cover image CONSPIRACY THEORY: A Gregor Demarkian Novel

CONSPIRACY THEORY: A Gregor Demarkian Novel

Jane Haddam, . . St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95 (277pp) ISBN 978-0-312-27188-6

Out of today's headlines, the prolific Haddam—this is number 19 in the Gregor Demarkian series (after 2002's Somebody Else's Music)—has fashioned a tale that should be stronger than it is. In addition to a conspiracy cult and hints of domestic terrorism, we have multimillion-dollar corporate mismanagement, child prostitution and the rich vs. poor debate, all presented in longwinded, heavy-handed rhetoric that nearly swamps the mystery. Pity, for the core story is a dandy. One winter night in Philadelphia, two terrible things happen: Father Tibor Kasparian is injured in the bombing of an Armenian church and a prominent businessman is assassinated on his front steps in the midst of a big party. Are the two crimes connected? And what does either have to do with the conspiracy group called America on Alert, whose hate-filled literature is swirling through the city? That's the challenge for Gregor Demarkian, retired head of the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit, and resident of Cavanaugh Street, Philadelphia's Armenian-American neighborhood. The citizens of Cavanaugh are as wonderful as ever, but the other characters are such stereotypes they might have been e-mailed in from central casting: the Rich Bitch, the Heartless Capitalist, the Social Climber, the Lonely Spinster manipulated by the Charismatic Cult Leader. The best character is Cavanaugh Street itself, as much a living presence as any human. Spending time there is always a pleasure. Agent, Don Maass. (July 7)

FYI:Haddam has been a finalist for both Anthony and Edgar awards.