I felt like there were more aspects of this book that didn’t fit together than there have been in the earlier books. While we got explanations for most of the stuff that happened, some things are just left as implied that it was because of this other guy being involved. The mystery kind of stretched beyond the initial tragedy, and it sometimes felt like some of the connections between this crime and another were a little forced.
Still, I did enjoy this installment, and am curious to see what else Robotham has in store as the series progresses. 3/5.