“The first person to see the body hanging from the billboard on Mattatuck Avenue was Haydee Michaelman, and she wasn’t paying attention….Later, Haydee would wonder why everybody had managed to miss that thing up there. She wouldn’t wonder for long. It was “The Billvoard,” after all. It was that big sign asking if you’s seen Chester Ray Morton. It had been up there for twelve years. Nobody looked at it twice anymore.”
Once Haydee brought the body to everyone’s attention, it became another page in the twelve year saga that had begun when Chester disappeared without a trace, carrying with him his new yellow backpack. The body on the bill board is definitely Chester but it is the Chester of today, not the Chester that was. This Chester is only recently dead. Wherever Chester has been for twelve years, it wasn’t in someone’s basement or in a hole in the ground.
The second question that arises, after the “where has he been” question, is did he commit suicide or was he murdered? It doesn’t take long for the police to determine that Chester was murdered, or, that is what they assumed. Mattatuck, New York is known for having the most tight-fisted town council in the state. They will not vote to have a forensics specialist any more than they will vote to buy the police radios that cover the entire county. How is it possible that the council thinks it makes sense that the police can’t stay in contact with each other if they are beyond the zone of coverage? Mattatuck prides itself on being a little town without any crime. Residents refuse to see that Mattatuck is a medium sized city and that it has all the same crime as the big cities
Howard Androcoelho, chief of police in Mattatuck, decides to take a vacation to Philadelphia so that he can look for Gregor Demarkian and persuade him to come and figure out what happened to Chester. Bennis is happy to get Gregor out of the way so she can concentrate on choosing the various small details that will finish off the old house she and Gregor are restoring. Gregor is happy to get to work on something other than handles for the kitchen cabinets.
Mattatuck is not what Gregor expected but there is enough that is strange about Chester Morton’s death to keep him busy. Why had Chester disappeared and what brought him back?
FLOWERING JUDAS is the twenty-sixth book in the Gregor Demarkian series. Most of the books are centered on the neighborhood of Cavanagh Street in Philadelphia, the street on which Gregor grew up. A retired FBI agent, Gregor was responsible for setting up the Behavioral Science Unit so he is an expert in the motives and methods of killers who don’t necessarily need much of a motive for their actions. When his wife dies, Gregor moves back to Cavanagh Street which has been gentrified but is still home to the tight-knit Armenian community in which he was raised. Bennis Hannaford, a member of a Main Line wealthy family, is also the author of a very popular series of fantasy novels that have added to her substantial income. But Bennis loves the sense of belonging that comes on Cavanagh and, gradually, over the course of the books, a relationship develops between Bennis and Gregor.
Jane Haddam writes a series that has such colorful and warm characters that Cavanagh Street should exist in reality. The various crimes that lure Gregor out of retirement are complex and the writing and the stories are so good that it is unlikely that a reader, having found her, will not want to read all the books in the series. I have enjoyed everyone.