DEADLY BELOVED
By Jane Haddam

Bantam, 1998
ISBN 0-553-57200-8

Reviewed by S. E. Warwick

Jane Haddam examines marriage, from the nearly married to the recently bereaved in Deadly Beloved, a holiday mystery featuring Gregor Demarkian, "the Armenian-American Hercule Poirot. "

The holiday in question is an impending wedding in Cavanaugh Street, the mythical Armenia- American enclave in Center City Philadelphia that is the focal point for the whole series. Indeed, Haddam uses Cavanaugh Street as a lens to examine the state of life in contemporary America, especially among the affluent and blue blooded (not necessarily the same thing).

The action begins in exclusive Fox Run Hill, a gated community whose residents make "keeping up with the Joneses" an art form. From the diet book author to the son-in-law of the general contractor who built the place whose bearing screams hoodlum no matter how much money he spends at Brooks Brothers, most of the people in Fox Run Hill have more money than breeding. Like "A-group" wannabes in high school, they fawn on neighbor Sarah Lockwood, a bona fide main line debutante beyond reproach.

Demarkian, a retired FBI profiler is called in to help the Philadelphia police unravel a lethal series of pipe bombings that are connected to the peaceful fakery of Fox Run Hill where the arrival of a black policeman is more remarkable than a bullet-riddled body in one of the oversized master suites.

Meanwhile, back on Cavanaugh Street, Demarkian neighbor and sidekick, the eccentric and blue blooded Bennis Hannaford, is deeply involved in the pending nuptials. The bride is single mother Donna Moradanyan, Hannafordís best friend. Author of a successful sword and sorcery series, Bennis has both blue blood and an earned fortune, but prefers to live among the real folk near Demarkian.

Haddam cleverly displays the people of Cavanaugh Street as very real in counterpoint to the people of Fox Run Hill whose carefully created personnas melt under the common sense scrutiny of Demarkian

After dispatching a school of red herrings, Demarkian identifies the murderer. The wedding comes off but not quite as planned and all of the loose ends are tied up as neatly as one of the bows on the brideís bouquet.

This is yet another series where the murder mystery is almost incidental to the story. Haddam left me wondering what happened the day after the wedding and if Bennis and Demarkian will explore new dimensions in their relationship.


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