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BLEED FOR ME by Michael Robotham: Book Review

Joseph O’Loughlin, a psychologist who is the protagonist in Bleed For Me, has a lot to contend with. He’s suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, is separated from his wife through no desire of his own, and his fourteen-year-old daughter Charlie can barely tolerate him.  And things are going to get worse for him, a lot worse.

Julianne, Joe’s estranged wife, calls him at 11:00 p.m., saying that Charlie’s best friend Sienna has appeared at her door, covered in blood.  Joe rushes over, just in time to see Sienna run from the house.  He follows her through the woods and into a nearby lake, pulling her out before she goes underwater permanently.  Sienna is rushed to a nearby hospital, and as Joe returns to his former home he is told by a neighbor that Sienna’s father, a retired homicide detective, has been murdered and the police think Sienna committed the crime.

Zoe, Sienna’s older sister, confirms that their father sexually abused them, but she is adamant that Sienna didn’t kill him.  However, the police see it differently, and Sienna is arrested and slated for trial.

Joe goes to talk to Gordon Ellis, the drama teacher at Charlie and Sienna’s school. Although Gordon is popular with all the girls, when Joe questioned Sienna at the hospital she refused to talk about him.  Gordon says he thought there might be a problem at Sienna’s house and arranged for the girl to see a counselor.  Joe has a “gut feeling”–that Sienna is protecting somebody and that Gordon knows more than he’s telling.  No proof, just a feeling that there’s something between the two of them, something inappropriate.

Sienna has also been close to the counselor at school, Annie Robinson.  Annie says she knew Gordon Ellis in college but wasn’t close to him.  She calls Gordon “too handsome for his own good” and promises to look into any conversations at school about possible sexual misconduct between Gordon and the female students.

One of the reasons that Julianne left Joe and wants a divorce is her feeling that he can’t separate himself from his work and his clients. And that certainly seems to be the case here.  His car is run off the road, his dog is killed, but still he persists in trying to help Sienna; true, she’s not a patient, but her closeness to his daughter makes her seem to Joe as nearly a member of his family.

Bleed for Me is a beautifully crafted, incredibly suspenseful book.  It’s not an easy read, dealing with parental sexual abuse and other sexual perversions, things that are unfortunately all too common in today’s news.  But the emotions of all the characters ring true–their fears, desires, lusts, loves–all the emotions that make us human.

You can read more about Michael Robotham at his web site.

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