Jane Haddam's stylishly written novels featuring Gregor Demarkian, retired chief of the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit, have thrilled and delighted an ever-increasing number of readers over the years. Now, with Somebody Else's Music, Haddam delivers her most compelling crime novel to date - a brilliant exploration of how the past affects the present and the twisted workings of human psyche.
Elizabeth Toliver, now an acclaimed author with a rock star lover, was a too-smart, fashion-impaired teen who was the target of abuse from a circle of popular high school girls. The abuse escalated until one summer night she was nailed into an outhouse with over twenty snakes and, while she beat herself into a coma trying to escape, a local teenage boy was murdered just outside. Still haunted by nightmares of that night, Toliver returns to her hometown for the first time in almost 30 years, triggering a deadly chain of events.
About the Author
Jane Haddam is the author of seventeen previous novels featuring Gregor Demarkian, as well as other novels, articles and stories. Her books have been finalists for both the Edgar and Anthony awards. 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
Somebody Else's Music
By Jane Haddam
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2002 Orania Papazoglou
All rights reserved.
— JANIS IAN
"The Boho Dance"
— JONI MITCHELL
In the beginning, the problem of the body of Anne Marie Hannaford had not been as simple as it should have been. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had seemed reluctant to give it back, as if they were afraid she had become an icon, like Jeffrey Dahmer, and that people would make a shrine out of her grave. When they finally did give it back — three days late, and not embalmed — Bennis had decided that there was nothing she could do. In spite of the Hannaford tradition of being buried in the big family plot in the cemetery behind the Episcopal Church in Ardmore, where Hannafords had gone to rest since 1762, Anne Marie would have to be cremated. Bennis tried to consult her brothers about this decision, but it was hopeless. Christopher didn't care. Bobby had other things on his mind. Teddy didn't want to talk to her. It felt, she sometimes told Gregor, as if they were all still children growing up in Bryn Mawr, where boys were the ones that mattered and girls were supposed to fend for themselves as much as possible, unless they were debutantes, when they deserved the kind of attention that would make it possible for them to marry well.
After Anne Marie was cremated, her body was put into a small brass urn with handles that looked like a bowling trophy and then — because nobody could decide what was going to happen with that, either — left on the top of Bennis's low dresser in her own bedroom in her apartment on the second floor of the brownstone house on Cavanaugh Street. It would have been a morbid thing, except that Bennis never slept in that bedroom anymore. She rarely even went to that apartment, except to work, and these days she had her work station set up in the living room on a big table pushed up against the plate-glass window that looked down to the street. She said she never thought about it, but Gregor did. He thought about it all the time, and once a day, when he knew Bennis would be out at the Ararat or at Donna Moradanyan's, he went down to look at it for himself, just to make sure it was still there. He had no idea why he thought it might be gone. She couldn't very well bury it, or place it in a vault, without a good deal of formality. The people who ran cemeteries were sticklers for paperwork. Dead bodies could be dangerous, even if they had been burned to ashes. That was why the Commonwealth insisted that anyone who wanted to scatter ashes within its precincts get permission. Maybe, Gregor thought, he was afraid that she'd open the urn and scatter the ashes on her own, without permission. He just didn't understand where she would scatter them. God only knew, she didn't want them on Cavanaugh Street. She said that often enough, and vehemently, when Tibor brought up the possibility that the ashes could be placed at Holy Trinity Church. Maybe she would take them out to Ardmore herself, or take them with her to one of those "events" she was always being invited to but never agreeing to attend, like the Philadelphia Assemblies. Maybe she would eat them. The whole thing had become a matter of annoyance, because Gregor didn't really know what he thought of it, but he couldn't stop obsessing about it. He felt like Lida, or Hannah, whenever it looked as if someone new would be moving onto the street. They obsessed, too, and also to no good purpose. Eventually whoever it was moved in and got settled, and they knew no more about it than when they had started staying up nights to speculate to each other on the phone. Sheila Kashinian would have stayed up with them, but Howard couldn't stand it when Sheila talked on the phone in bed.
Actually, somebody was moving onto Cavanaugh Street this morning. That was why the building was nearly deserted, and why Gregor felt completely easy about looking in on the urn for the first time in weeks. Bennis, like the rest of them, was out in the street, watching the moving men bring what looked like a small, oddly shaped piano up to the fourth floor of their own brownstone, into the apartment that had been Donna Moradanyan's before she married Russ and moved into a town house on the other side of the Ararat. It was a rental, at least for the moment, that was all that anybody knew. Bennis had been out the door before the Ararat opened this morning, to hear what Donna had to say about the new tenant one more time — although, Gregor thought, she couldn't really believe that Donna, or Russ, would turn the apartment over to somebody who wouldn't be good for Cavanaugh Street. It was just that this was the first time an apartment here had been advertised in the classifieds, the way apartments were when they were anywhere else. Usually, apartments on Cavanaugh Street were passed from tenant to tenant by way of family connections, church connections, and a tenuous network of refugee contacts that Tibor kept up as part of his attempt to make it possible for every single Armenian who wanted to be resettled in Philadelphia. This time, Russ had insisted — there were antidiscrimination laws, after all, and he was not only a lawyer with a reputation to maintain, but he approved of the laws to begin with.
"It's a woman, that's all I know," Donna had said, a couple of weeks ago, in Gregor's kitchen, as she stacked her books for her Literature of the English Renaissance course into a pile. The books were huge, and the pile was not little. Bennis sat drinking coffee and reading the titles on the spine: Imagery and Iconography in Tudor Poetry; The Figure of the Virgin in the Work of Edmund Spenser. Gregor thought it looked like one of the piles in Tibor's apartment, except that there was nothing out of place in it. Donna needed a copy of I, the Jury or Passionate Remembrance, or both.
"Anyway, that's all he'll tell me," Donna said, "except that she's some kind of a musician. A classical musician. She plays in some orchestra — "
"The Philadelphia Philharmonic?" Bennis suggested.
"No," Donna said. "It had an odd name, and then when I asked him to tell me again, he wouldn't. He says we all worry too much about stuff like this, and I suppose he's right, but it's Cavanaugh Street, for God's sake. What does he expect us to do? Anyway, I'm sure it'll be fine. Russ likes her a lot, whoever she is, and he says she's met Gregor sometime or the other, although I don't suppose that's much of a recommendation. A lot of mass murderers have met Gregor at some time or the other."
"Thank you very much," Gregor said.
"Well, it's true. She's moving in on Wednesday, for whatever that's worth, and we can all find out then. Lida is threatening to throw a reception for her. Wouldn't that be something? One poor defenseless woman and those Medusas on the warpath. Mrs. Valerian grilling her about birth control."
"They might like her just as much as Russ does," Bennis said, reasonably.
"Ha! That would be worse. Then they'd try to marry her off, if she isn't married already, and if she is they'll try to find out why she isn't with her husband and if he hasn't been beating her into a pulp on a regular basis for years, they'll try to get them back together. And they'll bring food day and night until she's gained at least twenty extra pounds, and then she'll probably be too fat to play in that orchestra she's in and she'll get fired, and she won't pay her rent, but Russ won't be able to evict her, either, because they'll kill him if he tries, and then she'll get a job at the Armenian Christian school because Father Tibor will feel sorry for her, and that won't be enough to cover the rent either, but that won't matter because we won't be charging her any by then, because how could we do that with a woman who'd lost her job just because her employers thought it was okay to discriminate against fat people?"
The urn was still on the dresser, sitting on top of a copy of Janson's History of Art, exactly where Gregor had seen it yesterday. There was still a thick coat of dust on the top of it, so thick that if he ran his finger through it he would make a deep-sided groove, gritty and jagged. Bennis was telling at least this much of the truth. She was not tending this urn, the way she might tend the grave of somebody she had cared deeply about, or somebody she felt so guilty about that she was forced to make reparations and atonement on a daily basis. It was just here, as neglected as Janson's book and the scattered pages of old newspapers that covered the rest of the dresser's surface. Gregor would have felt better if the old newspapers hadn't all contained stories announcing the execution of Bennis Hannaford's oldest sister.
"It would be a lot easier to handle this," Bennis said at the time, "if I hadn't always disliked her so much."
Gregor went over to the urn and put his finger on the dust. He took his finger off and wiped it on the white handkerchief he still kept in the front vest pocket of his good suit jacket, as if, even in this small way, he was stuck in the time warp Bennis always accused him of inhabiting whenever she was angry with him. Then he went out of the bedroom and down the hall to Bennis's living room, which no longer had much in the way of furniture in it. He went over to the worktable and looked out over the computer, through the window, and the moving men still struggling with whatever it was. They were trying to hoist it up to the fourth floor and bring it through the living-room window. There was probably no other way to get it upstairs at all. Bennis and Donna and Lida and Hannah and Sheila were all sitting across the street on the steps to Lida's town house. The very old ladies were not in evidence at all, but they would be somewhere, at one of their windows, taking notes in Armenian. Tibor would be in his own apartment, posting messages to rec.arts.mystery, having forgotten the time. Old George Tekemanian would be sitting on the sidewalk under the umbrella at the outdoor table-and-chair set his nephew Martin had ordered for him at L. L. Bean. Gregor checked his hip pocket — it wouldn't be the first time he'd forgotten his wallet — and then left Bennis's apartment and headed down the stairs to the street. There had never been a chance that he would be able to leave today without passing through crowds like a movie star on her way in to the Oscars. Except, Gregor thought, that the movie star would probably be pleased with the crowds, and she'd never have to see anybody in them again.
When he left the building, the whatever-it-was was in the air, just about level with Bennis's living-room window, where he had been standing only moments before. He crossed the street to Lida's and stopped in front of Bennis.
"How do I look? Is my tie on straight?"
"When have you ever cared about your ties?" Bennis asked, straightening anyway, because she always did. "You look very nice. You went to more trouble than you needed to. Jimmy never notices what he wears."
"When you do business, it's good to be businesslike. Are you sure you won't come with me? I doubt if he'd mind, no matter what you say. After all, he called you. And I could use the support."
"You don't need any support," Bennis said. "You're a lot alike, actually. Big ethnic guys with unwavering moral compasses. The same unwavering moral compass. If anything, I'd say he was far less sophisticated than you, even now. But no, I would not like to come along. His lady friend might object."
"She's not going to be there."
"This meeting is going to be in the National Enquirer, and don't you think it won't. There's no real way for people like Jimmy to keep things secret. I should know. I was once one of his not very well kept secrets."
"That was a long time ago."
"Agreed. It was. But it's not like she doesn't know. The lady friend, I mean. And I don't care how intellectual she is, she wouldn't like it. Just go and listen to what he has to say. You'll be fine."
Gregor looked around. The whatever-it-was was now level with his own living-room window, which did have furniture in it, mostly Bennis's. She had put the stuff he'd had when she moved in into storage, and would have done worse than that (this stuff deserves to be ritually burned) if he'd let her.
"What is that thing?" he asked. "It's not a piano."
"It's a Peter Redstone harpsichord. That's what the moving men said. Donna asked. She's got Peter Redstone virginals, too. Mother and child virginals. They're still in the van. It's all musical instruments, everything that's been moved in so far this morning. I don't think there's even been a bed."
"Why isn't she coming with him?" Gregor asked. "The lady friend, I mean. This is supposed to concern her, isn't it?"
Bennis sighed. "Go ask him," she said. "I don't know anything but what I told you and that stuff I showed you from the Enquirer and the Star, and I wouldn't have known that if he hadn't brought it up. Just be glad it's Elizabeth Toliver who's got the problem and not that idiot he was married to before. The supermodel, you know. She's congenitally brain dead. I don't understand why men like that always do that sort of thing. I mean, can't they count? Those women reach forty like the rest of us, and then what do you have? Nothing at all in the head and not much left in the body. You'd think — "
"That's a cab," Gregor said.
He leaned over and pecked her on the cheek, eliciting a loud "bravo!" from Donna Moradanyan. There was indeed a cab turning onto Cavanaugh Street, and not just going through but pulling up to the curb right in front of where he was. He hurried down Lida's steps to the sidewalk and got there just as a small, dark-haired, painfully thin young woman got out, fumbling with a purse almost half her size.
"Oh," she said, seeing him come toward her. "It's Mr. Demarkian. Good morning."
"Good morning," Gregor said, and then the next thing he knew he was in the cab and the cab was moving, and he still couldn't remember who that young woman was or where he had seen her before. That he did know who she was and that he had met her before was not in doubt, but when he turned around to get another look at her from the cab's rear window, she had disappeared into a huddle of Cavanaugh Street women. He turned back around again. They'd know her shoe size, her favorite dessert, and her blood type by the time he got home, and they'd either be for her or against her.
Then he wished, for the fortieth time since Thursday, that he had not let Bennis talk him into meeting with Jimmy Card and listening to his problem.
It wasn't true, as Bennis liked to claim, that Gregor Demarkian had a prejudice against celebrities. For almost twenty years of his life, he had worked with them more often than not, although they had been the high-government-official type of celebrity rather than the been-seen-on-TV-a-lot kind. There was less of a difference than he had expected there to be. All of the ones he could remember, including the presidents of the United States, had been vain, in that anxious, uncertain, panicky way that indicated that, deep down, they didn't much like what they really looked like. They were people who had placed their trust in the illusions they were able to create. If they were really good at it, like Bill Clinton, they could do anything they wanted to do and get away with it. If they were really bad at it, like Richard Nixon, they might as well never have gotten out of bed. Gregor had been a fairly senior agent in the FBI during Richard Nixon's last year in office. He could remember watching the man on TV, the jerky movements, the paranoia so palpable it glistened on his skin like sweat. Gregor had never been able to understand it. Usually, a man that badly fitted for celebrity never got near to public office, except maybe on the most local level, where it was possible for personal loyalties to outweigh appearances. The miracle of Richard Nixon was that he'd managed to last as long as he had in national office. Gregor didn't think it could be done anymore, when everything was television, and the only people who got their news from newspapers were fussy academics in the more progressive colleges who thought even PBS was dangerous to the mental health of our nation's youth. Except, Gregor thought vaguely, as he got out of the cab in front of Le Cirque Blanc, they wouldn't say "our nation's youth" these days. They'd say "young people" or "the young" or maybe even "teenagers." It was like Hillary Clinton's vast right-wing conspiracy. It was everywhere, and it changed the words on you, just when you thought you knew what to say.
Le Cirque Blanc was the closest thing Philadelphia had to a "celebrity" restaurant, and Gregor had not been surprised when Jimmy Card had asked to meet him there. It was not Philadelphia's best restaurant, or the one most famous for its food, but like certain places in New York it had a couple of curtained-off back rooms that could be reached by a side entrance and a staff that understood what privacy did — and did not — mean. In New York, such a place would be full of people like Madonna and Harrison Ford, people so famous that they really had had enough of having their privacy invaded every time they went out for a drink or a little light dinner. In Philadelphia, Gregor got the impression that the place was full of members of the city government who didn't want their dinner meetings to show up on the six o'clock news and Main Line society women who wanted to have flings that wouldn't do them credit with their friends. Most of the time, both these groups of people tried to be as public as possible, on the theory that well-known people were more important than the less well-known kind. Some of the Main Line society women must have known this wasn't true, since they were probably married to men so important that their entire lives revolved around staying strictly out of sight.
Excerpted from Somebody Else's Music by Jane Haddam. Copyright © 2002 Orania Papazoglou. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you remember high school as a set of cliques (jocks here, popular girls there, geeks ostracized), and you wonder what might happen if one of those geeks left the small town that high school was in, went off to the big city and became minorly famous, then returned to the town that the rest of the crowd never left, this book will satisfy you.The returning geek was hideously mistreated by the popular girls during their high school years. The worst episode had them forcing her into an outhouse with a bunch of non-venomous but nonetheless terrifying snakes. At the same time, another high school student was murdered. Now she's returning to assess what she should do about her aging mother, and the cool kids don't know how to cope with her success.Meanwhile, she's about to marry a gracefully-aging rock star, who happens to be a former lover of Bennis Hannaford, crime consultant Gregor Demarkian's love. The rock star enlists Demarkian to solve the old murder in hopes that the tabloids will have to get off his future wife's case once the real murderer is exposed.High school is a long way back for me, but this story took me right back there.
#18 in the Gregor Demarkian series.I read this story shortly before there was a national (US) news story about a high school boy who was constantly harassed, physically, by school mates. He was beaten, jumped on at every turn; his life was made miserable. That is the subject of this well-written mystery novel: the cruel harassment of Elizabeth Toliver in high school by a clique of a half dozen girls, the ¿popular crowd¿. . The ultimately most horrid act was to nail Elizabeth, whom the clique had nicknamed Betsy Wetsy after a doll that would wet her diapers and have to be changed, inside a park outhouse with 22 snakes that the girls had put in there, knowing that Elizabeth was utterly phobic about snakes. Now an adult and a very successful author with a rock-star lover, Elizabeth is till phobic about snakes and still cowed, frightened of those same 6 females, all of whom stayed in the small town in which they¿d grown up. Elizabeth is returning to her home town, Hollman, PA, for the first time in almost 30 years to deal with her senile mother and in classic fashion of abused people, she both wants to return and dreads what will happen, because she knows she still can not stand up to that clique.What makes that night 30 years ago even more horrifying is that a young life guard was murdered near the outhouse in which Elizabeth was screaming and beating herself bloody in an attempt to get out; the murder was never solved.Because relationships in the Demarkian world are never really straightforward, Gregor becomes involved in Elizabeth Toliver¿s life through the request of Jimmy Card, her lover; he wants Gregor to go to Hollman, investigate who is planting really vicious stories abut Elizabeth in the National Enquirer as well as investigate the murder that is now 32 years old. Card and his lawyer are pretty sure who is planting the stories, but they need proof that will convince Elizabeth to act to cut off the flow and the resulting ugly publicity. Gregor is more intrigued by the murder and soon becomes convinced that that somehow is the key.So, he travels to Hollman¿and naturally, more bodies show up. The first, however, is not that of a human being but of Elizabeth¿s mother¿s old dog, cruelly eviscerated. The dog is not the last, as we might expect. And the plot goes on from there.Haddam seems far more interested in the characters in the former high school clique and their current lives and relationships, both to one another and to others in the town, than she really is in the mystery itself. As she points out in her introduction, this is the longest book she has written to date, and it is absorbed with exploring the reasons for and results of small town women, in particular, being frozen in time¿during their high school years which were their peak times. While the murder part is well done, the sociological part, if we can call it that, is outstanding. And as I mentioned in the beginning, fits right into today¿s headlines.Making his appearance for the first but not the last time in the series is mark, Elizabeth¿s bright, appealing teen aged son. Haddam has two sons, and it¿s pleasant to speculate that she modeled mark and Geoff on her own boys. Certainly the last names are entirely too similar to be coincidental.For me, this is one of her finest books. She ties it all together brilliantly. There are places where she could have used some better editing, but these are few and do not detract from the story. Highly recommended.
I love this book! I read it when it first came out & it took me right back to my high school days - not that they were anywhere nearly as awful as is described in this book....but it had the effect of transporting me right back to those days...I've recently referenced the book in two sermons & have stimulated interest in this book & its series...get them all & read them!
As a huge fan of Jane Haddam and her aaaaArmenian-American detective, I somehow missed this book when it was published. It is super, as her books all are; well written, containing interesting characters and a fascinating setting with a different cultural flavor. The plots are all satisfying, not too gory but hardly in the cosy category.