Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I had mixed feelings about Jane Haddam’s Fighting Chance.

The book had the usual characters in especially interesting situations. It also had Jane Haddam’s social conscience, her way of making social comments in her Gregor Demarkian mystery stories. But I thought Fighting Chance had a confusingly-written ending.

Philadelphia authorities arrest Father Tibor for murder. They have a cell phone video seeming to show him committing the murder. And to top it off, Father Tibor refuses to defend himself. All he will say is, “I have the right to remain silent.”

Tibor became involved because a bank is foreclosing on the home of one of his parishioners.

Never mind that the bank isn’t the one to hold the mortgage or that the man and his wife have paid every payment.

The mortgage market is in chaos. Banks have split up mortgages, bundled them, and muddied their ownership so that some paid-up homeowners have to fight foreclosure.

Things were that confused in the financial chaos of the early 2000s.

At the same time, two of Tibor’s Armenian immigrant parishioners are in danger of being jailed or deported. Authorities caught one of them in petty thievery.

Many people suspect the presiding juvenile judge of taking bribes. A for-profit prison corporation is bribing the judge to give the longest juvenile sentences possible. They want to keep their cells full. The government pays on the basis of occupied cells.

Someone clubs the judge to death. The video of Tibor seeming to commit the crime appears. And later someone commits another murder.

Surely this is one of the most confused cases retired FBI agent Armenian-American Gregor Demarkian ever faced. His love for Tibor complicates things.

Those who know the Gregor Demarkian books know Haddam writes them in sections. We learn a lot about the characters and their thoughts. And the books usually end with surprises.

This book ends with Gregor Demarkian making an almost fatal mistake.

Again, I love the characters, the social conscienceness, the ethnicity of the book. At first I thought it was one of the best in the series (which now numbers twenty-nine entries). But I found the ending, the way Haddam presented the dialogue, difficult to read.

So, as always, I enjoyed Jane Haddam. For me, the book overcame its flaws.

 And mine is not the only voice to be heard. My wife has read the whole series in order. She thought this was one of the best.

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