As the author of two excellent and wildly popular series, Elly Griffith’s status in the crime fiction community has long been established, but we must not overlook that she has also written an iconic series of loosely-connected standalones featuring the unforgettable Harbinder Kaur—the most recent of which, Bleeding Heart Yard—is just recently available in the United States. It may seem counterintuitive to call a collection of novels with the same lead character standalones, but except for some developments in Harbinder Kaur’s personal life, each novel really does stand on its own by focusing on a new collection of suspects involved in the book’s crime and readers can enjoy them in any order they prefer. Of course, traditionalists will likely wish to consume them in the order written. The important thing here is that crime fiction fans read them, as they are all wonderful examples of how vibrant and varied the genre can be—even with works from the same author.
Crime fiction hasn’t seen many characters like Harbinder Kaur. She is a lesbian police officer of Indian descent who practices Sikhism. In Bleeding Heart Yard, Harbinder has recently relocated to London where she has been promoted to DI in the Homicide division overseeing a team of dedicated officers. Her first major case is about to challenge her in ways she could never have expected.
At a school reunion, one of the attendees—a highly controversial member of Parliament is found dead of a suspected overdose. DI Harbinder Kaur and her team are assigned the case because of the high-profile nature of the victim. It’s convenient that Cassie Fitzhebert, one of the reunion attendees and a friend of the victim, is also a member of Harbinder’s investigative team. But what Harbinder doesn’t know is that Cassie and her friends killed a fellow student back in 1990, so while Cassie is trying to help with this current investigation, she is also trying to divert attention in order to hide the group’s nefarious past. And meanwhile, Cassie is also beginning to wonder if the two deaths are somehow connected.
As crime fiction readers will expect, the reunion is attended by a crazy assortment of former students, friends, teachers—all with secrets. Journeying along with Harbinder and her team as they try to uncover the truth, while Cassie works behind the scenes to send the investigation into other directions is fascinating. But when another member of the group is found dead in the legendary Bleeding Heart Yard—a courtyard in London—can Cassie continue to subvert justice for her own selfish reasons?
Fans of the two earlier novels—the Edgar Award-winning The Stranger Diaries and The Postscript Murders—will delight in witnessing a subplot detailing how Harbinder navigates having roommates and finding herself attracted to one of them. These human nature touches continue to bring Harbinder Kaur to life and make her such a fascinating and compelling character in the crime fiction canon.
Elly Griffiths had originally said that the Harbinder Kaur novels would be a trilogy of connected standalones, but there is still so much vitality in this character, that I wouldn’t be surprised if readers do see more books—or short stories—featuring her appear in the future. Either way, these books are more than worth the investment of time and many readers will feel that Bleeding Heart Yard is the best of the bunch.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.