Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Review of "Bleeder" [34]

Bleeder: A Mystery by John J.Desjarlais
Chisel and Cross Books from Sophia Institute Press,
ISBN 978-1933184562
August 15, 2009, 272 pages

Professor Reed Stubblefield has been badly injured, both emotionally and physically. First, he lost his wife to leukemia, and lost his faith as well when she died. Then he was accidentally shot in a confrontation between two students and is still suffering from the damage to his shattered hip. To give himself some time to recover, he takes a leave from the college and go to stay at his brother's cabin in a mobile park in rural Illinois, to work on the book he is writing about the one person he still believes in, Aristotle. He assumes that in the chilly days of March, the place will be empty. Instead he finds the park fully booked, as is every motel in the area, mostly with the sick and infirmed. The crowds have come to see the new priest at the local parish in town, a man who is said to have the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, and to be able to heal the sick with his touch.

While Reed is totally skeptical about the claims others are making about Father Ray Boudreau, he can't help but be drawn into a friendship with the man. They discuss philosophy and theology, argue about Aquinas and Aristotle, explore the nature of faith and doubt.
When Father Ray collapses and bleeds to death, on Good Friday, in front of a full church, no one is more shocked than than Reed. And now one is more surprised than Reed when it appears that he is the number one suspect in the good father murder.

The Bleeder is a good mystery, and that would be enough to recommend it, but it is interesting on another level as well. Reed is a very damaged man, in many ways, and he is in the process of trying to fight his way back. Actually, he is really trying to decide if he even wants to fight his way back. So yes, on one level this is a murder mystery, and a pretty good murder mystery, with lots of twists and turns but the exploration of Reed's character takes it someplace more. Desjarlais does a very good job of creating a number of interesting and complex characters, and a couple of secondary storylines, that really keeps the book moving along. He allows Reed to explore his issues with faith and religion, especially in his discussions with Father Ray and Monsignor Demarco, the priest appointed to represent the Church in the investigation, without resorting to any easy answers or ever sounding preachy. And maybe what I liked best was that at the end of the book, the identity of the murderer is revealed (and for once I figured it least pretty much) but not all the questions were definitively answered. Rather there is some room for you to make you own decisions about a number of things that happened and it left you with a couple of things to thing about..

If you are up for a well written mystery, with a little dash of philosophy to make you think a bit, this is one I believe that you will like.


  1. No this definitely is not your normal murder mystery for sure. I'm intrigued.

  2. This one sounds good. I like being able to get into the characters and someone a little philosophy is not a bad thing. Putting it on my list.

  3. This is way out of my comfort zone. LOL... I like cozy mysteries with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. However, that was a great review.

  4. Well, I'm hoping that God wasn't the murderer by giving the good Father stigmata. That would be just wrong.

  5. Thanks for your thoughtful review. My aim was to explore the 'higher mysteries' of undeserved suffering and injustice, and the mystery genre suited this well, so that it would be entertaining at the same time - and never preachy. You might take interest in the sequel VIPER, coming July 1, 2011, which features a minor character from BLEEDER as the protagonist, Latina insurance agent Selena De La Cruz. There's a story summary and pre-publication reviews at my web site,
    John Desjarlais


please speak up, I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!!