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Bleeding Hearts    by Ian Rankin order for
Bleeding Hearts
by Ian Rankin
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The narrator of Ian Rankin's Bleeding Hearts is an extremely competent hit man, a hemophiliac perfectionist who micromanages the details of each execution, anxious to avoid repeating a prior mistake (killing an eighteen-year-old girl instead of the congressman who was his intended victim) that smeared his reputation and set Leo Hoffer, a tough ex-cop and now celebrity PI, on his trail, funded by his young victim's mad, millionaire father.

As Michael Weston tells us on the first page, 'only the toughest are making it. No room for bleeding hearts' (this killer - called the Demolition Man by the media - always aims for the heart too). Weston buys his guns from an old associate, Max Harrison, who lives in the wilds of Yorkshire, and is fond of Max's daughter Belinda. We see the D-Man shoot and kill investigative reporter Eleanor Ricks, identified by her yellow and blue dress. But then all goes awry, with the police immediately on the scene, forcing the assassin to call for an ambulance to make his own escape.

The news brings Hoffer on the first available flight and he's soon busy doing drugs, bribing police officers, and inserting himself into the investigation. In the meantime, Weston needs to find out who set him up. His first suspect is Max, but he soon establishes his old friend's innocence and enlists the lovely Bel (who turns out to be a talented amateur actress) to provide cover back in London, where they pose as police officers. This sets the pair on a trail that takes them to a cult, The Disciples of Love, in western Scotland, to New York city, and to violent confrontations (with Weston's gun-crazy old friend Spike on their team) with badder bad guys than themselves in Seattle.

This antihero is not very likeable, you immediately think. But Rankin manages to redeem Michael Weston and get readers on his side by the end of this novel. Weston has a way with animals and seems a very decent sort, aside from his day job. Though I found the evolution from cold killer to good guy too much of a stretch, I was able to put that aside and enjoy the wild thrill-ride that Ian Rankin offers in Bleeding Hearts, as well as the shocking revelations that end the novel.

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