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BLOOD IN THE WATER by Jane Haddam: Book Review

If you’re in the mood for a good old-fashioned mystery, you need look no further than Blood in the Water, the latest in the Gregor Demarkian series.

There’s a lot of back story that I’m not familiar with, as this is the first of Jane Haddam’s novels I’ve read.  But it’s safe to say that Gregor is a former FBI agent, is middle-aged, and married to his second wife, his first wife having died some time earlier.

Gregor is a now a consultant to individuals and police departments. In Blood in the Water, he is asked to investigate a case that had seemed open-and-shut to the small town police department of Pineville Station, Pennsylvania.  Within Pineville Station’s borders is the upscale, gated community of Waldorf Pines.  It’s a rather pretentious place, where the residents live behind security booths and in front of security cameras.  They are not the really rich but more the upwardly striving upper-middle-class, and although the Pines boasts mega-mansions, a golf course, a club house, and a heated pool, there’s more surface than substance to many of the amenities.

Martha Heydrich, a universally disliked resident of the Pines, has disappeared, along with another resident, Michael Platte, with whom she’s been rumored to be having an affair.  But almost immediately following their disappearance, two bodies are discovered in the pool house, which has been closed for repairs for some weeks.  Michael’s body is floating in the pool, while in another room a body burned beyond recognition is found. The chief of police jumps to the conclusion that the burned body is Martha, and he arrests her husband Arthur for the double murder.  When the DNA results come back, it’s revealed that the second body is that of a man.  So Arthur is released from jail.  That’s when Gregor is called by the police to consult.

But there is still plenty of mystery in Waldorf Pines. Why are two women, definitely of the true upper crust and Philadelphia’s Main Line, living in this village under aliases?  Why is the Pines’ manager, Horace Wingard, so afraid of any scandal touching his domain?  Where is the husband of Fanny Bullman, a man who hasn’t been seen since before the two bodies were found?

Gregor Demarkian is an interesting character.  He lives on a street in Philadelphia that could almost be a village in Armenia, with neighbors who have known each other for years, if not decades.  Although I’m not familiar with the supporting characters, it’s obvious that each one has a history with Gregor and that their eccentricities and foibles carry on from book to book.  There’s the neighbor who brings Gregor food because his wife doesn’t cook for him, the priest, and the recently deceased George, whose passing at age 100 has put Gregor into a melancholy mood that threatens to become an existential crisis.

Blood in the Water is definitely unusual in contemporary mystery novels.  It’s not dark or bloody or violent.  It’s a well-told story about the secrets that people keep and how those secrets affect their lives and the lives of those around them.

You can read more about Jane Haddam at her web page.