After his road trip to New England (The Headmaster’s Wife, 2005), Gregor Demarkian, the Armenian-American Poirot, finds his biggest case waiting back home in Philadelphia.
Every time right-wing radio agitator Drew Harrigan opens his mouth on the air, he gives five new strangers motives for killing him. Now he’s sunk to a new low. Arrested by two Philly cops who’ve found his car full of prescription drugs with nary a prescription, he’s fingered homeless handyman Sherman Markey as his supplier and shielded a big asset by deeding a local real-estate parcel to Holy Innocents Benedictine monastery, where his sister, Mother Constanzia of the Assumption of Mary, presides. When celebrity-loving Judge Bruce Williamson sends Drew to rehab, dull-witted, alcoholic Markey becomes the center of a media firestorm and takes Drew’s place as the city’s most likely murder victim. It would make sense if Markey were killed by Drew’s lawyers, who’d prefer to crucify him without dealing with his sworn testimony; or by Markey’s own legal team at the Justice Project, who’d find him easier to transform into a martyr in his absence; or by UPenn professors Jig Tyler or Alison Standish, for reasons of their own. But things develop along quite different lines for Gregor, who’s pulled into a case that’s complex mainly because the people involved are so complicated.
Haddam outdoes herself with a broad canvas that recalls John Gregory Dunne’s Nothing Lost and the best of P.D. James.