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Fighting Chance: A Gregor Demarkian Novel


Fighting Chance: A Gregor Demarkian Novel

Jane Haddam has written 29 Gregor Demarkian novels. Please tell me you’ve read at least one. If you’ve missed this fine series in your journeys through the literary world, stop what you’re doing and pick up FIGHTING CHANCE, read it, and then come back and see me. I’ll still be here. But you don’t want to wait another moment to read Haddam’s fine, workmanlike prose.

These novels should have a much broader audience than they do. Perhaps readers are not initially attracted to Demarkian’s Armenian heritage; fair enough (I have lived for over six decades and never met anyone of Armenian descent). But a page or two of acquaintance with the quietly capable Demarkian will make a believer out of you. Demarkian, whose curriculum vitae includes a stint in the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, is a freelance investigative consultant, working on everything from a chaotic mortgage foreclosure gone very, very wrong to a murder investigation where he must find a killer before the wrong man --- who looks very much like the right man --- is convicted of a heinous crime.

"FIGHTING CHANCE is a joy to read. There is a dark charm to the story, with a chuckle or five to lighten the mood occasionally in what is a tale wonderfully and perfectly balanced between character and plot."

The latter is the plot that propels FIGHTING CHANCE. Haddam throws a number of elements into a high-speed fan within the first several pages, not the least of which is the somewhat bizarre, if initially understandable, behavior of a strict though eccentric juvenile court judge named Martha Handling, who is not long for this world --- or at least the one in Philadelphia where the series is set. Handling leaves this mortal coil in a particularly violent way in chambers, and apparently at the hand of a kind, gentle priest named Tibor Kasparian. Father Kasparian is the pastor of a once-failing but now-thriving Armenian Catholic Church who was supposed to be in court to provide moral support for an Armenian teenager caught shoplifting. There is an eyewitness to Father Kasparian’s apparent dispatch of the judge, a college professor with a soft heart and even softer brain. Worse, an incriminating video of the good pastor’s actions has gone viral, though its source is unknown.

Demarkian is nonplussed; he believes there is no way that his good friend committed murder. One of the most puzzling and bedeviling elements of the matter, though, is Father Kasparian’s reaction. He does not deny committing the murder (as is his right) and declines any legal representation or assistance, even from Demarkian. He simply sits in his cell and says repeatedly, “I have the right to remain silent.” And remain silent he does. Demarkian is not going to let a little thing like Father Kasparian’s silence (and all-but-certain guilt) dissuade him from uncovering the truth. With the quiet but stalwart support and assistance of his wife, he undertakes an investigation in which answers lead to more questions, which beget more answers, which, in turn...well, you won’t be able to stop reading. This may be one of those books that you want to read twice, just to see how Haddam pulls it all together after taking it apart.

FIGHTING CHANCE is a joy to read. There is a dark charm to the story, with a chuckle or five to lighten the mood occasionally in what is a tale wonderfully and perfectly balanced between character and plot. Leave yourself some time for the backlist as well, whether you have read each of the previous installments in the series or are new to the party. Come for Demarkian, stay for the mystery. Or the reverse. But please do stay.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 10, 2014

Fighting Chance: A Gregor Demarkian Novel
by Jane Haddam

  • Publication Date: September 9, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 125001235X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250012357