Blood in the Water Review
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No matter how bad the economy may get, there are still plenty of people filling up the country clubs and jet-setting around in their custom sports cars. But while the lifestyles of the rich and famous may seem like a dream, there can be a dark side lurking just beneath the mani-pedis and designer labels.

In her latest Gregor Demarkian mystery, Blood in the Water, author Jane Haddam takes a look at what goes on behind closed doors in an exclusive gated community where everyone has a secret or two.

Located outside the tiny town of Pineville Station, a suburb of Philadelphia, Waldorf Pines is home to the area’s rich and fabulous—or at least those who like to think of themselves as rich and fabulous. Manager Horace Wingard is tasked with upholding the community’s sparkling reputation—a job that he takes very seriously. But even he can’t prevent the media buzz when two residents are found dead in the pool house.

Teenage troublemaker Michael Platte has been hired to guard the pool house while it’s under renovation. And when the building goes up in flames one morning, his body is found in the pool. The second victim is harder to identify—though everyone assumes that it’s Martha Heydrich, the garish woman who’s rumored to have been having an affair with him.

Local police immediately arrest Martha’s husband, Arthur. But when the DNA results show that the second victim couldn’t have been Martha Heydrich, former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian is called in to investigate.

Blood in the Water is a layered whodunit, with a number of different mysteries at play. Not only does Demarkian set out to discover who killed two of the community’s residents and why—but, before he can do so, he also needs to determine the identity of the second victim. Of course, there are other questions, too. For instance, if the second victim isn’t Martha Heydrich, where is she now?

If you’re paying close attention, though, you’ll have no problem answering some of the questions. Haddam does, after all, drop some pretty big hints—and, for those who weren’t paying attention the first time, she repeats them a few more times, just in case. The story is also loaded with red herrings—many of which are simply left dangling in the end—and those unanswered questions are sure to frustrate readers who prefer more cut-and-dried, fully-developed mysteries.

Meanwhile, despite his crime-solving prowess, Demarkian isn’t really the star of the novel; he’s easily overshadowed by Waldorf Pines and its eccentric residents. Each one, it seems, is hiding some kind of secret—and, no matter how much they may speculate about one another, the others rarely get it right. Their stories and secrets alone are enough to make Blood in the Water an entertaining read—but, in most cases, they’re either disappointingly underdeveloped or unceremoniously dumped when they’re no longer needed.

While the delightfully overdone characters promise an intriguing (and wildly entertaining) mystery, then, Haddam doesn’t take full advantage of their quirks. And, in the end, you might find yourself wishing that she’d spent more time wandering through Waldorf Pines and less time worrying about the mystery.

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