Sunday, October 31, 2021

Skeleton Key: Jane Haddam

This book is the 16th book in the Gregor Demarkian series by Jane Haddam. I read this book in October because the story is set at Halloween. It starts on October 27th and continues through to the end of October, so the holiday atmosphere is there although not necessarily any celebrations. So it really wasn't very Halloweeny, not spooky or creepy, but a good mystery. This was a reread and it was a good choice from the series. 

Kayla Anson is a very very rich 19-year-old heiress; her father left his entire fortune to her, writing her mother, Margaret Anson, out of the will. She lives with her mother in a mansion, but only until she can get away to college. She and her mother hate each other. Bennis Hannaford, a well-known fantasy writer, also from a very rich family, is visiting Margaret to request the loan of a piece of art for a showing in Philadelphia. Bennis doesn't like Margaret very much either. While staying at Margaret's house, Bennis finds Kayla's dead body in the Anson's garage. So Bennis is stuck in Litchfield, Connecticut for a while, although it is pretty clear she had nothing to do with the death.


Bennis calls in Gregor Demarkian, her lover, and volunteers him to work with the Resident Trooper in Littlefield to be a consultant on the investigation. Gregor is a well-known retired ex-FBI profiler, so he is always welcome as a consultant. 

This series started out sort of on the cozy side, with some kind of focus on a holiday in each book, but later in the series the books became darker and more focused on issues. Skeleton Key is the last book (I think) to have a holiday focus. Bennis's and Gregor's continuing relationship always plays a part. They both live in the Armenian-American neighborhood in Philadelphia that he grew up in, and that area is sometimes a focus of the books, but not this one.

Except for the first book, Not a Creature was Stirring, every book in the series starts with several vignettes featuring characters who are prominent in the story and may or may not be suspects. Thus we get an introduction early in the book to the key players. Unusually, in this case, the lead up to the murder takes place in that first section, and Bennis and Gregor are involved from the very beginning. 

The setting in this case is a small town in Connecticut, but this small town has a lot of rich residents, and the country club is the focus of the social life of those people. Young female friends of Kayla Anson are at the age to be debutantes but their parents are more excited about that than the girls. Because of the small town setting, there is a good cross-section of character types involved in the crime, if only on the periphery of it. And that is fascinating. 

In the end, Gregor is able to identify the person guilty of the crime and knows why, but there is no evidence to convict the culprit. This is probably fairly realistic but not very satisfying. Still, the other elements of the story are entertaining and kept me interested until the end. Fortunately I remembered none of the story so it all felt new to me.


I started reading this series in 2005 and read the first twenty books in a short time. Since then I have only read four more in the series. There are six books left and I want to read more of them. 

Jane Haddam is the pseudonym of Orania Papazoglou. She wrote five novels in a different series and two standalone novels under that name. She was married to William L. DeAndrea, who also wrote several mystery series and standalone novels.


Another good read for R.I.P. XVI (Readers Imbibing Peril).



 -----------------------------

Publisher:   St. Martin's Press, 2001 (orig. pub. 2000)
Length:      359 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Gregor Demarkian, #16
Setting:      Litchfield, Connecticut
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.



18 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Another writer I lost track of over time. So hard to maintain an audience over a long period.

TracyK said...

I guess that is true, Patti. I was looking at the list of books in the series, and she was publishing one a year up through 2014, and then it was not until 2020 that her last book was published (after her death in 2019). It amazes me that any series continues for that long with an audience.

col2910 said...

Probably one I can skip Tracy. I'm not hurting for books and rich people don't really interest me - at least as far as my reading goes.

Margot Kinberg said...

This is a good series, Tracy, and I'm glad this one was enjoyable. I do like the Demarkian character.

TracyK said...

I agree, Col, I don't see this as a series you would want to read. And I will admit that most of the books in this series focus around the rich. There are several that I liked especially that were set in a religious setting, with nuns.

Lark said...

I really like the sound of this mystery! I'll have to look and see if my library has a copy.

TracyK said...

Lark, I hope you have a chance to give this series a try. And I would love to know how you like it if you do find one of the books.

TracyK said...

Margot, I was happy that this particular book was so rewarding. Both the parts with Bennis and Gregor and the parts focusing on the crime, the suspects, and the investigation were very good.

Rick Robinson said...

I don’t think I’ve read any of her books, there are none on my shelves. Someone I might try if I ran out of things to read, a remote possibility.

Rick Robinson said...

By the way, want was the Classics Spin result?

TracyK said...

Rick, I don't know that many people who have read her books. Which surprises me because they continued to be published. I liked her earlier books best but I don't know how well they work if you just start in the middle.

The Classics Club Spin result for me was THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy. It was the last book I read in October, and I did like it. Although it was kind of weird and very different. I liked the ending.

CLM said...

I remember reading the very first book in 1990 when I worked at Bantam. I guess it didn't motivate me to seek out more in the series but in fairness, many great series start off slow (Deborah Crombie and Louise Penny, among them).

My book group read The MovieGoer many years ago and I remember we also found it a bit odd.

TracyK said...

Constance, that is funny. The first book is one of my favorite books. I reread it a few years and liked it as well the second time. I am planning to read it again in December because it is set at Christmas. And the rest of the books are different from that first one, if my memory is correct.

Re The Moviegoer, I am wondering how to review it. Like I said, I liked it. But a lot of that was because of the ending.

Sam Sattler said...

Wow, Tracy, you really tore through the series once you discovered that you enjoyed it, and then...I've had that happen a couple of times, too, and I think sometimes reading a series too closely together can expose some of the flaws and repetition that we wouldn't see if we had read the books maybe four or so months apart. Glad you've decided to read more of them now. This one sounds good.

TracyK said...

Sam, I enjoyed all of the books I read by Haddam in 2005, but the books after that in the series were more focused on issues. When I reread them now I notice more of the flaws, but this one worked well for me. I have two more in the series on my TBR shelves, I will see what I think of them now.


Another author I read like that was Jill McGown, and the series was done at the point I was reading them, so I read all 13 of them. Not all of the books were equally good by I loved that series and have enjoyed the ones I have reread.

Todd Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd Mason said...

As DeAndrea's widow, that "Haddam" should write about wealthy characters doesn't surprise me too much, given his right-wing politics. I've known a few, as I went to a private high school to finish up, when after a move the local public schools seemed too watered down and rife with bullying--I'd had more than my share of that sort of thing with my first high school, and had eventually beaten down two of my adversaries in widely separated incidents...the creep who was principal of the junior high school and demoted to vice principal when it was expanded to junior/senior high school asked me after both fights, Did I want to settle this the Honorable Way, in the boxing ring? Inasmuch as I had, in rage pushed past control by their bad behavior, put both of them on the floor, obviously he was looking to be an audience, as eagerly when I was in seventh grade as when I was in ninth...I suppose I'm fortunate he didn't ask me if I liked gladiator movies, as the joke goes in the film AIRPLANE!...

TracyK said...

Todd, it has been a while since I have read many of the books in Haddam's series but I don't think that her portrayals of rich people were very complimentary or they were equally divided between good and bad portrayals. Your high school experiences don't sound good.