Monday, October 17, 2022

Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths: Reading Room Review


When I started reading Elly Griffiths’ novels, she was writing the Ruth Galloway series, and I fell completely, happily in love with the character of Ruth. Of course, I still love her, but another female character from Griffiths has slipped into my heart, and I dare say that Harbinder Kaur is quickly becoming a new favorite for other Elly Griffiths’ fans. Harbinder first made an appearance in The Stranger Diaries, where she was just beginning to take shape, and where readers saw what a clever, skilled detective she was. In The Postscript Murders, Harbinder has some help from a quirky set of friends, whom I’m hoping to see again in a future novel.  And, now with Bleeding Heart Yard, readers have a thrilling third novel where this British Sikh detective shines.

Harbinder’s job promotion has taken her to London, where she is serving as a detective inspector (DI) in the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan Police (Homicide and Serious Crimes Unit). More specifically, DI Kaur is in charge of a Murder Investigation Team (MIT) based in West Kensington in an area referred to as Delgano. Her first big case presents itself in the form of a murder at the 21st year reunion at a posh high school, Manor Park School. The victim is a conservative PM, Garfield (Gary) Rice, who 21 years ago was a liberal, like his friends. With Harbinder still getting her bearings both in London and at her new job, it’s good that she’s a quick study. A murder that’s a high-profile case involving an MP is one Harbinder’s superiors will want solved quickly. 

After interviewing all the classmates at the reunion, Gary Rice's close group of high school friends become the focus of the investigation. “The Group”, as they were called in high school, have some secrets they want to keep buried and a history of messy relationships. The Group consists of the deceased Gary, highly successful pop star Chris/Kris Foster, famous actress Isabelle Istar, Labour MP Henry Steep, teacher (of English in Italy) Anna Vance, headmaster of Manor Park Sonoma Davies, and Harbinder’s DS Cassie Fitzherbert. The class of ’98 was quite the accomplished lot and have much on the line. The first thing Harbinder must do is to take Cassie off the investigation, as she is a person of interest from the reunion. The only one of The Group who wasn’t there was Sonoma, who had a family commitment, although she’s got some explaining to do, too. 

The chapters of the book are divided into the narratives of three characters—Harbinder, Anna, and Cassie. It’s through Harbinder readers follow the police investigation, and we start to know her new team she works with. Her dealings with the different members of the team show what a diplomat Harbinder can be, not to mention how smart she is in handling people. Flashes of humor once again round out Harbinder’s character, with her unspoken thoughts about some of the team’s members giving me a good chuckle. Cassie’s narration is fraught with her concern that the death of a classmate on the last day of school before graduation will be revisited. For twenty-one years Cassie has lived with the memory of that death, which was ruled accidental but was actually a murder she committed. Anna fled to Italy after college, with a broken heart and a desire to get far away from her past. She happened to be in town when the reunion was held and was talked into attending. Anna is concerned that her lapses of memory are hiding something bad she’s done.

The investigation takes readers into the lives of these friends, with one friend saying something that will lead Harbinder in one direction and another saying something to lead another way. Of course, Cassie is always trying to lead away from any connection to the boy who died on the last day of school. But, Harbinder is an excellent detective, so she doesn’t get lost in the confusion of information. When another member of The Group is murdered, Harbinder is sure that both murders are connected to the friends’ time during the last days of their high school. 

In the past two books, readers have started to learn more about Harbinder’s personal life. The last book, Postscript Murders, delighted me in highlighting Harbinder’s relationship with her parents and brothers. It’s easy to see why Harbinder is so well grounded. But, in this book, Harbinder is moved away from Shoreham, West Sussex, and settling into a flat with two other women. Now we get to see into Harbinder’s romantic side a bit, as one of her flat mates, a tall blonde Scandinavian architect named Mette, has gotten her attention. I admit to being somewhat concerned that Harbinder, who was so successful in her career, didn’t seem to have much luck on the dating front. Of course, I could have lived with her being solely focused on her career, but I think the connection to another person in this way will bring her the contentment she has felt growing up with a loving family. But, not to worry, Bleeding Heart Yard is no romance story. Harbinder Kaur is dedicated to her job, and this story is a police procedural in its finest form.

One of the aspects of Elly Griffith’s writing I admire the most is her always pushing herself to not grow complacent in the success of the tried and true. I’ve learned to trust her forays into new story worlds. I am an unabashedly enthusiastic, full-blown fan girl of her Ruth Galloway series, which is where Elly Griffiths began her crime/mystery success. It will always be one of my favorite series. But, this author dared to step away from that comfort zone and create the fascinating Brighton series and now the outstanding stand-alone/ Harbinder Kaur novels. Amazing, right? Well, let me note that Elly Griffiths also writes a children’s mystery series, A Girl Called Justice (Jones). There are four Justice Jones books out, and they are not just for children. I am absolutely enthralled with them. You know the old question about what you would take with you on a desert island if you were to be stranded there, or among readers the question would be what books you would take. You can be sure that I would take everything Elly Griffiths has written and tell the coast guard to take their time finding me. So, yes, Bleeding Heart Yard continues the brilliance and is a smashing read.

I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of Bleeding Heart Yard from the author, which didn’t influence my review but made me a most happy reader.

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