Monday, October 31, 2016


“When we care only about money and fame and youth, we don’t just hurt ourselves, we hurt all humanity everywhere, we make the world a worse place than it could be. And we make ourselves worse too. We make ourselves morally trivial people, and we waste the life we’ve got . . .”


Jane Haddam is good at disdain.

In Cheating at Solitaire, Haddam distains the wealthy culture of professional celebrities.

When someone murders one of the grips on a movie being made at Martha’s Harbor, Massachusetts, the local prosecutor calls in Gregor Demarkian.

Gregor is only too glad to get away from Bennis’ elaborate plans for their wedding. And Bennis is glad to have him gone.

But Gregor finds himself in the midst of fatuous people. The young movie starlets have accomplished nothing. The hangers-on men around them have even less to recommend them.

It takes little imagination to figure out the culture Haddam is attacking. “It wasn’t success that brought fame [to these people],” one character says. “It was fame that brought success.”

And in another place, Gregor’s friend Stewart said, “Do you know what the ‘red carpet’ actually is? It’s a device for letting the lunatic press know that you’re fair game.”

But does that culture lead to murder?

In this case, it does. “Human beings are narrative animals,” another characters says. “They liked stories. Their brains were hardwired to think in stories. Nothing sounded true to them if they didn’t fit into a story.”

So conspiracy theories abound and lies come to life. “Identity was a story. In very traditional societies, the stories were myths and legends. In very religious societies, the stories were religious ones. In this society, the stories were at the movies, and on television, and in music videos, and without those stories the whole damned thing would fall apart.”

So it makes sense. The driving need to create the story you have always dreamed could be a motive for murder.

Even Haddam’s title Cheating at Solitaire is a roundabout play on the emptiness of wealth and broken promises.

As always with Haddam, the people, the situation, the disdain, are more interesting than the plot.

The paparazzi play a major part in Cheating at Solitaire. They are as brutal as events like the death of Lady Dianna, Dodi Al-Fayed, and their driver have long shown them to be.

Cheating at Solitaire even contains a sweet "later in life" love story along the way. 

I enjoy Jane Haddam’s Gregor Demarkian series for the characters, the insight, the disdain. Whatever faults I see in the plot don’t bother me. I like reading Jane Haddam.

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