Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
The mountains of mystery and thriller books continues to grow at a steady pace, with new titles constantly appearing. Authors’ determination to write a book that is different, even outstanding, must present a tough challenge.
Often, there is the disillusioned detective, with a partner who can be a means of underlining the superior knowledge and experience of his/her boss. The location is frequently a city or smaller environment such as a village. In Bleeding Heart Yard, a school reunion draws the setting for crime and its suspects.
In the usual pattern followed, a crime is discovered and in the progress of the narrative, clues are found, perhaps an odd red herring or two and of course there is a search for motive. Finally, a solution is revealed with some explanation to justify the conclusion.
Bleeding Heart Yard is a variation on this. The investigation is by the police and at the same time, the group of possible suspects examines the facts of the cases and reflects on the death of a fellow student at the end of final exams twenty-one years ago. It is a clever twist that only a writer as accomplished as Elly Griffiths could manage. She has written over twenty adult novels as well as some for children.
In this latest book, there are seven characters who belonged to The Group, all those years ago. The reunion at Manor Park Public School takes place in an address in central London. There are two M.P.s, and one, Garfield Rice, is murdered by one of the others, it is supposed, by an overdose of insulin. Chris is a successful pop singer, Izzy is an actress, tall and beautiful. Anna cares for her dying mother. Cassie, married to devoted husband Pete, is attached to the investigating police precinct but cannot take part in it because of her connection to the group. Sonoma is the seventh member, now Headmistress of Manor Park. She was not at the reunion so is dismissed as a possible suspect.
Soon after Gary’s (Garfield) death, Henry Steep MP is found fatally stabbed in Bleeding Heart Yard, an actual location in Holborn, the legal area of London. The deaths are linked and Harbinder Kaur and partner, Kim lead the team assigned to handle the cases. Harbinder is a young, clever and respected detective who works well with Kim, a lively redhead.
They work tirelessly on the case, made more complicated by the shadow of the ‘accidental’ death twenty-one years ago which also involved the members of the same group. References to rape and cruel intent make this a significant sideline. They all either disliked or hated David, the victim.
Cassie is haunted by this earlier death and initially suspicion falls on her.
Meanwhile, lives both currently and decades ago weave into a gripping puzzle until finally the murderer is found to be none of this group but a man close to one of the main characters.
This is a little disappointing as it veers towards the Agatha Christie technique where all is revealed on the very last pages, with few prior clues…. Surprise is the key element!
Having written so many mysteries, Elly Griffiths still has reached the standard which the demanding sophisticated reader might expect. In addition to this, her new character, introducing a different series from the Galloway books, is Harbinder who is an intelligent gay woman of diverse background. A detective for our times!
Bleeding Heart Yard
by Elly Griffiths
ISBN 978 152940 996 3