This Rankin mystery was written as all of Rankin’s novels are, with plenty of action, colorful characters, and a twisty-turny plot. The real twist in Bleeding Hearts is that the “hero” of the story is anything but, which could have made this book a fascinating one, but Rankin let it fall flat instead.
Michael Weston is a British mercenary assassin, a killer for hire with no conscience and who carries no ghosts with him. Weston decides to pursue a bunch of bad guys who appear to be connected to the US government, but only because he is convinced they set him up to be caught after his latest killing, and he can’t figure out why. And the only reason Weston has taken the young woman Belinda under his protection is out of duty to her murdered father, Weston’s gun supplier who is the closest thing the assassin had to a friend. Rankin lets us think that Weston is slowly falling in love with Bel and preparing to abandon his past, but it is clear by the end that we are the more deceived in wanting a “happy ending” not meant to be. Bel is unfortunately portrayed as far too innocent for the life she has clearly led, and is thus the least interesting character of the story.
A far more challenging character is private dick Hoffer, a cocaine-addicted loser ex-cop from New York who has been for years living off the handouts of a wealthy man whose daughter was mistakenly killed by Weston years earlier during the execution of one of his paid murders. The man wants Hoffer to find Weston and kill him, and Hoffer’s income, reputation—and cocaine habit—are largely dependent on his dogged and continuous pursuit of Weston, whom he has dubbed “Demolition Man.” Hoffer is portrayed as a violent bully, a crude misogynist, a pathetic loner, and yet sufficiently smart and dogged to keep Weston on his toes. But when the final confrontation takes place between Hoffer and Weston, the PI has a change of heart at the last minute which I found as perplexing as it was out of character. Which maybe was intentional on Rankin’s part, but it came off as fake somehow.
And when the plot climax comes, it is sufficiently bloody to satisfy the thriller devotee, but the reveal behind the mystery itself is much too contrived for my comfort. On the whole, not one of Rankin’s better mysteries.