Jane Haddam, “Cheating at Solitaire”

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.

Snow in a summer resort: always disorienting

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.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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8 Responses to Jane Haddam, “Cheating at Solitaire”

  1. Annie says:

    Another completely new writer to me. Do I need to go back to the first in the series?

  2. carolwallace says:

    No, Annie. There are some 23 of them and the only really progressive thing about them is the state of Gregor’s romance. They do vary somewhat in quality, but only as much as, say, Dick Francis does. Nice diversion, whichever one you pick.

  3. motheretc says:

    For a moment there I was very confused, thinking this was the same author who wrote Old Filth, the book you recommended as a possible reading club choice which will not likely work out as it has a long wait list at the library – but which I have put on hold for my own personal enjoyment. But I have realized my mistake!

  4. carolwallace says:

    Yes, I can see it: Jane Haddam, Jane Gardam…. but all the difference! I hope you found something stimulating but not too strenuous for your book club — it can be such a fine balance.

  5. Pingback: Follow my book blog, “Book Group of One” | | Carol Wallace BooksCarol Wallace Books

  6. Pingback: Jane Haddam, “Living Witness” « Book Group of One

  7. Jane Haddam says:

    Hi, guys. I stumbled across this for the first time today. And in case you really want to know–there was a lot more book in the first draft, and some of it had to do with the way in which the starlets (and other celebrities) instead of having real friends pay people to be “friends” so they never have to be alone. They really are alone, though, in any sense we’d mean it, so..solitaire. It was too much side story in the end, and came out.

    Jane Haddam

    • carolwallace says:

      Yes, of course. That makes perfect sense. I’m sorry the side story came out because I really liked the compassion with which you handled those poor girls. In fact I have always deeply admired the incisive social commentary that’s such a big part of your books! Thanks for clarifying. — Carol

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