QUOTH THE RAVEN Mass Market Paperback – Sep 1 1991
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
From Publishers Weekly
Following Act of Darkness , this fourth adventure of former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian takes place in two tense days at Independence College, a small but prestigious school situated in rural Pennsylvania. It is nearly Halloween: the students are preparing a traditional bonfire by heaping wood around a scaffold where an effigy of King George sits56 ; Dr. Katherine Branch, a witch, is conducting mystical rites with her coven102 ; a sociable raven named Lenore circles the faculty apartments; and the lecherous, tenured and thoroughly despised Dr. Donegal Steele7 is missing, if not missed. Demarkian, on campus to lecture about FBI investigations of serial killers, is shocked when Miss Maryanne Veer7 , Steele's secretary, is poisoned with lye in the dining hall--he takes it as a given that Steele has been murdered and that Veer suspected foul play. With the help of his high-strung preppy sidekick Bennis Hannaford43 and longtime Philadelphia friend, Father Tibor Kasparian3 , he seeks a perpetrator among the costumed students and quirky faculty. Although the characters are somewhat two-dimensional, the ominous October atmosphere is pk neatly rendered, and the possible motives and circumstances will keep readers guessing.
Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Two days before the Halloween bonfire - that is, two days before Tibor's friend Gregor Demarkian is due to make a guest lecture - Steele has disappeared. One half-joking rumor is that Jack Carroll, the soon-to-be-self-made law student whose tuition is cobbled together from scholarships and 30 hours a week in a body shop, finally beat the stuffing out of Steele for slandering Chessey Flint, Jack's girl. Steele's sexual harassment of various faculty and students is breathtakingly outrageous, and it doesn't seem to be blocking him from making a move for the post of chairman of the history department. Dr. Alice Elkinson, the youngest tenured faculty member and with the most serious reputation, would get it on merit if merit were considered, and her fiancee Ken Crockett would get it if the historical society got a vote, but Steele has written a popular (though tripey) book. Katherine Branch and her shadow, Vivi Wollman, are fretting that they are now professors without a department, since Women's Studies has had neither the popularity nor the academic rigor to survive at Independence, at least the way *they* teach it. The only person who is interested in locating Steele is Maryanne Veer, the department secretary; like everyone else, she doesn't *want* to see Steele, but a professor skipping out on his lecture and office hour schedule makes problems.
And when Gregor Demarkian and Bennis Hannaford are greeted with a case of lye poisoning over lunch in the Independence College cafeteria, it's Maryanne Veer who's the victim. Although she survives the attack, the damage done to her throat and voicebox effectively silences her for some time to come. And it's definitely an attack: the local sheriff can testify that Maryanne, having come from the wrong side of the tracks, knows too much about lye to attempt suicide with it; no other food in the cafeteria is contaminated, which rules out accident; and whatever food on her tray was spiked with lye disappeared while Gregor was giving first aid with his expertise on poisons.
Gregor and Tibor both have problems dealing with the students' childish antics and the other aspects of Halloween, each for his different reasons. Neither has much use for immaturity, and both have seen too much real violence to enjoy its illusion. (Gregor, of course, is a veteran of the FBI. Tibor, who up to this point in the series had been a peripheral supporting player, escaped from religious persecution in the old Soviet Union; his character, fleshed out much more here than in previous books, is definitely *not* just comic relief. 'Christianity and Constitutional Law, that was Father Tibor Kasparian.') Even Cavanaugh Street's illusions of Halloween drive Gregor up the wall, although for different reasons: nobody takes reasonable precautions. Only Bennis Hannaford, who is just now officially moving to Cavanaugh Street, takes Gregor seriously, and she says Lida and the other ladies only pat her on the head and say, Yes, dear - now that boy you were out with, is he responsible? :)
Finally, a brief overview of the supporting players. Katherine Branch is not a sympathetic character, but on the other hand, the parts of the story shown from her viewpoint make it clear that she's a phony. It's hard to believe a creep like Steele could survive so long in a public position, let alone on a college campus, even though it's his first semester: he's committed slander and sexual harassment, including *groping* a female student he didn't even know in front of a large audience. The story is saved because that's openly part of the problem Steele creates for other people - that he manages to get away with all the slimy things he does, and smear the muck on his victims rather than himself. The relationship between Chessey and Jack in the face of Steele's allegations is a major subplot: how to effectively quash Steele's rumor campaign against Chessey. Jack, as president of students, is also able to give Gregor some of the real lowdown on campus crime.
Good story, allowing for the fact that Steele couldn't get away with his antics unscathed on a real campus.
Father Tibor has been invited to teach philosophy for one semester at Independent College and he has asked Gregor, (who worked for the FBI for twenty years before retirement) to give a lecture. It is Halloween and the college burns an effigy of 'Mad King George' on a bonfire each year as a college tradition. In fact, when Gregor and Bennis arrive, the college is full of students in costume, who have every intention of enjoying themselves. That is more than the faculty are doing - they are tense and divided over the possible new choice of chairman for their department. What is more, the most likely (and least poular) choice, 'The Great Doctor' Donegal Steele has gone missing. Although everyone on campus seems to have breathed a sigh of relief at his absence, Miss Maryanne Veer, the secretary for the chairman - who virtually runs the department anyway - is concerned enough to have suggested calling the police and reporting him missing. Soon after Gregor's arrival, somebody attempts to poison her with lye and he has to solve the mystery of why someone would possibly want to try to kill her and where Donegal Steele has disappeared to. As well as why Lenore, the tame Raven who feeds out of Father Tibor's hand, has become so distressed lately; behaving in an erratic manner and circling the college like a harbinger of death.
As always, Jane Haddam creates a great cast of characters and suspects to populate her novel. As well as the thoroughly unpleasant Dr Steele, who is conspicuous even in his absence, there is Dr Katherine Brand, an overtly feminist witch, the beautiful Dr Alice Alkinson and the popular Dr Kenneth Crockett, as well as students Jack Carroll and Chessey Flint. Of course, Gregor Demarkian solves the mystery, like the 'Armenian Hercule Poirot' the press has labelled him. If you enjoy authors such as Christie or P D James, then it is likely you will also enjoy the Gregor Demarkian novels. The next book in the series is A Great Day for the Deadly (The Gregor Demarkian Holiday Mysteries).
Is this the one where the protagonist and friends drive *south* several hours to reach a Pennsylvania college? (They'd be in Baltimore by then.) And the college has a statue of a Minuteman at its center? You know, those Boston guys? Not to mention all the triple-deckers-- that Philly doesn't have but Boston does...
Even a bare minimum of fact-checking, like looking at a map and some pictures of Philly for a start?
It's worse than all the cop shows where all the crimes take place in upper-class single-family neighborhoods, that simply don't exist inside city limits. (Body of Proof was a classic example.)
Quoth The Raven (review passages)
Those were the days before he—or anyone else—realized that the man who murdered thirty young women with an ice pick and a cheese board wasn’t an anomaly, but the representative of a class. Gregor thought he had been on the job with the new department for five years before it hit him that that class was not only vast, but growing. Somehow or other, this society seemed to be breeding a prolific race of the morally dead.
“The mistake you’re making,” he told Tibor, “is the same one I made up until a couple of hours ago. People invest their lives in all sorts of things that may seem silly to you or me, but mostly what they invest them in is their own image of themselves. We construct identities like houses and then we live in them. If someone comes along and threatens to burn the house down, we react.”
Next to him, Father Tibor Kasparian trudged along with his hands wrapped into the folds of his cassock, looking infinitely tired. Gregor knew Tibor had been brought up among psychopaths—raised by them, really, except in the tight protective womb of his unshakably religious family—but he hadn’t expected Tibor to be taken like this by what had happened here. He thought he might have read Tibor’s psychology exactly backward, the way he had once tried to read words in a mirror when he was a boy and pretending to fight crimes with magic superpowers, like Spider Man. After all, what they were dealing with here was not a psychopath, but an ordinary human being who had invested too much in superficialities and too little in inner strength. It hadn’t occurred to Gregor that Tibor might find that worse than the prospect of a man who had decided to play out the fantasies of Stalin and Hitler in private life.
He put his hand on the priest’s shoulder and said,“Tibor? Are you all right?”
“I am fine, Krekor,” Tibor said. “I am thinking. You are very sure you have this set up exactly right?”
“I think so, Tibor, yes. I have it set up the only way I think it will work.”
“It seems like a very large chance, Krekor. You are counting on—”
“On guilt,” Gregor said simply.
“Yes. On guilt. But Krekor, I am not sure, in this case, if guilt applies. What you have shown me is something that takes much work, much concentration, much coldness to effect. It is not like hacking away at someone with an ax in a fit of rage. It is not—normal.”
“No, of course it is not normal.”
“Do you read G. K. Chesterton? He said once somewhere that in order for a man to break the fifth commandment he must first break the first. That the murderer’s problem is not with ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but with ‘I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me.’ ”
“I’ll have to read Chesterton.”
“It seems like a paltry reason, Krekor. A little thing. For all this blood and pain and trouble.”
Passage 4 (with omissions marked by ellipsis)
“Krekor,” he said slowly, “I think there is something now I should have to tell you.”
“Sure. Tell me anything you want.”
“Yes, Krekor, I know. I can tell you anything I want. ...”
“Of course you didn’t. Good Lord, Tibor, what made you think I thought you capable of killing anyone?”
Father Tibor Kasparian sighed. “Krekor, Krekor. Before I came to Cavanaugh Street I had another life in another place among another kind of people. In that place, I was not only capable of killing a man, I was guilty of it. In fact, I killed two.”
But Father Tibor Kasparian was already halfway up the steps ...
Me: What a shocker! The character Father Tibor Kasparian is nearly a saint. Tibor, a murderer???