cover image Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts

Jane Haddam. Bantam Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-08562-4

Charmingly original, with the occasional cuteness redeemed by a suddenly exposed hard edge, Haddam's ninth Gregor Demarkian holiday mystery begins in February on the busy streets of an Armenian neighborhood in Philadelphia. Tongues wag when 58-year-old Hannah Krekorian takes up with Paul Hazzard, a psychologist famous for his books and his seminars and for the nasty death of his wife four years earlier, a crime for which he was tried but never convicted. When Hazzard is murdered in Hannah's bedroom, his blood staining the same ornamental dagger that also figured in his wife's death, Hannah is an immediate suspect. Series hero Gregor, a former FBI agent, takes up Hannah's cause and casts his eye on the dead man's magnificently dysfunctional trio of grown-up children and his former mistress, who is soon to publish a tell-all tale. Aiding Gregor is his no-nonsense lover, fantasy writer Bennis Hannaford. While Gregor considers the unusual entry wounds on Hazzard's body and those featured on the next victim, the author details several believable romances that flourish and flounder on Cavanaugh Street. Never quite cozy and never quite tough, this tale combines the best of both styles to stunning effect. (Jan.)