Monday, August 25, 2008

Guest Blog-Cheating at Solitaire

I haven’t decided whether Jane Haddam intentionally means to insult her readers by belittling people who read for leisure or not. Whatever the case, she manages to extol education and demean the characters in her story who do not have formal education and who read romance novels.

Haddam’s latest novel Cheating at Solitaire is about the world of fleeting celebrity and the photographers who pursue those famous or infamous individuals. There are three thinly disguised characters in this book. Kendra Rhode plays the part of Paris Hilton, and Stewart Gordon plays the role of Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The other two characters, Arrow Normand and Marcey Mandret, are interchangeable for Britney Spears or her ilk. Maybe if I were better read, I would recognize who the history professor in the story is supposed to be.

The story takes place during the fall and winter when a movie is being filmed in a small resort town on an island off Cape Cod. The town which closes most of its businesses in the winter is accustomed to the summer visitors and the prestige that their old family money gives them. However, the off-season police department is unprepared for the onslaught of paparazzi that invade the town on the heels of two “twits” who are featured in the new movie. When a young man is found dead on the beach in a severe storm, Stewart Gordon travels to Philadelphia to engage the services of his old friend retired FBI agent Gregor Demarkian. One of the two young women in the movie has been arrested for his murder, and Gordon is convinced that she is not guilty of being anything but brainless.

“The paparazzi almost were rampaging hordes but it wasn’t their rampaging that worried Gregor. It was their state of mind. They seemed to live in a world where common human decency had been abolished, as matter of policy” (p. 342). This almost sums up the sometimes shocking events in this mystery.

After making disparaging remarks about people who read for entertainment, I found one of the small ironies of the book is that Haddam has a hard time keeping some of her facts straight. A young local photographer is drugged, and his right hand is severely mutilated. Later in the book, the victim wakes up and finds that his LEFT hand is bandaged and in pain. The story explains the reason that Jack has to be placed on the third floor of the small hospital is because there are flu cases in the rooms on the 2nd floor so the doctor wants him kept away from them. Being on the top floor is essential to the events in the book. However, Haddam seems to have forgotten the patients with the flu because suddenly the hospital becomes empty except for the one patient on the 3rd floor and one nurse on duty at the end of the corridor. Oh well. When you have written so many bestsellers, it must be hard to keep the storyline straight.

I like the Armenian detective Gregor or Kregor Demarkian. I guess I won’t give up on his author yet.


Blogger said...

There is no excuse for an author not to keep her facts straight. Also, isn't that one reason publishers have editors?

notaconnoisseur said...

I have no idea why they didn't catch these two things. I had to look back at the original incident when the guy's hand was injured to make sure that it really was the right hand...and not the left. But she blew it.