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Hardscrabble Road (Gregor Demarkian Series #21)
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Hardscrabble Road (Gregor Demarkian Series #21)

5.0 1
by Jane Haddam

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When Philadelphia's right-wing-ranting radio host Drew Harrigan is arrested for possession of illegal pain killers, he implicates a homeless man, Sherman Markey, in the drug buys, and is soon checked into a locked rehabilitation facility.

While Harrigan is away, beyond the reach of the media and the court, Markey sues him for libel and slander. With the help of


When Philadelphia's right-wing-ranting radio host Drew Harrigan is arrested for possession of illegal pain killers, he implicates a homeless man, Sherman Markey, in the drug buys, and is soon checked into a locked rehabilitation facility.

While Harrigan is away, beyond the reach of the media and the court, Markey sues him for libel and slander. With the help of a legal advocacy group, Markey is due to have his day in court…until he disappears into the city streets.

The nuns at the shelter haven't seen him. The civil lawyers can't find him. Now it's time for retired FBI agent Gregor Demarkian to step into the case—one that will lead Demarkian down a slippery slope of dark deeds and chilling revelation…with a killer lying in wait for anyone who dares to cross his path.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Credible characters and an intriguing plot laced with both humor and political commentary lift Haddam's outstanding 21st Gregor Demarkian novel to feature the retired FBI agent known as the Armenian-American Hercule Poirot (after 2005's The Headmaster's Wife). Like Agatha Christie or P.D. James, Haddam uses multiple perspectives to portray her central character-Drew Harrigan, a rabid right-wing Philadelphia radio host who will remind many of Rush Limbaugh. Harrigan has been arrested on drug charges, and his conviction would complicate many lives. His alleged supplier, an alcoholic homeless man named Sherman, is also in big trouble. After Sherman turns up apparently poisoned, Demarkian joins the police and DA in investigating an eclectic group of suspects including a lefty academic, Harrigan's producer and Harrigan's sister, who's a member of a religious order. Those new to Haddam will snap up her earlier work based on this captivating literate mystery, which shows how well a classic fair play whodunit can work in a contemporary setting. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Arrested for driving under the influence and possession of drugs, ultraconservative radio-talk show commentator Drew Harrigan goes to rehab for 60 days. Then the homeless man accused of illegally procuring Harrigan's prescription drugs disappears. In this 20th novel featuring retired FBI agent Gregor Demarkian, it is bitter cold in Philadelphia, and Demarkian's longtime girlfriend is away on a book signing tour. Having nothing better to do, Demarkian reluctantly agrees to help find the missing man. His investigation leads him to a cloistered monastery of nuns who shelter the homeless and into the rarified atmosphere of the University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia radio business, and high-powered legal firms that deal with people of money and influence. Edgar Award and Anthony Award finalist Haddam (The Headmaster's Wife) wields her usual complex plotting and astute analysis of social ills to add another great entry to her outstanding series. Haddam lives Connecticut. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After his road trip to New England (The Headmaster's Wife, 2005), Gregor Demarkian, the Armenian-American Poirot, finds his biggest case waiting back home in Philadelphia. Every time right-wing radio agitator Drew Harrigan opens his mouth on the air, he gives five new strangers motives for killing him. Now he's sunk to a new low. Arrested by two Philly cops who've found his car full of prescription drugs with nary a prescription, he's fingered homeless handyman Sherman Markey as his supplier and shielded a big asset by deeding a local real-estate parcel to Holy Innocents Benedictine monastery, where his sister, Mother Constanzia of the Assumption of Mary, presides. When celebrity-loving Judge Bruce Williamson sends Drew to rehab, dull-witted, alcoholic Markey becomes the center of a media firestorm and takes Drew's place as the city's most likely murder victim. It would make sense if Markey were killed by Drew's lawyers, who'd prefer to crucify him without dealing with his sworn testimony; or by Markey's own legal team at the Justice Project, who'd find him easier to transform into a martyr in his absence; or by UPenn professors Jig Tyler or Alison Standish, for reasons of their own. But things develop along quite different lines for Gregor, who's pulled into a case that's complex mainly because the people involved are so complicated. Haddam outdoes herself with a broad canvas that recalls John Gregory Dunne's Nothing Lost and the best of P.D. James.
From the Publisher

“Haddam plays the mystery game like a master.” —Chicago Tribune

“A captivating literate mystery.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This latest Demarkian tale is spot-on… there's no slowing this sleuth down.” —Rocky Mountain News

“Outstanding.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Gregor Demarkian is as compelling and intriguing as ever.” —Booklist

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Gregor Demarkian Series , #21
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.35(w) x 9.47(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

There was no thermometer outside the door of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Monastery, but Sister Maria Beata of the Incarnation didn’t need one to tell her that the temperature was well below zero and getting worse. She reached through the heavy wool folds of her habit for the leather sack purse she had pinned to the pocket of her skirt. The pocket was pinned, too, rather than sewn on, and for a moment she found herself thinking the kind of thought—Why in the name of God can’t we at least force ourselves into the eighteenth century?—that had kept her doing penance in Chapter for most of her formation. Behind her, Sister Mary Immaculata of the Child Jesus was unwinding herself from the bowels of the cab. There was a wind coming down the dark street, whipping stray pieces of litter into the air and then sucking them out of sight, heavenward. The old men who materialized out of nowhere to sleep in the monastery’s barn on cold winter nights were already lined up at the door. One of them was wearing a bright red cap that was not only clean but looked new. Beata found the correct change and enough of a tip not to embarrass herself, and paid the cabbie.

“Sister,” she said, as Immaculata came around to the curb, shaking out the folds of her cape against the wind.

Immaculata didn’t say anything, but Beata didn’t expect her to. Immaculata was a very old nun, old chronologically and old in the order. She didn’t approve of much of anything. Beata didn’t think she ever spoke unless she was spoken to, and even then she seemed to hate it, as if the act of speech had been taught to her as the one necessary element of any mortal sin. And maybe it had, Beata thought. It was hard to know what people had been taught in Immaculata’s day.

Beata went up the stone steps to the monastery’s front door and rang the bell. Sister Marie Bernadette of the Holy Innocents opened up and stepped back to let them pass, holding out her hand for the briefcase Beata carried in the process. Beata shook her head, and Marie Bernadette retreated.

“You must be frozen,” she said. “I’ve rung upstairs for Mother. She left word you were to meet her in the office as soon as you got back. Immaculata, you ought to go somewhere and have a cup of tea.”

Immaculata inclined her head. Beata bit her lip to keep from laughing. “I’ll go on through to the enclosure,” she said. “The Cardinal asked us all to pray for him. I told him we already did, every day. I didn’t tell him we prayed for him to retire. Somebody ought to open up for the men out there.”

“Are they out there already? We’re not supposed to open until six o’clock.”

“It’s cold,” Beata said.

Marie Bernadette had her keys out and was fumbling with the door to the enclosure. It had an old-fashioned lock, the kind that took a heavy iron key with a little cutout square hanging at the end. The door swung back and Beata went through it.

“If we don’t get someone out there soon, we’re going to have at least one corpse before morning,” she said. “Their bodies can’t handle this cold.”

The enclosure started with a hallway, long and narrow, with a crucifix in a wall niche at the very end. Beata unhooked her cape and pulled it off her shoulders. It was as hot in here as it was cold out there. She put the cape over her arm and went down the hall, genuflecting quickly when she got to the crucifix. Then she turned to the right and went down yet another hall to Mother Constanzia’s office. At least the ceilings were high, she thought. It was odd that it had never occurred to her that enclosure could cause claustrophobia.

Mother Constanzia of the Assumption of Mary was already waiting, standing at the window that looked out onto the enclosure courtyard as if there was something she could see out there that she hadn’t seen a thousand times before. Beata cleared her throat.

“I knew you were there,” Constanzia said. “I was just thinking. I tried to talk you out of becoming an extern sister, didn’t I?”

“You threatened not to admit me to Carmel if I insisted on becoming an extern sister.”

“It’s another example of how God knows better than we do what we need. I’ve got to admit that I never did think we’d need a lawyer.”

“We have lawyers.”

“I mean a lawyer we could trust.” Constanzia turned around. “I’m not going to say that I don’t trust the Cardinal or his lawyers, or that I don’t trust the order and its lawyers, but—”

“You don’t trust either.”

“Something like that. You did well in law school, didn’t you?”

“Tolerably well,” Beata said. “I was only ninth in my class, but it was a fairly big class, and it was Yale.”

“Sorry.” Constanzia motioned to the chair in front of the desk. “I’m a little on edge. This hasn’t been the best month of my life, let me tell you. Are we in as much trouble as you thought we were?”

“Pretty much.” Beata let her cape fall over the back of the chair, put the briefcase on the desk, and sat down. “First, let me confirm what I thought this morning. The Justice Project is taking this very seriously. They’re bringing in Kate Daniel herself to handle it—”

“Good grief. That woman.”

“She’s a very smart woman. She’s a brilliant attorney.”

“She’s an anti-Catholic bigot.”

“I don’t know that she is. She does see this as an opportunity, and I don’t blame her. But the game she’s after isn’t the Catholic Church.”

“It’s the game she’s going to get.”

“Then she’ll count it as a loss. What she wants is Drew Harrigan, stuffed like a turkey and served up for Thanksgiving dinner, and if you ask me, she’s going to get him. In the process, she may drive us into bankruptcy, or worse, but I don’t think that’s what she’s after.”

“She won’t mind if she does.”

“Maybe not,” Beata said. “But Reverend Mother, the issue here is procedural, really. It’s a matter of timing. Mr. Harrigan deeded the Holland Street lots to the monastery two weeks ago Wednesday. That was after he’d been indicted for illegal possession of prescription drugs, along with about two dozen other things, and after Sherman Markey filed suit against him for defamation and false accusation. After. It’s the after that’s the problem.”

“Because it looks like Drew was trying to shield his property from the lawsuit.”


“Because it looks like an arrangement,” Mother Constanzia said. “It looks like the whole thing is fake. That Drew deeded us the property so that Mr. Markey couldn’t get it in a court settlement, and then we’d give it back to him when Mr. Markey was taken care of and had gone away.”

“That’s it, yes.”

“Does it matter that none of that is true?” Constanzia said. “Oh, I’m not saying Drew didn’t deed it to us out of spite against Mr. Markey. Drew is Drew. But there isn’t any arrangement. The fact that we want to sell the properties ought to be proof that there isn’t any arrangement.”

“We might want to sell them, keep the cash, and turn the cash over to Drew after his legal troubles were over.”

“Does the general public actually think that nuns are that Machiavellian?”

“It’s not the general public we have to convince. It’s one sitting judge, and he’s going to side with Markey. He has to, really. The fact of the timing looks bad. The fact that the buyer insists on remaining anonymous looks bad. The fact that Mr. Harrigan is your brother looks worse.”

“I ought to go in there and tell that idiot that Drew may be my brother, but I’ve been a registered Democrat all my life.”

“I think that would break enclosure.”

“I’d wear a veil. And it can’t break enclosure any worse to testify in a court than to vote, and we always vote.”

“I’m trying to get a handle on what it would look like on the news. You sitting on the witness stand with your face covered by an exclaustration veil—”

“Be serious,” Constanzia said. “Where are we now? What can we do?”

“Not much,” Beata said. “We can’t sell those properties as long as the court forbids us to, and the court is forbidding us to. We’re going to have to find some other way to solve the problem.”

“There is no other way to solve the problem. We have a bank note coming due in six weeks.”

“I know.”

“And if we don’t pay it, there’s going to be a first-rate dustup about this monastery’s finances, and it’s not going to be confined to the screaming fit the Cardinal is going to subject us to.”

“The Cardinal doesn’t usually scream, does he?” Beata said. “I’ve always thought of him as a go-stone-cold-silent type.”

“The distinction is too fine to excite my interest.”

“Possibly. But Mother, seriously. It’s time to tell the Cardinal, and let him straighten this out. Maybe he could talk to the mystery buyer, or the buyer’s lawyers. Maybe he could advance us enough to make the payment or countersign to roll over the loan. The Archdiocese does that kind of thing all the time.”

“It used to.”

“Mother, it’s going to be a lot more willing to do that kind of thing than it will be to go on the legal defensive against Markey, who’s going to be very easy to portray as a poor, downtrodden, unjustly harassed homeless person. It’s going to be easy to do that even if it turns out Markey did sell Mr. Harrigan the drugs.”

“Procured them,” Constanzia said automatically. “Is he really homeless?”

“Not now. The Justice Project has him in a hotel. He was homeless when Mr. Harrigan says he was paying him to pick up the drugs for him.”

“You’ve got to wonder how a person like that could keep himself together long enough to do all this nonsense he’s supposed to have done to pick up the OxyContin and whatever else there was supposed to be. You read all these things in the papers. Going to a different pharmacy every time. Going to different doctors’ offices. It’s like a spy film with James Bond.”

“The Justice Project doesn’t think Markey did do any of that. They don’t think he’s capable. They think Mr. Harrigan is accusing him because he’s handy.”

“Because Drew doesn’t want to admit that he did it all himself?”

“Because Mr. Harrigan is shielding somebody else, somebody he has more—respect for. Somebody whose life he doesn’t think is a waste.”

“I’d like to get my hands around Drew’s throat and squeeze until he turns blue.”

“Well, you can’t for the next forty days. He’s in rehab. The enclosure there makes the enclosure here look like wide-open access. Do you want me to try to get in touch with the Justice Project people?”

“Would it do any good?”

“Probably not but I wouldn’t mind meeting Kate Daniel.”

“Then go do whatever it is you do at this time of night.”

“I go out to look at the barn.”

“I remember when we had sheep in that barn,” Constanzia said. “It’s strange, really, the way things have changed since I’ve been in Carmel. I thought when I came here that if things changed in the outside world, I wouldn’t know about it. But I do.”

“I thought that if I came to Carmel, I’d find nuns who were all actively engaged in an ecstatic union with God. That was why I didn’t want to make a solemn profession, did you know that? I’d read St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa, and I couldn’t see myself in the throes of that kind of, that kind of—”

“Sexual hysteria?”

“We have to assume that that isn’t what that was, don’t we?”

“Get something to eat before you go out to the barn,” Constanzia said. “I have to think. And thank you for everything you did today.”

“There’s nothing to thank me for. I’m a member of this community.”

“I know. Go now. You look exhausted.”

Beata hesitated for a moment, and then turned and left the office, back into the hallway, back down the hallway to the niche where the crucifix was. She genuflected again, absentmindedly. Around her, the monastery was silent. Even the clocks didn’t tick.

“Everybody who comes to Carmel has a different story,” Mother Constanzia had said, the day Beata had shown up at the monastery door, dressed in an Armani power suit and carrying a burgundy leather SoHo briefcase from Coach.

She didn’t miss the power suit, but she missed the sound of music, all kinds of music, even the bad kind. She kept listening to hear the voice of God.

Copyright © 2006 by Orania Papazoglou. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

JANE HADDAM is the author of many previous novels, most featuring Gregor Demarkian, as well as numerous articles and stories published widely. Her novels have been finalists for both the Edgar and Anthony Awards. She lives with her family in Litchfield Country, Connecticut.

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Hardscrabble Road (Gregor Demarkian Series #21) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Philadelphia radio talk show host Drew Harrigan is extremely poplar by the fanatical right-wing who appreciate his law abiding throw away the key approach to justice in which liberals are the cause of all things wrong in America as they are soft on crime he especially goes after drug criminals from the users to the sellers to the growers. However, ironically the inflammatory rabble rouser is arrested for illegal possession of prescription drugs if convicted, the evidence is overwhelming, his show could collapse. --- An alcoholic homeless person Sherman is considered to be Drew¿s supplier. However, someone apparently wanted to reduce the evidence against Drew as Sherman Markey is poisoned and dies. The Justice Project¿s Edmond ¿Chickie¿ George hires former FBI Agent Gregor Demarkian to learn who killed their late ¿client¿ Sherman and whether as many believe it ties back to Harrigan and his arrogant supporters. What seem relatively simple turns out to be complex as Gregor and the Philly police and DA struggle through a labyrinth filled with suspects from all sides of the political, religious and academic spectrum --- This is a terrific whodunit that readers will fully appreciate except perhaps a certain talk show host. The story line is fast-paced yet enables the readers to see the same event from multiple viewpoints. In his twenty-first appearance, the Armenian American sleuth is at his best seeking justice for the disenfranchised with an investigation that takes him all over the place. Fans of the series will take immense delight in Demarkian¿s efforts and newcomers will discover an American tradition. --- Harriet Klausner