Bleeding Heart Yard
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
In this third novel in Griffith’s Harbinder Kaur series, Harbinder has been promoted to a DI at the London Met to head up her own team in Homicide and Serious Crime. She’s clearly come a long way since her early days in the force in Shoreham, West Sussex where she still lived with her parents. She’s now sharing a flat with two other women, Mette, a rather striking blonde Danish architect, and Jeanne a primary teacher.
One of Harbinder’s new team members, DS Cassie Fitzgerald, is reluctantly attending the 21st anniversary reunion of the class of 1998 at Manor Park School. Since she left school, Cassie has tried hard to forget the traumatic event that occurred during her last days there, when classmate David Moore died after falling onto the train tracks in front of an incoming train, something for which Cassie felt responsible. However, Cassie’s husband Pete, also an ex-pupil at the school persuades her to attend the reunion.
Although Manor Park is not a private school, its location in Chelsea attracts the kids of trendy wealthy families and an extraordinary number of pupils have gone on to successful careers. Cassie’s group of school friends includes two MPs – Garfield Rice (Tory) and Henry Steep (Labour), famous actress Isabelle Istar and rock star Kris Foster as well as Anna Vance, who teaches English in Florence, is back visiting her terminally ill mother.
Harbinder is spending a quiet evening alone at home when she receives the call telling her a man has died at the school reunion. Well-known MP, Garfield Rice has died suddenly. A doctor attending the party was unable to revive him. When she arrives at the school, Harbinder is surprised to see Cassie, but decides her inside knowledge will be useful even though, as a witness, she can’t be involved in the investigation.
This is an entertaining read with the narrative told from the perspectives of Harbinder, Cassie and Anna. Insight into the dynamics between various members of the friendship group, brought back together by the tragedy, add richly to development of the plot and the London locations add colour and interest. The title Bleeding Heart Yard derives from the courtyard where Garfield Rice was a member of a dining club attended by fellow MPs and leading businessmen and is also a real courtyard in Holborn with a gory history of its own. There are lots of good twists in the plot before we get to the truth of what led to Gary’s death, culminating in a very dramatic scene in a building site.
One of the things I most enjoyed about the first two novels in this series was the light touch used in introducing us to an interesting gay policewoman from a culturally diverse background and the slightly offbeat, almost cosy, crimes she investigated. Harbinder is a wonderful, original character, sensible and pragmatic but with a softer, quirkier side which was delightfully brought out by the crimes she was investigating.
With Harbinder’s move to London, this third novel feels more serious with gory murders at its heart and a more traditional approach to the investigation, although Griffiths does have some fun by planting a DS with a secret inside her team and also with Harbinder’s social life. It is good to see Harbinder taking on more responsibility and her new team coming to respect her (to the point where they award her a nickname), but I hope we will also continue to see more of her quirkier side in subsequent novels.
With thanks to Quercus Books via Netgalley for a copy to read.