A small Philadelphia neighborhood, a melting pot of fervent religious beliefs, erupts in violence that calls for all the skills of Gregor Demarkian, the formidable retired head of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, as he tackles his 16th case following last year's Skeleton Key. A Roman Catholic parish still suffering from the aftereffects of a pedophilia scandal that rocked the archdiocese; an Episcopalian church with a mostly gay male congregation; an independent, fundamentalist Baptist church; and atheist Edith Lawton all occupy the same block. Only Haddam's superb plotting and characterizations allow this microcosmic creation to achieve credibility. The new Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia first consults Demarkian when a suicide inside St. Anselm's proves more complicated than first believed and threatens to become a new scandal for the beleaguered Catholic church. Then Demarkian is coopted by the police when another death, thought to have been natural, proves to have been murder. As tensions escalate, Demarkian must unravel the motives behind killings that threaten to tear apart the delicate balance. To make things even more difficult, Demarkian's lover, Bennis Hannaford, is facing a personal crisis. Her sister's execution date is approaching and this time there appears no hope of stopping it. Haddam's large cast pulses with petty jealousies, vanities and fears as they confront the mysteries of life and religion. This is an engrossingly complex mystery that should win further acclaim for its prolific and talented author. (May 14)
Forecast:An Edgar and Anthony awards finalist, Haddam could finally cop a major prize with this one.
Reviewed on: 04/02/2001 Release date: 05/01/2001
Mass Market Paperbound - 432 pages - 978-0-312-98286-7