In this third installment of the Harbinder Kaur series, a high-ranking MP has been killed at his class reunion. His full group of former high school friends are now under suspicion, and the case dredges up an old death, once labeled accidental, from their last days at school.
Just a few days ago, I was talking about how sad I was that the Ruth Galloway series was ending. This is one of Griffiths’ other series, and while I’m not yet as attached to these characters, I can tell things are moving that direction. DI Harbinder Kaur has transferred to London, and there is now a full cast of characters – friends, colleagues, roommates, etc – to round out what was previously a bit lacking from her world. Additionally, folks from the previous books show up briefly either in person or by reference, giving more depth to the story and series as a whole.
Personal parts aside, the mystery is brilliantly written. The story is told from several points of view, all of them human and realistic (aka no arch-villains plotting against the detective in one POV, like so often happens). The psychology, trauma, and guilt that swims through all these characters is extremely realistic. No one has superhuman reserves of mental and emotional strength – everyone is cracking and fearful and worried. Furthermore, there’s never any real hint about who the killer is. I had no clue. Even now that I know, I look back at the story and can’t see the foreshadowing. That didn’t make for a disappointing or farfetched ending, though. Instead, it served to give the story more depth. The answer was so mundane as to be almost beside the point. The point was how this whole cast of characters have coped over the past two decades since that high school death, and how they act and react to the present-day events. I love this kind of writing. It’s not for everyone, but it’s why I love Elly Griffiths as an author so very much.
The book’s ending, from the climax onward, had me smiling and wanting a physical copy to hug. This is why I’m starting to think I’ll eventually love the series as much as I do the Ruth Galloway books. Griffiths gives so much heart to her characters, with focus on friendships and group camaraderie, and this wins me over every time.
Random question for UK folks – is the term “bleeding heart” not used over there? Because there was some debate amongst Kaur and her colleagues about what the term meant, and they thought it was a term in America to describe liberals. I honestly thought this was a fairly universal term, so now I’m curious if it’s really just confined to the US! (And funny side story: Back in 2003, we had bleeding hearts growing in our yard in Wisconsin. My very liberal BIL taught Morrigan, who was a toddler, a “fact” about the flower, and Morrigan brought one to his grandmother to say, “It’s a bleeding heart! It’s the national flower of the democrats!” Ha!)
Performance: The audiobook was read by three narrators – Nina Wadia, Candida Gubbins, Jane Collingwood – for the three POV characters. I enjoyed the narration. All three women sounded different enough in tone and subtle accent that I could always tell which of the characters was narrating at that time.