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Bleeding Darkness by Brenda Chapman

Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin

This new murder mystery by Brenda Chapman has everything it needs: a cold case, a dysfunctional family, two murders, inclement Canadian weather, several red herrings, a slow sliver of suspense, and a clever female detective with personal problems.

Fourteen years ago, Lauren McKenna’s life was shattered when her best friend, Zoe Delgado, was murdered. Her body was left on the Rideau Trail near Kingston, Ontario. The murder was assumed to be a crime of passion committed by Lauren’s sixteen-year-old brother Tristan, who’d been dumped by fifteen-year-old Zoe a few weeks before. Motive: rejected teenage boy loses his mind and slits ex-girlfriend’s throat. But there was no evidence to prove this theory. Lauren not only lost her best friend but the love of her life, Matt Delgado, Zoe’s brother. The bond between the families was severed by grief, and Lauren entered her time of bleeding darkness.

Now, Lauren’s father lies dying of cancer in a Kingston hospital. He too believed in his son’s guilt—until he unravelled a secret and created one of his own. So, the grieving Tristan escaped a murder charge and went on to write a bestseller and marry a beauty. Though the community never accepted his innocence.

As the McKenna children gather at their father’s bedside to say their goodbyes, past conflicts surface. And then, another woman is murdered: Tristan’s pregnant wife, Vivian. Naturally, suspicion falls on Tristan, who had relationships with both women. But Lauren doesn’t believe her favourite brother is guilty of either murder. Nor does Kala Stonechild of the Kingston Major Crimes Unit.

This is book five in Chapman’s Stonechild and Rouleau series, and her familiarity with the characters is evident in her smooth fluid style. As slick with twists and turns as the stormy Kingston winter streets, this beefy family drama will keep you turning pages. Not only must we unravel several red herrings—including a man and woman affected by the tyrannical Nicolae Ceausescu Communist regime in Romania—but we feel for Stonechild, who is fostering her niece while her step-sister does jail time.

Kala did her own time in the foster care system and knows how hard it’s been for her niece. Dawn wants to know her heritage—Dakota and Metis—and she wants a family. Can Stonechild manage a family, be a caregiver to her niece, and solve murders? We certainly want her to. Meanwhile, who killed Zoe Delgado and Vivian McKenna? Are the murders connected? The only way to find out is to venture into this bleeding darkness.

Bleeding Darkness is published by Dundurn.

Wendy Hawkin writes urban fantasy with a twist of murder. To Charm a Killer and To Sleep with Stones are the first two books in her Hollystone Mysteries series with Blue Haven Press.

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