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The plot of Bleeding hearts has been described by editorial and individual reviewers. The book gets us reacquainted with China and lets spend more time with her teenaged stepson and larger-than-life best friend Ruby. The plot hinges on a timely topic: a popular athletic coach has been implicated in serious crimes. The high school principal asks China to investigate discreetly.
Albert writes smoothly and professionally, deftly describing characters in a sentence or two and lovingly creating a sense of place. I caught only a few misses. For example, in one scene, China realizes her "backside" will be covered with orange cat hair...but we're not told what she's wearing! With jeans, who cares?
Fans should be warned, though: If you're looking for surprises and plot twists, you won't find them here. While several recent mysteries have turned up a villain who appears out of nowhere just in time to be properly vilified, Albert does the opposite. If you haven't figured out the coach's heinous crime before you've finished reading the jacket copy, you've been on a news fast for the last five years. And if you can't guess where China discovers a stash of evidence -- the only solid clues -- you're a newbie mystery reader (or easily distracted).
So Bleeding Hearts should be read like a trip along familiar territory -- engrossing, enjoyable but not especially startling. Even the subplots -- a missing quilt, letters from China's dead father -- lead us to a whimper, not a burst of gunfire.
I did get a bit puzzled when the high school principal, briefing China about the case, has to whisper "two words" to describe her concerns. These days it's hard to imagine a principal who'd be surprised, let alone one who couldn't say the words loud and clear.
Regardless, Albert's writing skills allowed me to overlook these flaws. I wasn't a bit tempted to put the book down or peek at the ending (maybe because I sort of knew it all along). And any author who can help me survive 21st century air travel has my undying gratitude forever.
So Bleeding Hearts makes me think of perfectly made apple pie: you've eaten
dozens in your lifetime, this one's way better than average...and you want to prolong the experience and go back for seconds.Bleeding Hearts (China Bayles Mystery) Overview
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