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The O’Loughlin Files, Revisited

Michael Robotham brings us back to psychologist Joe O’Loughlin after the events of BLEED FOR ME in his newest, SAY YOU’RE SORRY, out this week from Mulholland Books. New to the series? Looking for a refresher on O’Loughlin, with tantalizing glimpses into his newest adventure? Look no further than the below dossier Robotham was kind enough to compile for this very purpose.

Name: Professor Joseph O’Loughin (commonly known as Joe)

Profession: Clinical Psychologist

Born: November 29, 1960, Penrhyn Bay, Wales.

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 175 lbs

Eyes: Brown

First appeared in: SUSPECT (2004)

Latest book: SAY YOU’RE SORRY (2012)

Joe’s own descriptions of himself:

I am not handsome in the conventional sense. I am tall and pale with watery brown eyes and when I look at myself naked I am reminded of a winter animal that sheds its fur in the hotter months and looks out of place until the cold returns. That’s one of the reasons that I don’t wear shorts or T-shirts or flip flops which Australians call thongs. I wonder what they call G-strings? (BLEED FOR ME)


Married but separated from Julianne.

We’re estranged, not divorced. The subject is raised occasionally (never by me) but we haven’t got round to signing the papers. I moved back to London eight months ago. Now I live in a one-bedroom flat that reminds me of something I had when I was at college – cheap, transitory, full of mismatched furniture and a fridge stocked with Indian pickles and chutneys. I try not to dwell on the past. I touch it only gingerly with the barest tips of my thoughts, as though it were a worrying lump in my testis, probably benign, but lethal until proven otherwise. (SAY YOU’RE SORRY)

Joe on Julianne

She’s working as a translator for the Home Office. I don’t know if she’s dating anyone. For a while she went out with a lawyer called Marcus Bryant. I had to Google him because Julianne was so guarded and Charlie refused to be my spy. I typed in his name. Started reading. Stopped. His four-year stint with the International War Crimes Tribunal had me worried, along with his pro bono work for Amnesty International. I had visions of him donating a kidney to save his little sister and rescuing kittens from burning buildings. (SAY YOU’RE SORRY)

Julianne on Joe

(SUSPECT) ‘If you’re such a brilliant psychologist, you should start looking at your own defects. I’m tired of propping up your ego. Do you want me to tell you again? Here’s the list: You are nothing at all like your father. Your penis is the right size. You spend more than enough time with Charlie. You don’t have to be jealous of Jock. My mother really does like you. And I don’t blame you for ruining my black cashmere jumper by leaving tissues in your pockets. Satisfied?’


Joe did three years of medicine before changing courses to study psychology and behavioural science at London University. In 1985 he obtained his Masters degree in Clinical Psychology.

I stayed on at university determined to sleep with every promiscuous, terminally uncommitted first-year on campus, but unlike other would-be Lotharios I tried too hard. I even failed miserably at being fashionably unkempt and seditious. No matter how many times I slept on someone’s floor, using my jacket as a pillow, it refused to crumple or stain. And instead of appearing grungy and intellectually blasé, I looked like someone on his way to his first job interview.


Trainee psychologist, West London Health Authority, London

Merseyside Health Authority, Liverpool

West Hammersmith Hospital, London

Royal Marsden Hospital, London

Lecturer Behavioural Science Bath University

Clinical Practice, London


Joe on Charlie: (Born 1996)

She’s sensible and mature for her age, but looking seventeen doesn’t change the fact that she’s only fifteen. Two years is a lot when you’re that age. Fifteen is more Britney than Barbie. Fifteen scares the hell out of me… (SAY YOU’RE SORRY)

Joe on Emma (Born 2005)

We reach the terrace and Emma changes out of her uniform into a Snow White dress she has been wearing obsessively for the past two months. By now the neighbors will think she’s strange but it’s not worth arguing over. I’m sure she’s not going to be wearing it when she accepts her Nobel Prize.

I’m more concerned about her other ‘foibles’, which is a polite way of describing her neuroses. Last week she launched her dinner plate across the table because a meatball ‘touched’ her macaroni. What was I thinking, putting them on the same plate! (BLEED FOR ME)

Joe on Fatherhood:

I have learned some remarkable things since becoming a father and I appreciate how much there is still to learn. I know, for example, that a pound coin can pass harmlessly through the digestive system of a four-year-old. I know that regurgitated chicken flavoured ramen noodles and tomato sauce will ruin a silk carpet; that nail polish sticks to the inside of a bath and too much beetroot turns a toddler’s urine a neon crimson colour. (BLEED FOR ME)

Joe on Parkinson’s

I can give you chapter and verse about my condition, having read every paper, medical journal, celebrity autobiography and online blog about Parkinson’s. I know the theories, the symptoms, the prognosis and the possible treatments – all of which will delay the progress but cannot cure my condition. I haven’t given up the search. I have given up obsessing over it. (SAY YOU’RE SORRY)

It is four years since my left hand gave me the message. It wasn’t written down, or typed or printed on fancy paper. It was an unconscious, random flicker of my fingers, a twitch rather than a letter. A ghost movement. A shadow made real. Unknown to me then, working in secret, my brain had begun divorcing my mind. It has been a long drawn-out separation with no legal argument over division of assets – who gets the CD collection and Aunt Grace’s antique sideboard? (SHATTER)

Joe on Psychology

A really effective psychologist is someone who commits. Who goes into the darkness to bring someone out. Years ago I told a friend of mine that a doctor is no good to a patient if he dies of the disease but that wasn’t the right analogy. When a person is drowning, someone has to get wet.’ (BLEED FOR ME)


Vincent Ruiz

A former Detective Inspector with the London Metropolitan Police, Ruiz retired in 2006.

Joe on Ruiz

Ruiz is a friend of mine, although we started off disliking each other when we first met eight years ago. That’s one of the intuitive things about life: meeting people that we seem destined to know. Ruiz is like that. Our initial mistrust grew into respect then admiration then genuine affection. Sacrifice comes last. Ruiz would give up a lot for me, perhaps even his own life, but he’d take a dozen people down with him because he doesn’t surrender without a fight. (SAY YOU’RE SORRY)

Broad like a bear with a busted nose and booze-stained cheeks, Ruiz has had three marriages and three divorces. World weary and fatalistic, I sometimes think he’s a walking, talking cliché – the heavy-drinking, womanising ex-detective – but he’s more complicated than that. He once arrested me for murder. I once rescued him from himself. Friendships have flourished on less. (BLEED FOR ME)

Ruiz on Joe

He looks like a scientist or a doctor, more Einstein than Freud, with unkempt hair and a tweed jacket. Some weeks he forgets to shave and a salt and pepper stubble covers his chin and cheeks.

Ruiz takes his suitcase. Judges the weight. ‘You bought me a present?’

‘It’s a bottle of something.’

‘If I were a religious man I’d bless you.’

‘If you were a religious man the bells would be ringing at Westminster Abbey.’


Police Work


Best friends Piper Hadley and Tash McBain go missing on the last weekend of the summer holidays from a village fairground. Their disappearance captivates the nation, triggering prayer vigils, media campaigns and newspaper rewards, but no trace of the girls is ever found and they fade into memory.

Three years later, during the worst blizzard in a century, a husband and wife are brutally murdered in the farmhouse where Tash McBain once lived. Clinical Psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is called into the case to interview the suspect. Soon he becomes convinced that Piper or Tash might still be alive, imprisoned and desperately, trying to get home.

One girl is counting on him and she’s running for her life.


Ray Hegarty, a highly respected former detective, lies dead in his daughter Sienna’s bedroom. She is found covered in his blood. Everything points to her guilt, but Joe isn’t convinced.

Sienna is his daughter’s best friend and Joe has watched her grow up and seen the troubled look in her eyes. Against the advice of police, he launches his own investigation, embarking upon a hunt that will lead him to a predatory schoolteacher; a conspiracy of silence and a race hate trial that is captivating the nation.

2008 – SHATTER

A naked woman perched on the edge of Clifton Suspension Bridge with her back pressed to the safety fence. She’s suicidal, talking on a mobile phone, and Joe O’Loughlin is trying to talk her down. Turning to him, she says, ‘You don’t understand’, and lets go, falling to her death.

Two days later, Joe has a visitor – the woman’s teenage daughter. ‘My mother didn’t kill herself,’ the girl announces, ‘she wouldn’t …not like that. She was terrified of heights.’

2005 – LOST

When DI Vincent Ruiz is found floating in the Thames with a bullet in his leg and a bigger hole in his memory, Joe O’Loughlin is summoned. Accused of faking amnesia and under investigation by his colleagues, Ruiz’s only hope is to retrace his steps and try to remember what happened that night on the river.


An unknown young woman is found dead with multiple stab wounds – all of them self-inflicted – and the police ask Joe to help them understand the crime. Are they dealing with a murder or a suicide? Reluctantly, he agrees but the victim turns out to be someone he knows: Catherine Mary McBride, a nurse and former colleague.

At the same time, Joe is grappling with a troubled young patient, Bobby Moran, whose violent dreams are becoming increasingly real. As Bobby’s behaviour grows increasingly erratic, Joe begins to ponder what he’s done in the past and whether there is a link between his terrible dreams and Catherine McBride.

Michael Robotham has been an investigative journalist in Britain, Australia and the US. One of world’s most acclaimed authors of thriller fiction, he lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.