I just put this book down and I can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s called Cheating at Solitaire. I don’t remember a single character so much as picking up a deck of cards. Possibly the title refers to Jane Haddam’s real subject here — aside from the mystery — which is the horrifying aspect of celebrity culture. Only I can’t quite figure out how.
Never mind. The New England island of Margaret’s Harbor has been overtaken by a film crew, and since the cast of the movie includes celebrity starlets Arrow Normand and Marcey Mandret, the paparazzi have invaded as well. The young starlets are perpetually drunk or otherwise befuddled (native stupidity accounts for a lot of it) and when a young man is found dead in a truck in a snow storm, one of the girls ends up in jail. But possibly the puppet-mistress is Kendra Rhode, a girl from an immensely wealthy family who has summered on the island forever. Parallel intrigues involve the year-round residents of the island — here’s where Haddam’s customary finesse with social class shines.
You might wonder, if you’ve been paying close attention, how Philadelphia resident Gregor Demarkian ends up on the island — this is Haddam’s customary mystery-solver, the former FBI profiler gone independent. Turns out the Scottish movie star Stewart Gordon is an old friend of Gregor’s. Gordon is a nice character, an intelligent, upright Scot who has turned stardom in a sci-fi film into a useful career. Haddam gives him a perfectly charming romance.
In other news, Gregor stumbles toward his own wedding. Sometimes these series mysteries falter when their protagonists leave their own turf but this foray onto a snow-covered island was, well, bracing.