Fighting Chance – Jane Haddam

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Tibor was always surprised at how casual and unassuming most real evil really was. …so much evil was done as everyday business…And it was nothing. It was just transactions. It had the same emotional force on their brains as going grocery shopping or getting an oil change for their car.”

Judge Martha Handling may have just fit that profile . She was taking money from  Administrative Solutions to in turn incarcerate juveniles for minor offenses. Administrative Solutions, the private company that ran the juvenile detention centers, got paid for every bed that was filled. So from a financial standpoint it was imperative that the prisons reached capacity.

So Father Tibor Kasparian, priest of the local Armenian-Orthodox parish, may have had motive, though a weak one, for her murder.  Unfortunately,  there were also eye-witnesses.

However former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian, who now consults with police departments throughout the country, doesn’t buy it. Gregor adheres to twentieth century author/ scientist, Isaac Asimov’s quote, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”  That doesn’t fit Fathor Tibor, and he has known him for years.

Even though Father Tibor isn’t denying or admitting to committing the murder, others at the scene had even more motive. How about the brother of a teen who was about to be sentenced? Could the judge have had a falling out with Administrative Solutions?  Or how about the judge’s former roommate, the politically-charged professor who believes that “…priests and judges were icons of the patriarchy, and when one of them got arrested, it threatened the entire power structure. “

Demarkian, who has returned to Cavanaugh Street-an Armenian neighborhood in Philadelphia-where he grew up, takes the goings on of the town very personally In addition to this tragedy, a long-time neighbor, Mikel Dekanian, is about to lose his house to a bank he didn’t even take out a mortgage with. Gregor won’t leave either case alone, and is determined to make sure that justice prevails.

Fighting Chance takes readers into a small, tightly knit ethnic neighborhood and introduces us to its residents who prove to be fun, interesting characters. Most importantly, the issues are real,  heartbreaking and identifiable.

Fighting Chance is the twenty-ninth book in the Gregor Demarkian series, but you don’t need to read earlier books to understand the dynamics and personalities of the characters. That’s especially important since this is  the first book I have read in the series. I understand that many of the  same characters reappear from book to book. This along with the strong plot and focus on important issues  will entice me to read more from the series.

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