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Not a Creature was Stirring by Jane Haddam

Not a Creature was Stirring (1990)

by Jane Haddam

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Gregor Demarkian mystery (1)

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Gregor Demarkian is ex-FBI. He lives somewhere in the Philadelphia area. His priest asks him to attend a dinner at the large country estate of a wealthy man. The priest has been promised a large donation if he can get Mr. Demarkian to attend. When he arrives, the estate is a crime scene, and Demarkian encounters an investigating officer that is not his favorite. However, the police need his help on this one, and as the death toll mounts, his ability to make sense of things becomes invaluable. Although this book has a Christmas setting, it is one which could be read any time of the year as Christmas is very marginal to the plot. It's a pleasant way to spend a few hours. I found the plot seemed to drag in a place or two, but overall I continued to care about the outcome and kept plugging away. As far as the family members are concerned, the only one that was likeable in any manner was the sister who wrote novels. It was a nice start to a series. I have the second one already on hand to read next year. ( )
  thornton37814 | Nov 18, 2013 |
I liked the characters and the story. There were a few logical mistakes that distracted me but I will try the next book in the series. ( )
  Tom_D | Feb 10, 2013 |

An Armenian-American widower and FBI veteran who is co-opted by a wealthy family to investigate a suitably Byzantine series of murders. It was well described in beautiful detail of setting and character, but the family are almost all really unpleasant people (apart from one sister who is a best-selling fantasy novelist) and I guessed the culprit correctly at quite an early stage. ( )
  nwhyte | Sep 14, 2012 |
Gregor Demarkian, a retired FBI agent, moves back to his hometown after the death of his wife and his friend, the Armenian parish priest, asks a favor of him. The priest was promised $100,000 for the church if he would get Gregor to attend Christmas Eve dinner at the estate of a very wealthy man. How can Gregor refuse. He is picked up by limo and on arrival the coroner's van is parked by the front door. Gregor is sucked into the police investigation of the murder noticing things missed by the police. ( )
  Kathy89 | Aug 4, 2012 |
Gregor Demarkian doesn’t know what he is going to do with the rest of his life. He had been the Director of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI until he had retired to take care of his wife, Elizabeth, as she inched her way through the process of dying with cancer. His first decision is to leave the Washington area and return to Philadelphia, to the street and neighborhood where he grew up. Even all these years later, Cavanaugh Street is still an Armenian enclave although now it is an enclave with money. Cavanaugh Street bears no sign of the poverty that defined it so many years ago. Gregor does know that he needs to find something to do, something to make him want to get out of bed in the morning. Gregor is bored.

Father Tibor Kasparian, an Armenian Orthodox priest and a former resident of a Russian gulag, is his rescuer. Tibor invites Gregor to his home and shows him a brief case filled with $100,000.00 in cash. Robert Hannaford is the fifth generation of Hannafords who had made their money in the railroads, steel, and just about everything else. Robert is confined to a wheelchair after an accident. His body may have limitations but his mind does not. Another part of Robert Hannaford that has no limitations is the depths of his cruelty. He has seven children and he hates them all. They return the sentiment. Hannaford is used to getting what he wants by buying it. He decides to buy Gregor by using Tibor. Hannaford hadscome to Tibor with the money, telling him that if Tibor can get Gregor to come to his house for dinner on Christmas Eve, Tibor can keep the money for the church’s charities.

Gregor agrees, primarily out of curiousity. When he arrives at Engine House, named for the families association with the railroad, it is to discover that Robert Hannaford has been murdered. The suspects: all of Hannaford’s children. Myra married money but isn’t satisfied because she doesn’t have any of her own. Bobby, the heir, is involved in insider trading. Anne Marie manages Engine House and devotes most of her time to her mother, Cordelia, who is dying from a form of multiple sclerosis. Christopher is a poet and a DJ in California; he is a gambler and he owes the wrong people $75,000.00. Teddy has difficulty walking and must wear a leg brace since an accident crippled him. He is a professor at a very small college where he is about to lose his job for plagiarizing his students’ work and for sexual harassment. Bennis is a highly successful writer of fantasy novels and a millionaire in her own right. Emma, the youngest, is an actress and the child least damaged by her father’s pathologies.

Heading the investigation in Bryn Mawr is John Henry Newman Jackman, a student of Gregor’s. He is aware of all the pitfalls that a case involving the very rich presents. He is willing to have Gregor act as a consultant and Gregor is happy to be back in harness. Jackman knows all about Gregor’s theory of “internal consistency” and as more people die Jackman acknowledges that the theory does apply. “Simplicity. Somewhere, in all of this mess of motives and secrets and plots, there was a perfectly straightforward course of action, a person who killed or tried to kill, over and over again, always in much the same way. And that meant there was also a perfectly straightforward reason for it all.” The killer had a plan and a goal that made perfect sense.

NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING is a story that takes place at Christmas. It is not a Christmas story. It is the first book in the twenty-five book Gregor Demarkian series. While it isn’t necessary to read the books in order of publication, it does help to keep the large cast of characters sorted. Cavanaugh Street and its residents are characters in all the stories.

The first books in the series are centered on holidays then the author takes a wider view and gets Gregor further away from Cavanaugh Street. The books are consistently good. The characters are woven into each story and as the series progress their relationships do as well. Haddam does not write graphic violence. Her descriptions of the murders in each story are brief; violence is described but as if at a distance. I have read the series and I have enjoyed all of the books.

Toward the end of the book the author provides this exchange between John Henry Newman Jackman and Gregor Demarkian. “…Jackman didn’t see him do it. He was too busy looking at the chandelier. “I read a murder mystery once where someone got killed with one of those,” Jackman said. “it was held up with a chain and the chain had been cut through, and just at the right moment—” “Do you think that’s really possible?” Gregor said. “Hell no. But things don’t have to be possible in murder mysteries. They just have to be weird.” ( )
  macabr | Jan 4, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Haddamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilkinson,ChuckCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Listen," Myra said, as soon as the phone was picked up, without waiting to find out who had answered it.
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For former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian, retirement has just come to an abrupt end. What started as a mysterious summons to a Christmas Eve feast at multimillionaire Robert Hannaford;s isolated country estate was now an invitation to a murder scene. Demerol and a blood-covered statue had ensured that.

Add the late patriarch's penchant for making enemies, seven siblings with ample reasons for wanting Daddy dead, plus a murderer with a genius for mayhem, and you've got local police begging the Bureau's aging former ace to take up society sleuthing. But as the pieces fall into place, so do the bodies.
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