Fresh Meat: Blood in the Water by Jane Haddam

Blood in the Water by Jane HaddamBlood in the Water by Jane Haddam is the latest in the Gregor Demarkian detective series (available March 27, 2012).

The people of Waldorf Pines love living in their gated community because it keeps the riffraff out. However, readers of Jane Haddam’s Blood in the Water will soon find the gate holds more secrets inside than it does bad guys outside.

Most of the residents of the exclusive neighborhood are not wealthy, just in debt enough to keep up appearances. Like any closed community, it’s a bubbling pot of nosy neighbors and gossip.  When Arthur Heydreich discovers a fire in the neighborhood’s pool house, he’s rewarded for his good deed by being arrested for the murder of a burned body assumed to be his wife’s and a drowned teenager, Michael Platte, the local pool boy said to be his wife’s lover. Gregor Demarkian, former FBI agent and now police consultant, is brought in when the DNA results prove the burned body is a man, not Martha Heydreich, and the police need a new suspect after they’re forced to release Arthur.

I’ll be honest and say when I began this book I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I soon found Jane Haddam is as clever as she is thorough in setting a scene. She kept me guessing to the end and all my guesses were wrong, though she had clearly led me down the path to the right conclusion.

Jane has captured all the dark and stormy recesses of a neighborhood full of secrets and lies. Everything Gregor tries to do to work toward solving the crime is thwarted by the snotty Horace Wingard, manager at Waldorf Pines, and the keeper of his own little secret.

The more I read the more engrossed I became with the sneaky people residing in this little hamlet. It reminded me of my neighborhood in Florida in the 70s. An older woman lived across the street from me and spent her days sitting on her front porch avidly watching all the neighbors’ activities. Except when she smoked her cigarettes. She always did that on the side porch, which was also in plain view of the road and the neighborhood. I often wondered if she thought she was really hiding anything. She would have fit into Waldorf Pines quite well.

Walter Dunbar did not rely on the Waldorf Pines security system to keep himself and his family safe. Walter Dunbar did not rely on anybody for anything, if he could help it, and he could usually help it. It was the army that had made him that way, back when the army was something everybody had to put up with, whether they wanted to or not. If it had been up to him, they would have reinstituted the draft years ago, and sent idiots like that Michael Platte off to South Carolina to march with packs on their back. That was what was wrong with these kids these days. They didn’t have a sense of purpose. They didn’t have anything to hate to the very bone, and that was why they didn’t have any motivation.

Walter’s motivation was “doing something” about the Waldorf Pines governing board. He was never more explicit than that, even inside his own head, but he had no doubt that anybody who heard him would know exactly what he meant. Walter had been on the governing boards of every gated community he’d ever lived in, and every country club he’d ever belonged to, and every professional association he’d ever decided was worth his while. He’d been on every one of them, but he’d never been on any of them more than once. That was because people didn’t like reality anymore, even if they said they did. They liked fairy tales. They liked anything but to hear the truth spoken without fear or favor.

At the moment, what none of these people wanted to hear was that there was something wrong with their vaunted manager, although Walter didn’t know how they could miss it when they looked at him. Horace Wingard, for God’s sake. Walter had spoken to a very discreet private detective he knew—you had to get discreet ones; you never knew what you could be sued for. Walter had spoken to the man, at any rate, and it turned out that Horace Wingard had started life as Bobby Testaverde in Levittown. Levittown. It was practically the symbol of post-War lower-middle-class blight, full of little houses made of ticky tacky that all looked just the same.

Can’t you just see him standing on his deck day after day watching people come and go feeling very superior to the small-minded peasants who sought to blemish his wonderful neighborhood?

I got a little upset with the teenager characters as they constantly referred to people and things as “retarded,” but I learned from a friend who has two teenagers that this is common now and used as a synonym for stupid. I must be getting old because I really didn’t like that.

Jane will take you on a merry ride as you enjoy this little whodunit! It is full of unexpected, interesting twists that will keep you wondering long after the end whether you’re truly clear on what actually happened.

Leigh Neely is a former newspaper and magazine editor. She currently does freelance work, blogs at, and recently published the short story, “A Vampire in Brooklyn,” in the anthology Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices.

Read all of Leigh Neely’s posts for Criminal Element.


  1. Terrie Farley Moran

    This looks like a really interesting book. I love sneaky.

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