Bleeding Heart Yard (Harbinder Kaur 3) by Elly Griffiths

Great expectations…

😀 😀 😀 😀

During a school reunion, prominent politician Garfield Rice is found dead in the boys toilets, apparently from a drug overdose. However, it soon becomes apparent that he has been murdered, and the case is handed to Inspector Harbinder Kaur – her first case since taking a promoted post in West London. Coincidentally one of the other people at the reunion is Cassie Fitzgerald, a member of Harbinder’s new team, and Cassie has a secret. Back when she was a pupil at prestigious Manor Park school, a boy died. It was listed as a tragic accident, but Cassie knows the truth – that she killed him. Now it looks to her as if Garfield’s death might have something to do with that earlier death, and she has to decide how much she’s going to tell Harbinder…

Expectations can be a real pain sometimes. The first two books in this series were so original and excellent that I had extremely high hopes for this one. This meant that, though this is a perfectly acceptable cross between a police procedural and a psychological thriller, my main reaction to it was disappointment. That may also be to do with the fact that it’s the third book I’ve read this year where the current crime arises out of a dark secret surrounding something that a tight-knit and elite group of pupils did at school. And Sharon Bolton did it so much better in The Pact.

(FF muses: I’ve joked about this before, but I do wonder – does a memo go round from publishers at the start of each year telling authors what subject they must include in their books? It seems beyond coincidence when one year every second book is about a group of people trapped in a snow-bound chalet, and the next year every second book is about a school reunion of some kind…)

Anyway…

Harbinder has moved away from her parents’ home at last and is sharing a flat with two other women. She’s both happy and a little nervous about her new job and her new life. She’s loving being in London but is homesick for her family and friends back home. Griffiths handles all this well, without over-dramatising it. Harbinder remains just as likeable in the previous books, but, again, since so many crime series are set in London I feel the South Coast setting of the earlier books in the series gave them an element of uniqueness which is missing from this one. However, she uses her London setting well, especially the deliciously-named Bleeding Heart Yard – a real place, mentioned also in Dickens’ Little Dorrit – and the legends surrounding its name.

We see the action from three main perspectives – a third-person present-tense account from Harbinder’s view, and two first-person past-tense narrators. Cassie is one of those, and the other is Anna, another of the pupils/reunioners. I found their voices indistinguishable, though fortunately each chapter is headed with the name of the character whose perspective it’s from. All the tense and viewpoint jumping is of course obligatory in modern crime, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

The plot is quite enjoyable although it strays well past the credibility line on more than one occasion. Without wishing to veer into spoiler territory, there is one point where Harbinder steps so far over the line of how anyone, especially a senior police officer, would react on being told of a serious crime that my jaw dropped. I actually guessed whodunit and why about halfway through, which is rare for me, but I think it was luck rather than it being too obvious. The thriller-ish ending is entertaining despite the total lack of credibility.

Elly Griffiths

Oh dear, this is one of those occasions when my review has turned out more critical than I intended. I did find this an enjoyable read, despite all of the above. The pacing is good and keeps the reader turning the pages, and there’s a good deal of humour, especially around Harbinder getting to know her new colleagues and flatmates. She begins to settle in to her London life, and we see signs of her developing new friendships and possibly even a romance, but she still goes home for visits so the reader is kept up to date with her family and older friends from the previous books. Had this been the first book in the series I’d probably be praising it more highly, but it simply didn’t wow me the way the first two did. I’ll still be eager to see where Griffiths goes with the series in future books though.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Quercus via NetGalley.

Amazon UK Link

42 thoughts on “Bleeding Heart Yard (Harbinder Kaur 3) by Elly Griffiths

  1. I just read (or, technically, listened to) The Postscript Murders after you reviewed it and I loved it, so I was thinking of getting this next – but I might give it a bit longer so that I’m not so instinctively inclined to compare them. Glad that this is still enjoyable though, even if it’s not quite as creative as the first couple.

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    • Yes. I think I read them too close together, so was making comparisons. I tend to find with Elly Griffiths that she starts every new series off brilliantly and then it tails off a bit after a few books. I often wonder if she gets bored with the characters. She’s so creative, though, and so prolific – I’m always keen to see what she does next even if occasionally a book doesn’t live up to expectations!

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  2. You know, FictionFan, I’ve noticed a fair number of those books, too – the kind where there’s a secret from the past that’s guarded by a small group like that. I was wondering why I got an email telling me I’d have to do that sort of plot if I want this book I’m working on to be published… 😉 Elly Griffiths is such a good writer that I can see how a lot of this book was really appealing. And thank heaven for a protagonist who’s actually functional and not beset by demons! Hmmm…. I think I’m on the fence with this one, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’m glad you’re on the email list – you can give us a heads up as to what next year’s trend is to be, so we can get our reviews planned in advance! 😉 It is odd though how you get little bunches of books all coming out within a few months of each other all with a very similar premise. This one was very good despite my niggles – she’d just set herself such a high bar after the last two. She’s a victim of her own success!

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  3. In re your musings: I wouldn’t be surprised about the emulation of plot trends. Even book covers have trends. You can see how the same trends pop up on covers from one publisher to the next.

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    • Yes, you can almost date a book by the cover, can’t you? And publishers tend to have a “style” of cover too – not just the very obvious ones like the BL series, but all the big publishers. When I look at the books on NetGalley, I find I’m always attracted to the covers belonging to the publishers whose books I prefer, so clearly they know what they’re doing.

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    • Good, I’m glad I haven’t put you off because this is good despite my niggles – she just set herself a very high bar with the last two! Haha, I wonder if your jaw will drop too – I’m still a bit gobsmacked… 😉

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  4. I was a little disappointed to only see four smiles for this review. I still want to read it, but I won’t get in any hurry. I’m sure it’ll have a hold at the library for awhile anyway.

    I rarely watch films anymore, but for awhile there they did the same thing as books. Two movies about Mars, two films depicting an asteroid about to hit earth, etc.

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    • I felt a bit unfair about the four stars because if I hadn’t been comparing it to the last two it’d probably have got at least 4½! It is good, just not as good as the last two. She’s a victim of her own success!

      Yes, that’s true. I wonder why it happens – it seems very odd to be pure coincidence!

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    • Thank you! Yes, I felt a bit unfair giving it four stars because I know that’s because I’m comparing it to her last two rather than to books by different authors, if you see what I mean. She’s so creative that I always expect more from her so I tend to judge her more harshly. She’s a victim of her own success!

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  5. I agree that it wasn’t as good as the previous two but indeed still enjoyable. Blah, blah, blah … More importantly though … STOP READING! FFS! You’re going to be in such big trouble when the bookapocalypse arrives. 😱

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    • Hello!!! 😀 Hahaha, the good news is two books arrived today. The bad news is I’ll be finishing another book tonight. I’m getting seriously worried – I’m in serious danger of meeting my target this year… 😱

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  6. It’s a pity this one failed to live up to the expectations the first two brought about, but I had to giggle at your suggestion about a publishers’ memo. Kind of like junior high school girls calling one another the night before school and agreeing to wear a certain color — and those who didn’t get the message feel more left out than ever. But you’re right: Griffiths is a good writer, and it sounds as if she’s left herself some wiggle-room for future books in the series.

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    • Hahaha, yes, exactly! Maybe that’s what happens – they all phone each other and challenge each other to see who can write the best school reunion story, or snowbound chalet story! 😉 I feel my expectations are always so high with Griffiths that I tend to judge her more harshly, which is a bit unfair! But it never makes me less enthusiastic to read her next one.

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    • Must be! And yet sometimes it’s such an odd theme that doesn’t seem to relate to anything happening in the world – like school reunions! Very strange! I really liked the first one because I thought the inset horror story was a very good pastiche of the style of that era, and something I didn’t expect from her. But I think I liked the second more – the vintage crime feel made it so enjoyable. I loved the first two or three books in her Brighton series, set in the post-war era.

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    • It really is. I feel unfair for giving this one four stars – I feel I judge her more harshly than I would another author, because my expectations of her are always so high. And I do think she might be better with standalones – I often feel her series lose that magic spark after the first few books,

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  7. Even as I started reading this review, I was thinking, Didn’t FF just review a mystery set in a school reunion? That seems to happen with movies too – where there will be ver similar stories released close together. I have no idea why.

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  8. This has happened to me too when writing a review – I’ve decided I like the book, but as I write the review all my criticisms come out! But in the end, it’s really about how you felt about the reading experience isn’t it?

    I feel like I’ve read MANY books with the storyline about a group of rich kids at school doing something bad in their past. Very typical jumping off point for psychological thrillers these days…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, sometimes it’s quite possible to enjoy a book even if it isn’t perfect! And this was one of those books.
      I don’t know why it always has to be elite kids, either – rich or brainy or artistic. Can’t ordinary kids ever do something that comes back to haunt them? I’m bored with elites! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree – not the best ending. Oddly I’d guessed who it was quite early on, but hadn’t worked out why, and really the motivation didn’t convince me much. A pity – the first two Harbinder books were much better. Griffiths does tend to be variable, I find, but when she’s good, she’s very good! Thanks for popping in and commenting. 😀

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