Cheating at Solitaire (Gregor Demarkian Series #23)

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Margaret's Harbor, a small, exclusive island off the coast of Massachussets, has been disrupted for weeks by the antics of a group of young celebrities. Kendra Rhode, of the extremely wealthy Rhode family, is the ring leader and part-year resident on the island. Two of her cohorts, Arrow Normand, an aging teen pop idol, and Marcey Mandret, another of the same vintage, have been acting out publicly - drunken, disorderly public behavior eaten up by the press. During one of the most devastating blizzards in decades,...

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Cheating at Solitaire (Gregor Demarkian Series #23)

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Margaret's Harbor, a small, exclusive island off the coast of Massachussets, has been disrupted for weeks by the antics of a group of young celebrities. Kendra Rhode, of the extremely wealthy Rhode family, is the ring leader and part-year resident on the island. Two of her cohorts, Arrow Normand, an aging teen pop idol, and Marcey Mandret, another of the same vintage, have been acting out publicly - drunken, disorderly public behavior eaten up by the press. During one of the most devastating blizzards in decades, Normand staggers up to a local house, covered in blood and incoherently drunk. Her latest boy toy is found shot dead in the front seat of a crashed truck. The only suspect in the crime is Normand herself and she was apparently far too out of it to remember what actually happened that night.

Former F.B.I. agent Gregor Demarkian, fleeing from the preparations for his own wedding, is hired to review the case against Normand. What he finds is a case with little evidence, twisted by an out-of-control media and the cult of celebrity surrounding the three young women, and a mare's nest of motives, in what may be the most confusing, twisted case of his entire career.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Sharp, intelligent, and inventive – the kind of mysteries a Dorothy L. Sayers or a Josephine Tey would have come up with…Like a good cabinet maker, Haddam knows exactly how to cut and polish her material into art.” – Chicago Tribune on The Headmaster’s Wife

Glass Houses is one of those novels that has everything going for it: a crackling plot, an astonishing cast of characters and the best literary exploration of Philadelphia since the works of John O’Hara…Jane Haddam has created an elegant, stylish work with great appeal.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Jane Haddam has been writing for many years but manages to produce each time a layered, richly peopled and dryly witty book with a plot of mind-bending complexity.” – Houston Chronicle on Glass Houses

“Haddam’s latest Gregor Demarkian mystery, Glass Houses, ranks among her most satisfying, not only because of its intricate plot but also because of its setting and Demarkian’s endearingly infuriating supporting cast….Haddam’s Demarkian novels are becoming weightier, perhaps more somber, but also more intriguing – tightly crafted and polished puzzlers well worth the intellectual exercise they demand.” – The Strand Magazine

“Rife with political insights, subtle humor at her characters’ expense, and a keen eye for telling a story from multiple characters’ diverse perspectives, Hardscrabble Road is as deep as it is wide…A thriller for the thoughtful.” – Rocky Mountain News

Publishers Weekly

At the start of Haddam's stellar 22nd Gregor Demarkian whodunit (after 2007's Glass Houses), Demarkian is finally about to marry his longtime significant other, Bennis Hannaford. When the extensive wedding preparations take their toll, the detective welcomes the chance to leave his native Philadelphia and investigate a high-profile crime on the Martha's Vineyard-like island of Margaret's Harbor, where Arrow Normand, a Britney Spears-like pop icon, and her current boyfriend, Mark Anderman, had been filming a movie. During a raging nor'easter, Anderman was shot to death and Normand later arrested as the prime suspect. Plunged into the world of superficial celebrities, the traditional Demarkian struggles to identify the motive behind the murder as well as solve the bizarre mutilation of a local photojournalist and yet another killing. Haddam provides a completely fair and logical solution, even if it's not her twistiest, and to her credit, she examines the shallow lives of Normand and her crowd with some sympathy. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

When the outrageous behavior of a movie crew filming on Margaret's Harbor (a fictionalized Martha's Vineyard) results in the death of a crew member, the island's one-person police department requests the assistance of former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian. Moving slowly through the landscape of her story, Haddam turns the island and its ambiance into a vividly visual experience for readers. Brilliantly introspective, intellectual ruminations and multiple narrators-who fully convey the craziness of the paparazzi and the cutthroat attitudes of those with power-intersperse with Haddam's own unique and frequently unexpected conclusions. Haddam is at her best in this 23rd entry in the series (after Glass Houses), presenting a glimpse into the celebrity world readers will not easily forget. Highly recommended. Haddam lives in Connecticut.

—Jo Ann Vicarel Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A slyly cerebral indictment of the cult of celebrity. Margaret's Harbor, old money's summer playground, is suffering through the making of a less than major motion picture when a nor'easter hits the island, shutting down production. The hordes of paparazzi have taken their fill of Kendra, Arrow and Marcey prancing around with no underwear, sipping champagne cocktails and designer drugs, when indulged Arrow's boy toy is shot dead in his purple truck and Arrow is arrested. Called in to bolster the authorities' know-how, Gregor Demarkian (Glass Houses, 2007, etc.) finds a respite from the brouhaha surrounding his upcoming Cavanaugh Street wedding to the irascible Bennis Hannaford. But then a local photographer has his hand butchered, and a gun, possibly a murder weapon, turns up under the couch cushions of a sensible author of historical compendiums now being courted by Gregor's old army buddy and current movie star, Scotsman Stewart Gordon. Kendra, a Paris Hilton clone, winds up at the bottom of a flight of stairs with her pretty head twisted backward. And frenzied paparazzi destroy the crime scene to get lurid shots for the tabloids. With wry intelligence, Haddam explores the reasons why we reach for those magazines at the checkout counter, dog the rich and the overpublicized and worship the famous for being famous. Read this and liberate yourself from Page Six and TMZ. Agent: Donald Maass/Donald Maass Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312343088
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2008
  • Series: Gregor Demarkian Series , #23
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.72 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Haddam is the author of numerous novels, most recently Glass Houses. Her work has been a finalist for both the Anthony and Edgar award. She lives in Litchfield County.

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Read an Excerpt


There were things that Annabeth Falmer understood, and things she did not understand, and among the things she understood the least was what she was doing on Margaret’s Harbor in the middle of the biggest nor’easter to hit New England since 1853.

Actually, she didn’t understand what she was doing on Margaret’s Harbor at all, but thinking about that made her head ache, and the last thing she needed in the face of snow coming down at two inches an hour was a headache. She was only about a mile from the center of Oscartown, but she didn’t think she’d be able to make it in for a spare bottle of aspirin.

It was two o’clock on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 31st, but it might as well have been the middle of the night. The world outside Annabeth’s window was not black, but it was impossible to see anything in. The snow was so heavy, she was in a kind of whiteout. The only visibility was to the east of her, where the ocean was, and even that was like something out of a surrealist aesthetic. She could see waves, white-tipped and agitated. She could see snow piling into drifts against the tall metal parking meters that had been set out along the beach for people who came in from the landlocked towns. Most of all, she could see the tall oceanward tower of the Point. There was a light on up there, the way there always was now that Kendra Rhode had taken up residence for the duration.

“Who in the name of God names a baby Kendra?” Annabeth said, to the cat, who was the only one besides herself at home. She was talking to the cat a lot lately. It was probably inevitable, but it still made her feel oddly sick at the pit of her stomach. Things had not worked out as badly as she had thought they would, back in the days when she lay awake night after night not knowing how she was going to get through another week, but they hadn’t exactly worked out as a triumph, either.

The cat’s name was Creamsicle because that’s what he looked like: oddly orange and white the way the ice-cream bar had looked in Annabeth’s childhood. She tried not to wonder if there were Creamsicles for sale any longer—everything seemed to disappear, except the things that didn’t, and those tended to be around forever—and got the cat off the ledge of the landing window. He was a small cat, less than a year old. Annabeth wasn’t sure he had ever seen snow before.

“Trust me,” she told him, dropping him down onto the kitchen floor as soon as she walked through the door. “You only think you want to go out. It’s cold out there, and wet, and there isn’t a single cat treat for miles.”

Then she got the cat treats out and gave him three different colored ones on the mat next to his food bowl. She was a compact, middle-aged woman, thinner than she should have been, with hair that had gone gray so long ago she couldn’t remember what color it had been before. Even so, she didn’t think she was really becoming one of those people, the ones who spent all their time by themselves and talked to their cats and knitted things they never used, the ones who were found dead after a month and a half because the neighbors smelled something odd coming out of the apartment.

For one thing, Annabeth thought, she didn’t knit. For another, this was not an apartment, but a house, and an expensive one, and her sons called four times a day trying to make sure she wasn’t completely suicidal. It was one of the few things she didn’t mind about this nor’easter. It had reduced cell phone reception to absolutely nil.

She filled the kettle full of water and put it on to boil. She got her violently orange teapot down from the shelf over the sink and dumped two large scoops of loose Double Bergamot Earl Grey into the bottom of it. The tea was a bad sign, but the teapot wasn’t. It hadn’t occurred to her, when she’d told John and Robbie that what she really wanted was to spend a year on Margaret’s Harbor with nothing to do but read, that she would actually spend her time worrying that she was turning into a cliché out of something by Agatha Christie.

Or, worse, something out of Tennessee Williams, or William Faulkner. The neighbors would come in, drawn by the smell, and find not only her dead body on the floor of the kitchen, but the dead bodies of all her old lovers buried in the root cellar right under the basket of fiddlehead ferns.

“I’m going slowly but surely out of my mind,” she said, to the cat again. The kettle went off, and she poured the water from it into the teapot. Then she got a tray, a mug, a tiny mug-sized strainer, and her copy of Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The Moral Imagination and headed on out for the living room. The storm could scream and moan as much as it liked. She had two industrial-sized generators. She could keep her electricity going in the middle of a nuclear attack.

She put everything down on the coffee table, poured herself some tea through the strainer, and curled up in her big overstuffed chair. This was the way she had imagined herself, last year, when she had been talking about this to her sons. She had seen herself, comfortable and surrounded by books and cats, reading without having to think about anything else in the world. It hadn’t occurred to her that the utter sameness of it would get boring faster than watching The Sopranos had.

The cat jumped into her lap just as she heard the first of the heavy thuds against her kitchen door. She put her hand up to stroke him and said, “I’m an ungrateful idiot, do you know that? They gave me absolutely everything I ever wanted, and some things I didn’t even think of, and I’m about ready to plug my fingers into a wall socket, it’s so out-of-my-mind dull.”

There was another thud, and this time she paid attention. She put the mug away from her and looked around.

“Do you think it’s an animal?” she said. “I can’t imagine it would be a person out in all that. Even Melissandra Rhode isn’t as crazy as that.”

The third thud was heavier and more dangerous than the other two had been. Annabeth could hear the wood straining under whatever was hitting it. She put the book down and got up. You could see the ocean from the kitchen windows. Whoever had built this house had wanted to watch the waves at the breakfast table. Still, it couldn’t be the sea coming in. Not this fast. And it couldn’t be a tree branch blown loose by the wind. It sounded like something soft.

“I should watch television,” she told the cat. “At least I wouldn’t be rewriting Freddy Krueger movies in my head.”

She went back to the kitchen and looked around. She looked out the big windows at the sea, but it was comfortably far away, although choppy. She looked at the walk that wrapped around the house at that side, but saw nothing but untouched snow. She looked around the kitchen, and wondered what she had been thinking when she bought two complete sets of Le Creuset pots to hang from the hooks over the center island.

“One of those is going to fall on my head one day and give me a concussion,” she said, not even to the cat this time. The cat was still in the living room, curled up on a cushion. Then there was another thud, and this time it was distinctly accompanied by giggling.

“What the hell,” Annabeth said.

She made her way out into the pantry, its four tall walls covered floor to ceiling with shelves. She went into the little mud area with its benches and pegs for holding outerwear so that it didn’t muck up the rest of the house in bad weather. She stood very still and listened. The giggling really was giggling, not just the wind, she was sure of it. Sometimes it sounded not so much like giggling as it did like crying. The kitchen door had no window. There was no way to tell without opening up.

“What the hell,” Annabeth said, thinking that if there really was some half-crazed homicidal maniac out there, ready to rip her into body parts before he disappeared into the storm, she almost owed it to him to cooperate. Anybody who wanted anything badly enough to go through that storm to get it, ought to have it.

“Not really,” Annabeth said. She missed the cat. It gave her a cover so that she didn’t have to recognize the fact that she had started to talk to herself.

She grabbed the knob of the door, turned it to the right, yanked the door forward, and stepped back.

She was just in time. The young woman who came falling through at her couldn’t have been more than five feet tall, but she fell hard nonetheless, and she fell far, too.

It took a minute or two, but Annabeth worked it out. This was definitely somebody she recognized, even if she couldn’t remember what the woman’s name was, but that was the least of it. The most was a toss-up between the clothing—a pale blue-silver, sleeveless minidress, hiked up to beyond beyond—and the hair. Annabeth thought she’d go with the hair. It would have been long and blond under other circumstances, but at the moment it was black and sticky and covered with blood.

Copyright © 2008 by Orania Papazoglou. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 10 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2014

    This tale of movie-making and pop culture set on the Massachuset

    This tale of movie-making and pop culture set on the Massachusetts coast is a winner. The supporting cast is memorable, and the commentary on the cult of celebrity strikes a nice balance between amusing and biting.

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  • Posted December 30, 2011


    A big fan of Gregor Demarkian, Jane Haddam's ex-FBI detective, I found this book not quite as amusing as some. The characters include a great many shallow, self-absorbed pop movie stars. The setting is winter on an island off the Massachusetts coast, complete with blizzard.There are many cynical comments on pop culture.

    The best parts of the story show up in Gregor's ambivalence toward his own wedding being planned back in hometown Philadelphia. Anyone familiar with his Armenian-American neighborhood can imagine the planned festivities.

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  • Posted February 7, 2010

    Classic Hadam and Demarkian

    Another classic Gregor Demarkian mystery from jane Haddam. I love this series--more substantial by far than the "cozy" mysteries (which I also love) but not hard core blood and gore. Good reading--I can;t get enough of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2009

    Cheating at Soliare is great!

    The lastest in the Greogor Demarkian series finds him detecting in a snowstorm of the Maine coast. Good plot, interesting comments on the cult of celebrity. Good supporting characters, that are also interesting in their own right. A great way to spend an afternoon.

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  • Posted February 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Enjoyable Mystery, But Where Was Her Editor?

    It won't take most readers long to figure out which real celebrities the various airheaded women are meant to represent in this tale of murder off the coast of Massachussetts. A film on location has had to stop production due to a massive blizzard, not to mention the murder of a crew member. Gregor Demarkian, a former FBI agent, has been called to the scene to help solve the crime, and takes advantage of the opportunity to escape the hectic preparations for his wedding back in Philadelphia. I liked this story, but Ms. Haddam's excessive wordiness got irritating. Each character can't make a comment without overexplaining in endless sentences. And for some reason, the author insists on referring to nearly every character by first and last name both - constantly. Editing out that bad habit alone would have reduced the book by several pages!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    terrific whodunit

    In Philadelphia Gregor Demarkian and Bennis Hannaford are planning to marry after seeing each other exclusively for quite some time. However, the wedding preparation demands are driving the sleuth crazy. He considers eloping, but his beloved Bennis is looking forward to the ceremony celebrated with their family and friends. Thus when he has an opportunity to escape to New England to work on a high visibility homicide, he does not need a second invitation Gregor informs Bennis that whatever she does re the nuptials in his absence is acceptable by him as he leaves town immediately for Margaret's Harbor. Famous celebrity Arrow Normand and her boyfriend of the moment Mark Anderman were filming on location when she was murdered during a nasty nor'easter. Normand was arrested for the murder. --- CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE is a terrific whodunit as the hero struggles with a case involving pseudo and 15 minute celebrities a sub-species he does not understand. Gregor¿s difficulties with what makes the shallow in-crowd tick turn this into a superior entry in a strong series, as he cannot find a reliable motive for the homicide while also working a couple of other investigations. --- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted August 31, 2009

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    Posted August 31, 2009

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    Posted May 6, 2012

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    Posted December 23, 2010

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