cover image Dear Old Dead

Dear Old Dead

Jane Haddam. Crimeline, $5.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-56447-1

Gregor Demarkian, Haddam's ( Bleeding Hearts ) Armenian-American detective, returns in his tenth holiday mystery, this rather tangentially connected to Father's Day. With a gang war raging around a Harlem medical clinic and casualties pouring in, anyone could have poisoned newspaper magnate Charles van Stradt, the clinic's benefactor. Chief among the suspects are clinic director Dr. Michael Pride and head nurse Sister Augie, either of whom might have killed to keep Michael's arrest on a morals charge out of van Stradt's paper . But Michael and Augie are well-accounted for when van Stradt's granddaughter and expected heir quaffs her own dose of strychnine, so suspicion shifts to the remaining grandchildren and a lone right-to-life protester. Haddam is sparing with her clues--the reader senses rather than solves the killer's identity--and her denouement is formulaic. And in a mostly bland cast, Pride's character is frankly inexplicable. A smart, dedicated physician, he is a homosexual who not only continues to practice unsafe sex but already has the symptoms of full-blown AIDS. To impute his irresponsibility to compulsion is unthinking, the more so when it serves no plot purpose. Dear Old Dead is a disappointment for those who have enjoyed Haddam in this guise or as Orania Papazoglou. (July)