"Haddam 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
Twelve years ago, Chester Morton disappeared from his hometown in Mattuck, New York, leaving no trace and never to be heard from again. For the past twelve years, his mother has kept the search for her son alive—paying for a billboard overlooking the local community college, putting up new flyers every week, hounding every law enforcement agency she can get to listen. Her determination has made his disappearance very high profile but it's also been damaging to her family, her children and to herself.
Now, Chester's body is finally found—hanging from the very billboard that has been advertising his disappearance. Chester's corpse, however, is recent—meaning that Chester had been alive, somewhere, until very recently. Under pressure and with limited resources, the local police turn to Gregor Demarkian—a former FBI agent and a frequent consultant on such cases—to try and unravel the truth buried within this very complex and tragic case and find out once and for all what really happened all those years ago.
About the Author
JANE HADDAM, author of more than twenty novels, has been a finalist for both the Edgar® and the Anthony Award. She lives in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
Jane Haddam, author of more than twenty novels, has been a finalist for both the Edgar® and the Anthony Award. She lives in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
Read an Excerpt
A Gregor Demarkian Novel
By Jane Haddam
St. Martin PressCopyright © 2011 Orania Papazoglou
All rights reserved.
If anybody had asked Gregor Demarkian if it mattered to him to feel he had someplace settled to live, he would probably have said no. Why should it matter to him? Being homeless would not be good, but he'd never been the kind of person to care about the messiness of his kitchen or the view from his balcony. At the moment, he didn't even have a balcony, and he didn't want one. He wasn't sure what he did want. Not being liable to trip over stacked carpet samples in the hallway might be one thing. Not to find bathroom tile samples in the bathtub might be another. The bathroom tile "samples" were actually bathroom tiles, big ones, in all kinds of colors. There had to be hundreds of different colors, sizes, shapes, and materials for bathroom tiles. It was insane.
It was six o'clock on the first Monday in September. Labor Day. Gregor had managed to wrestle the bathroom tiles out of the bathtub so that he could take his shower, and now he was standing at the big window in his living room that overlooked Cavanaugh Street. Upstairs, Grace Feinmann was practicing, the faint sound of the harpsichord rippling up and down scales. Out on the street, nothing much was happening. It was a holiday. Donna Moradanyan Donahue had put up a big mural of Thirties-era workmen with big muscles outside Holy Trinity Armenian Christian Church, sort of in honor of somebody named Glenn Beck.
"No, she isn't honoring Glenn Beck," Bennis had tried to explain, a week ago, when Donna was first out there putting things up and getting her son Tommy to hammer nails. "It's kind of a joke. Glenn Beck is the sort of person who sees Communists in his soup, or, you know —"
But Gregor didn't know. He hadn't known then, and he didn't know now. Glenn Beck was somebody on television. He had tried to catch Glenn Beck on television. He'd never managed it.
He walked away from the window and headed toward the kitchen. Ever since Bennis had discovered coffee bags, he'd been able to make his own coffee in the morning. This was a good thing, since it turned out that Bennis needed to do all kinds of things in the morning, and getting the coffee wasn't one of them.
He went through the swinging doors and found himself confronted by the kitchen table, which had cabinet façade samples stacked up on one side of it and handle samples stacked up on the other. Gregor was beginning to think you could put an entire house together from samples alone if you didn't care if things matched. He picked up one of the façade samples and looked at it. Then he picked up another. He was sure there were lots of differences between them. He just didn't understand why anybody would care. He really didn't understand why Bennis would care.
He filled the kettle and put it on to boil. He took a clean mug out of the cabinet and put a Folgers Coffee bag in it. He put the mug on the table between façades and handles. Then he took it off and put it back on the counter.
The Post-it Note with the information for today's meeting was stuck to the front of the refrigerator. It said: H. ANDROCOELHO, EIGHT. That was it. He had always been rather cavalier about the business part of what he did. He had a good pension from the Bureau and a solid wall of savings behind it. He didn't need to worry about the details as much as he might have. Still. It had gotten to the point where his professional life was like a poem by William Carlos Williams.
The kettle went off. He took it off the heat and poured water over the coffee bag. Bennis left her tea bags to steep for twenty minutes or more. If Gregor did that with a coffee bag, he'd have tachycardia in a minute and a half.
He looked at the handle samples again. Some of them were actually handles. Some of them were knobs. Some of them seemed to move. Some of them obviously didn't. How did anyone choose among all these things? Why would anyone want to put herself through this? Why not just let the contractor pick what he thought was practical and go with that?
Gregor came to again. He felt as if he were going in and out of fugue states. He took the coffee bag out of the coffee with a spoon. He threw the coffee bag into the garbage pail next to the sink. He wondered if, somewhere, Bennis had hundreds of samples of sinks that she'd gathered to look at before deciding which one would go into the kitchen of the new house.
Gregor took a sip of coffee. It didn't help. He took another sip of coffee. It still didn't help. He thought of H. Androcoelho, who was coming all the way out here from someplace in New York, on a holiday, to talk to him about something — and Gregor couldn't remember it.
Gregor took the coffee cup and went back through the living room and down the hall again, to the bathroom and the bedroom. Bennis was just coming out of the bath, wrapped in an enormous bathrobe, her wet hair falling down over her shoulders. The bathrobe was Gregor's bathrobe. Bennis had a dozen bathrobes of her own, including ones from special stores where everything cost as much as a small car, but she didn't wear them.
"Hey," she said, pushing the door to the bedroom open. "Are you okay? I left a note about your appointment on the refrigerator."
"I saw it. The kitchen table is full of — stuff."
"I know it's a pain, Gregor, but it's only for a little while. We should be into the new house by Thanksgiving. Or maybe Christmas. Anyway, it will be worth it when it's done. You'll see."
"I don't think I can go without sitting at my kitchen table for four months."
"I don't see why. It's not like we ever eat here. I mean, really eat. We go to the Ararat. You're going there now. There's something we can do in the new house. Or I can do. I can cook."
"Do you cook?"
"Well enough when I was living on my own," Bennis said. "I could get Donna to teach me. It's going to be a really spectacular kitchen."
"I'm going to go downstairs and see if old George wants to pick up Tibor with me," Gregor said. "I wish you'd made more notes about that appointment. Don't you think it's odd, this guy coming out on a holiday?"
Bennis was putting clothes out on the bed. All the underwear matched. Bennis's underwear always matched. That was something odd to know about her.
"He's the chief of police in wherever this is," Bennis said. "Maybe this was the only time he could get away. And it's not really all that far from here. It's just New York. Maybe two hours or so north? Can't be much more than that. I forgot the name of the town. It's an Indian name."
"All right. I'd still feel better if you or I remembered exactly what it was he wanted to talk to me about."
Bennis had the hairbrush in her hand. She put it down on the bed. "It's a cold case — a missing persons cold case, except just a little while ago the guy turned up dead. And there were complications, but I don't remember those, because there are always complications. If there weren't complications, they wouldn't come to you."
"Don't get all sigh-y on me, Gregor. I'm renovating an antique house and I've got a book due at the end of the month. Which is going to be late. And besides, I don't know. It's one of those things. It's been on television."
"Yes. Really, you've got to remember this. I told you. It was on one of those shows. Disappeared, that kind of thing. Or maybe it was only going to be on one. I'm sorry. The thing sounded garbled as hell to me when I took the call, and he said he'd come today, so I figured he'd tell you about it. He will tell you about it."
"He will," Gregor agreed. "I really am going to go down and see about old George. Are you coming out for breakfast?"
"Yes, and no," Bennis said. "I'm meeting Donna. I keep telling her I don't like wallpaper, I really much prefer paint, but she has some samples for me to see. She's going to bring them and then if I hate them she'll bring them back. I'll probably hate them."
"We don't have room in this apartment for wallpaper samples," Gregor said.
"Go see about old George. I don't like the way he's been looking lately. He looks like kindergarten paste."
"Go," Bennis said.
Outside on the landing, Grace's playing was clear, not exercises now, but a recognizable piece. Gregor thought she had to have her door open up there. She did that sometimes when she was sure everybody in the building was awake. Gregor didn't mind. Bennis didn't mind. Old George was too far away to be bothered by it if he didn't want to be.
Gregor thought about going upstairs for a minute and asking her what she was playing. Then he decided that would be rude. Grace was always rehearsing for something, and besides, she might think he was actually bothered by her playing and being polite about it. It never ceased to amaze him how complicated people were, in their relationships with each other. Here they were, empowered by speech, and they were always looking for clues and hints and signs and omens. Maybe that was why so many people loved things like The Da Vinci Code.
The landing was clear of debris of any kind, which made him feel better. He went downstairs a flight and found that that landing was not. There were two tall stacks of what appeared to be plumbing fixtures — the faucets for a bathroom, maybe, or for a kitchen. Some of the faucets were brass, so Gregor opted for a bathroom. Or maybe many bathrooms. There were a lot of bathrooms in the house he and Bennis had bought at the other end of the street.
"It'll be fine," Bennis had said when they did it. "We'll fix it up a little and then we'll be practically next door to Donna and Rush."
"Right now we're right across the street from Lida and Tibor."
"We're not exactly moving to California, Gregor. We're still going to be on Cavanaugh Street."
Gregor went down another flight, and that was the ground floor. He could see the line of mailboxes in the little vestibule between the inner and outer doors. He could see the rub of faded paint against the blank wall that was on the far side of the stairway. That was the problem with condominiums. You needed everything to go right, or they didn't get kept up.
He thought about that sentence for a moment, and then decided that he wasn't ever really awake until he had made it to the Ararat. Then he went around behind the stairs and knocked on old George Tekemanian's door.
"It's open," old George said.
Gregor pushed at it. It wasn't only not locked. It was not latched.
Old George was sitting up in the enormous leather lounger chair that took up the middle of his living room, pounding away on a laptop he had placed on a tray table. The laptop, the lounge chair, and the table — all the way across the living room — that the laptop was supposed to go on had all been given to him by his nephew Martin, and they were all so expensive, they looked like if you scratched them, they would bleed money.
Old George looked up as Gregor walked in.
"You shouldn't leave your door unlocked like that," Gregor said. "I keep telling you, you only think it's perfectly safe here."
"It's perfectly safe here, Gregor. Nothing ever happens on Cavanaugh Street, except when Sheila Kashinian has one of her fits and throws Howard out into the street, and then he goes over to the church and wants Father Tibor to give sermons on the sanctity of Christian marriage. I remember Howard Kashinian when he was a boy, just like I remember you. He was an idiot even then."
Gregor went around to the side of the chair and took a look at the screen of the laptop. Old George was on Facebook.
"What's 'Mafia Wars'?" Gregor said.
"Tcha," old George said. "You really have to keep up with the times. It's a game. I can go all day on games, lately. That's what happens when you get old. You drift."
"You're been drifting lately?"
"I think I've been bored," old George said. "It's all well and good for people to tell you you ought to keep busy, but the fact is you get to where your knees don't really work right. Then what do you do? I'm not going into one of those nursing homes Angela keeps talking about."
Angela was old George's nephew Martin's wife.
"I didn't know you and Angela were still fighting about nursing homes."
"She doesn't call them nursing homes," old George said. "She calls them 'assisted living facilities.' That's really what she calls them. Can you believe that?"
"I think she's only worried about your being here on your own."
"I've been here on my own since Maria died. Well, all right, Gregor, not in this apartment. I appreciate the apartment. I tell Martin that all the time. I appreciate all the things. I don't know what I did with myself before I got on the Internet."
"You balled socks in the mechanical sock baller and shot them across the room," Gregor said. "You broke lamps. I was here."
"I've got better aim now," old George said. "I wish everybody would just stop worrying about me. I can't see myself moving out to live with Martin and Angela, either. They're very nice, Gregor, but they've got small children. Family is a wonderful thing. But it ought to live in its own house."
"There was all that about Sophie Mgrdchian," Gregor said. "That wasn't even that long ago. She'd been living on her own, too."
Old George did something decisive on the keyboard and then began to shut the computer down. "Sophie Mgrdchian," he said, "was a damned fool. And I knew her since she was a child, too. We were children together. Well, no, all right, she was a child and I was, what do you call it these days. I was a teenager. But you know what I mean. She was always a damned fool. I'm not about to let somebody I don't even recognize come in here and stay in my house."
"That isn't what she did," Gregor said, but he could see it was time to give it up. "Tibor is going to meet us there this morning. He's got something or the other to do, I don't remember what. He's probably on Facebook."
"I'm on Facebook, Father Tibor is on Facebook, Bennis is on Facebook. You're not on Facebook, Gregor. You should do something about it. Social networking is a very good thing. At least it keeps you from being bored."
"I'm too busy trying to launch the space shuttle from my phone," Gregor said. "Do you want a coat? I know it's only the beginning of September, but it gets chilly in the mornings sometimes."
"Stop fussing about me," old George said. "Everybody fusses about me. It's Labor Day. It isn't raining. I'll be fine. Give me a minute to put this away."
Gregor gave him a minute. Martin and Angela had bought old George this apartment. They paid for a maid service to come in and clean twice a week. The place was spotless, but it looked oddly blank and impersonal. There was something different.
Old George came out from the back, carrying his wallet.
"I know what it is," Gregor said. "I know what's wrong with this room. You moved all the pictures."
"I didn't move them, Gregor. I put them away."
"All your pictures of Maria? And of Stepan before he died? All of them? Why?"
"I gave the pictures of Stepan to Martin," old George said. "He doesn't have a lot of pictures of his father. I gave him the old home movie film, too. He's having it converted to DVDs. Did you know they could do that?"
"Yes," Gregor said. "Bennis thinks you don't look well. Is she right? You look fine to me, but if there's something wrong —"
"There is nothing wrong, Gregor, except that I'm hungry, and at the rate you're going, we're never going to get to the Ararat."
Fr. Tibor Kasparian was already at the Ararat when they got there, hunched down on the window booth that was supposed to best resemble the way a restaurant table would be in Yerevan. Gregor doubted this. He didn't doubt that his Armenian ancestors had eaten in restaurants, and probably in their homes, by sitting nearly on the floor with their legs folded up underneath them. He did doubt that they were still doing it even in 1965, never mind all this time later, when Armenia was free and there was probably a McDonald's where the old family tavern used to be.
He let old George slide down the low bench first and then slid in after him. Father Tibor had coffee already, and there were places set out for all of them, but none for Bennis. Linda Melajian probably knew before they did who would be sitting at this table every morning.
"Bennis is the one not coming?" Tibor said.
"She's coming, she's just meeting Donna," Gregor said. "Something about the house. I'm learning all kinds of things about houses. Did you know there were over five hundred different varieties of bathroom tile?"
"I knew there were a lot, Krekor, yes," Father Tibor said. "They rebuilt my apartment, you remember when it was destroyed with the church. They were always coming over asking me what I wanted to have. I never knew what to say. I didn't care which one I had, as long as it was serviceable."
Excerpted from Flowering Judas by Jane Haddam. Copyright © 2011 Orania Papazoglou. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is Haddam at her best. Very good, strong characters, plot holds together, surprise ending, and all in her style of macabre humor. Love this one, as have loved all previous by this author
In Mattatuck, New York, the corpse of long missing college student Chester Morton is found hanging from a billboard that had been asking for information from anyone who had seen him for a dozen years. The Local Police Chief Howard Androcoelho asks private investigator Gregor Demarkian to help investigate whether Morton was murdered or committed suicide as he was missing for a dozen years. After taking his friend ninety-nine years old George Tekemanian to the hospital in Philadelphia, Gregor goes to Mattatuck. Although concerned about his friend's health that interferes with his case focus, Gregor still finds oddities that lead him to conclude Morton did not die on the billboard but was placed there after he was dead. He soon finds a back pack near where the body was found; inside is the skeleton of an infant, which may have belonged to Chester. While Gregor ponders why Chester vanished years ago, the deceased's shrilling mother demands the cops arrest her son's former girlfriend while also wanting odd information about her son. The latest Gregor Demarkian private investigative thriller is an exciting tale that deftly contains a different type of inquiry compared to the last case (see Wanting Sheila Dead). The protagonist works on the mystery of Chester Morton as he seeks answers to several whys that he believes will lead to the culprit; at the same time he is worried that his friend back home will not make it to celebrate his upcoming birthday. Flowering Judas is a strong entry as Demarkian shows both his hard and soft boiled sides. Harriet Klausner
Gregor is called to a small town in NY to consult on a murder of a young man who disappeared 12 years before. His body has been found hanging off a billboard and it's clear to Gregor that the body had been moved after death. The local police are incompetents bragging up the lack of crime in their small town and spending stimulus money on GPS's and blue tooth instead of a coroner. Gregor has to call in the state police forensics for help much to the chagrin of the locals. Once the old owner of a construction company seeks Gregor out about the skeleton of a baby found in a backpack at his site, the case takes a whole turn.
Number 26 in the Gregor Demarkian of Philadelphia series.Once again, Demarkian is called into a small town, this one in New York State, to consult with the local police on a baffling death. At first, he¿s just as happy to take the case, since Bennis, in the throes of remodeling a townhouse they¿ve just bought at the end of Cavanaugh Street where they currently live, has covered every surface with samples--of carpeting, of bathroom fixtures, of counter surfaces, you name it. In order to take a shower, Demarkian has to empty the tub of samples of bathroom tiles. But all other thoughts vanish in the face of the collapse of his old friend, George Tenemakian, whose 100th birthday is just two weeks away. Frantic over George¿s condition, Demarkian reluctantly goes to Mattatuck, New York, to meet not only a bizarre set of circumstances, but an equally bizarre set of characters, including the local police ¿commissioner¿.Haddam¿s Demarkian series can be of wildly varying quality; you never know what you¿re going to get when you open a new installment in the series. But when Jane is good, she¿s very very good, and this is one of her better ones. She¿s a very formulaic writer; the first chapter always introduces the suspects and gives some of the back story. Almost always, the plot revolves around some social or other issue that is incensing Haddam at the moment. At first glance, it does appear that that element is absent from the book, but there is one character whose sole reason for existence is to highlight an injustice.Haddam¿s writing in this book is in her usual distinctive style, and it is crisp and to the point. She always manages to come up with at least one lunatic (but believable) character wandering the streets unrestrained, and Mattatuck does so provide. The plot is a bit dodgy which weakens the book towards the end, but Flowering Judas has just about everything good that the followers of the series enjoy. Highly recommended.
In a small town that isn't any more, an old missing persons case becomes a murder, and Gregor Demarkian is called in because the local head of police is in over his head. Much confusion ensues. Meanwhile, there are complications on Cavanaugh Street.Not one of the best in the series, but if you've been following the characters, don't skip this one.
First time reading this author. Excellent story telling with strong characters. Will definately read more of her books.
All of Jane Haddam books have fully developed characters and situations. Mystery lovers will enjoy all of this series.
The formula Ms Haddam established in the early books of the Demarkian Series is followed here, although to more effect. Less Bennis, no decorating of houses to make them look like bunnies or Tibor expounding for pages. More an exploration of inept police work in an insular community. Solid effort
Love all of these series of books!
He pulls up and opens mollys door
Can i join?