Monday, December 30, 2013


Jane Haddam's A Stillness in Bethlehem (1993) is one of the better Gregor Demarkian books.

Gregor, Bennis Hanaford, and Father Tibor vacation in Bethlehem, Vermont. Father Tibor wants to see the small community's well-known annual Christmas pageant.

Already, someone has killed two women in “hunting accidents.” The two women seemed to have little connection. 

Gregor helps local law enforcement officials investigate the “accidents.” Along the way, someone kills a third woman, shooting her as she sits beside Gregor at the pageant.

For me, the strong part of this book was its social consciousness. Candy George, the young woman who portrays Mary in the pageant, was brutally sexually abused as a child. Now she is married to a grossly sexually- and physically-abusive husband.

Without knowing about the abuse, Father Tibor, Gregor, and Bennis think Candy is excellent in the part of Mary.

And the part strengthens Candy. Finally, she finds just enough self-respect to help her start to break away.

As always, I struggled with what I see as the often-tedious endings to the Demarkian books. In this one especially, the action and explanation went on too long.

Still I was taken by the characters. The regular Armenian and Armenian-American characters always interest me. And I found myself cheering for the abused Candy George, hoping she would find the strength to break away. 

He knew there was no such thing anymore as a Norman Rockwell town in a Norman Rockwell America, if there had ever been either one.
Gregor didn't think life was exciting at all. His feet hurt.
Murder was sometimes the sanest possible solution.
That was the sort of shock that came from the most universal of human failings, the delusion each and every one of us has that we are good judges of character.

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