Robotham is a consistently dependable author of well-plotted, fast-paced thrillers peopled with a gallery of fully-fleshed characters in challenging situations where good and evil are not easily cataloged in black or white. Bleed for Me focuses on a teen in distress, a cutter accused of murdering her father, a respected ex-detective who repeatedly sexually abused her.
Psychologist Joe O'Loughlin is particularly sympathetic to the accused, Sienna Hegarty, familiar to his family, his teenaged daughter’s best friend, although the two girls have recently been rebellious and secretive, pushing the limits of parental patience. Meanwhile, Joe is trapped in his own real-life drama, the Parkinson’s disease that has taken up residence in his body, causing his once-solid marriage to flounder. Unable to let go of his family, O’Loughlin lives nearby in their small village outside Bath, England, remaining an active part of their daily routines.
When Sienna arrives on the O’Loughlin’s cottage doorstep hysterical and covered in blood, Joe’s careful world slides day by day into a series of nightmares. His reluctant body often overloads as he pushes himself through the rigors of a thorough investigation of Hegarty’s death, a traumatized young girl indicted for murder and the easy assumption by most parties that she is indeed the guilty party. Having worked with the police frequently in such investigations, Joe understands the parameters of his position. Though convinced Sienna is innocent, he appreciates the importance of assembling hard facts to prove guilt or innocence. It is O’Loughlin’s assigned task to root through the girl’s life, friends and recent activities for critical links between Sienna and the violent murder.
What he discovers fuels O’Loughlin’s belief in Sienna, but instincts alone are difficult to substantiate when presenting his conclusions to a not unsympathetic DCI. Aided by a friend, a former detective, Joe is able to follow a more circuitous route, pursuing random connections between Sienna and a popular drama teacher, an unsavory underworld figure, and the nefarious purveyors of criminal enterprise, suggesting more at play that meets the eye. Robotham skillfully balances the unfolding drama, the seduction of vulnerable girls by a predatory man, a network of criminal activities and an immediate threat to both O’Loughlin and his wife, all exacerbating the psychological deterioration Joe suffers through the sundering of close emotional ties to the woman he still desperately loves.
There are no easy endings, no feel-good moments, but Robotham renders his usual authenticity of time and place, a surety of human nature at its best and worst, and the fate of a girl accused of murdering her father, well worth the hours spent following O’Loughlin as he clings to his passion for his profession with dignity, a man in the crosshairs of a terrible disease. From his first thriller, Robotham staked out his territory. Every novel since then has added to the reputation of a writer at the peak of his craft.