Review

Blood in the Water: A Gregor Demarkian Novel

by Jane Haddam

A short distance out from Philadelphia lies the posh community of Waldorf Pines, which thinks of itself as better than everyone else. Gated, with heavy security, high walls and golf course frontage for every house, well, how could it not? But its residents are merely pretenders to wealth. Oh, they have money, but just enough to throw around in a very ostentatious, public display (exactly the behavior they disdain in others). Most of the homeowners are constantly thinking of ways to one-up their neighbors. But even more than that, they have something to hide.

"BLOOD IN THE WATER is sort of a modern-day Peyton Place --- full of scandals, backbiting rich snobs, neighborhood busybodies, and folks who just don’t measure up. Waldorf Pines may be fictitious, but that won’t prevent you from wanting to visit there, gawk at the residents, and maybe even spy on them a little bit."

“Waldorf Pines itself is not what it pretends to be. It is not an upper-class gated community. It’s gated, all right, but in fact it’s aimed at the high end of small town and the low end of corporate success. It is not a place for aristocrats. It is a place for people who like pretending to be aristocrats.”

One of Waldorf Pines’ wives, Martha Heydrich, is the kind of woman you love to hate. She’s rich, lives in a very expensive home, and drives a high-end sporty car with a gaudy pink custom paint job, not to mention she’s loud and generally obnoxious. She also has a husband who dotes on her, all the leisure time anyone could want, and she makes sure she gets herself on all the best committees. But who would hate Martha enough to kill her?

Well, the list is actually pretty long. Folks in the neighborhood call her impolite, and that’s about the only polite term they have for her. The other women on the committees think she’s ridiculous, overdone and out of place. She has a giant, um, chest and a lot of opinions. Besides, Martha is too, well, brash for Waldorf Pines. She calls attention to herself in a way that doesn’t fit in with the community. Plus, there’s a rumor going around that she’s having an affair --- with teenager and serious screw-up Michael Platte. Now there’s a real piece of work. Everyone knows about his past problems with drugs, and probably a lot more than just that.

Early one morning, the pool house at Waldorf Pines goes up in flames, leaving two bodies behind. One is unmistakably Michael Platte, and it is naturally assumed that the other is Martha Heydrich. Residents of Waldorf Pines secretly love something or somebody to talk about, and an affair --- particularly a sexual one --- is just about their favorite subject. Add in murder, and they are positively appalled --- and rubbing their hands together with sordid glee. But after some tests are done, it seems a lot less likely that Martha was one of the victims, even though her husband was arrested for killing her. If she’s not dead, then where is she? And who did the unidentified corpse belong to?

The local authorities, embarrassed that they got things so terribly wrong, call in Gregor Demarkian, an ex-FBI agent-turned-private-sleuth. Demarkian can take the pieces of a puzzle and put them in all the right places to find the solution --- in no time at all. He has as uncanny a knack for logic as did Sherlock Holmes, and gets results to rival those of the British detective. He just puts the clues in order and hands the answer to the police. Neat and tidy.

BLOOD IN THE WATER is sort of a modern-day Peyton Place --- full of scandals, backbiting rich snobs, neighborhood busybodies, and folks who just don’t measure up. Waldorf Pines may be fictitious, but that won’t prevent you from wanting to visit there, gawk at the residents, and maybe even spy on them a little bit. All those secrets….

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on April 19, 2012

Blood in the Water: A Gregor Demarkian Novel
by Jane Haddam

  • Publication Date: March 27, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312644345
  • ISBN-13: 9780312644345