Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #48: Bleeding Hearts by Ian Rankin

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.

llp’s #CBR V Review 3: Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin


This new Rebus novel is like slipping back into something familiar and comfortable. There aren’t really any surprises to the mystery, which sounds weird when I read it back to myself. However, I am so pleased to see the character back.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 4: Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending JacobYesterday, I had the good fortune to be able to go and see one of my favorite authors (Ian Rankin) speak at a local bookstore. Rankin talked mostly about his Inspector Rebus books, but also a bit about the genre of crime and detective fiction and the small “band of outlaws” that make a living writing crime novels. Several fans took the opportunity to ask questions about Rebus and the city of Edinburgh. (Side rant: MANY folks in the audience took the Q&A time as an opportunity to CRITIQUE Rankin, his writing, and his books, and talk about what personally irks them in the books. Seriously, if one of your favorite authors is coming to give a FREE talk, how about COMPLIMENTS only? Annoying. End of rant.). One interesting thing that Rankin talked about (after being chastised by an audience member for his errors) was the two Edinburghs in his books — the real city that he loves, with Arthur’s Seat and the Oxford Bar, and the dark, fictional city where the bulk of the crime in his novels happens. Rankin feels that its OK to use real places for the most part, but if he’s going to write about a terrible crime or a horrible part of the city, its best not to use actual names and locations so that locals don’t feel slighted or insulted.

This tidbit made me think of Defending Jacob, which I read a few weeks ago. Defending Jacob takes place in Newton, MA — my hometown.

Defending Jacob tells the story of Andy Barber, assistant DA in Middlesex County (Boston area and surrounding suburbs, including Newton), who is assigned the case of the brutal murder of a local teenager in a park. Some think maybe its a conflict of interest for Andy to take the case — the victim and his son went to the same junior high — but Andy promises he can be take the case and treat it fairly. Until…his own son is arrested for the murder and Andy is removed from the case.

And then the story follows what its like for Andy to be on the other side of the law for once. How the rest of the world turns against you, even if you might not be guilty, and just how far a parent will go to protect their child.

I’m not going to lie — I found this book tough to get through at times. As a parent, it contains all your worst nightmares. But Landay is a talented writer, and he makes the story so compelling, you have to get to the end to find out exactly what happens. And then you’ll have to sit for a few minutes to digest it all, because it isn’t pleasant for sure.

Its obvious to me that Landay has spent some time in Newton. His descriptions of the obnoxious Whole Foods market smack in the center of town made me laugh out loud. He has no love for the ugly and depressing Middlesex County Courthouse, where I’ve served as a juror. Yuck. And he chose to have the murder take place in the once lovely (and now overbuilt) park that was practically in my backyard (in fact, I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint exactly where the murder takes place, just steps from the front door of the house I grew up in!). But other than that, Newton is completely fictionalized. It seems that Landay went the route opposite of Ian Rankin — he fictionalized the bulk of Newton and its surroundings, yet kept the places that annoy and bother him. I guess Landay really has a bone to pick with Whole Foods.