cover image And One to Die on

And One to Die on

Jane Haddam. Bantam Books, $21.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-09975-1

Described in the story as ""Philadelphia's own Armenian-American Hercule Poirot,"" Gregor Demarkian tags along with his friend, fantasy novelist Bennis Hannaford, when she attends a distant relative's disastrous 100th birthday party. Tasheba Kent, once a silent screen star, caused a scandal in the 1930s when she ran off with her equally famous brother-in-law, Cavender Marsh, after her sister's mysterious death in France. The couple ensconced themselves in a gloomy mansion on an island off the coast of Maine and became recluses. For her birthday, however, they plan to auction off some of their possessions, an event drawing a motley assemblage of interested folk, including Cavender's daughter, whom he abandoned as an infant; a collector of Tasheba's memorabilia; a tabloid journalist; and an assortment of bankers and lawyers. When, during a fierce storm, Tasheba and the journalist are murdered, Gregor must call on his investigative skills, honed during his service with the FBI, and prevent another murder while he unmasks the killer. In this 10th in her holiday series after Bleeding Hearts, Haddam colors a transparent mystery plot with the traditions of gothic horror tales and silent film melodrama. (Mar.)