When I received my ARC copy of One of Our Own, by Jane Haddam, I was elated, but it was also bittersweet.
This is the 30th, and final book, of her beloved, Gregor Demarkian series. The author, Orania Papazoglou, writing under the pen name of Jane Haddam, unfortunately lost her battle with cancer in July of 2019.
Prior to this novel, I have read nine other books in this series; the first eight, and then I read Bleeding Hearts, number eleven in the series, because it sounded so interesting.
I really enjoyed them all. A lot of the earlier books in the series were holiday-themed, which I always love in my Cozies.
The main protagonist of this series is, Gregor Demarkian, an Armenian-American, ex-FBI Agent, who consults with local police departments on bizarre and compelling cases.
Gregor lives on Cavanaugh Street in Philadelphia, which is essentially an Armenian-American enclave. Over the course of the series you get to know the various characters in his community and it’s really a lot of fun!
With this novel, from the start, it felt a little different. I commented early on that it felt choppy. The author did not have the chance to finish this one herself, it was actually completed by her sons; seriously, what an honor.
I wonder, however, if perhaps she didn’t have the chance to go through final edits on this if that was the case. The Prologue in particular, for me, felt like she wrote a framework of how she wanted it to go and planned to go in and smooth it out at a later time, but never had the chance?
Obviously, I have no way of knowing what the exact process of getting this novel ready for print was, but it did feel different than her earlier work.
Additionally, there was some content in here that made me uncomfortable. There’s a big focus on immigrants and immigrant populations throughout the novel.
Basically, you have a neighborhood that is shifting. For example, one building that might have once been filled with German immigrants is now filled with Spanish immigrants. So, you have characters that are feeling affected by those shifts. As a reader, you get a lot of their thinking, or even ranting, about these new communities.
For me, I felt like while that is a valid topic to examine if your setting is a vibrant city like, Philadelphia, and that I understand you will have community members who will feel very passionately about the topic, I still felt like the content could have been handled with a bit more care.
There was a lot of stereotypes being thrown about and not until the very end did I feel like they were challenged at all.
The narrative did come full circle on that topic; I am happy with how it ended up, but there were a few characters getting there that were downright vile. I just wish at least Gregor would have put up a challenge to what they were saying.
The mystery itself was interesting, although it did wrap up rather quickly. I love Gregor, and his now wife, novelist, Bennis Hannaford.
Overall, this is a good novel, but I would definitely recommend starting with the earlier books in the series. In fact, the first book in the series is Christmas themed, so perfect timing!
I am really going to miss Gregor, Bennis, Tibor and the rest of Cavanaugh Street, but luckily, I still have twenty more books in the series I can pick up!
Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity.
My deepest condolences to her sons. Their Afterword brought me to tears. Orania sounds like an amazing woman, she certainly left a legacy with her work and will be missed.