Hearts of Sand


Jane Haddam


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

November 23, 2021

picked this book up because I happened to be reading two different articles where the interviewee was asked "what are you reading now?" And both answered along the lines of "...the latest Jane Haddam mystery". I had never heard of Jane Haddam, so I looked her up, and see she is the author of a series of 30 books featuring an ex-FBI agent named Gregor Demarkian. Someone on Goodreads asked if the series had to be read in order, and the reply was no, each book can be read separately. Our library only had one Jane Haddam book available, Hearts of Sand, and that book was the twenty-eighth in the series. So I checked it out.

In Hearts of Sand, a teenage girl named Chapin Waring lives in an exclusive town called Alwych Connecticut. Chapin is a member of a wealthy family, yet she and a cohort go on a bank robbing spree, holding up five different banks. But in the fifth robbery, two bank employees are killed. After the fifth robbery, Chindi and five of her friends are joy riding around in a car which tragically crashes into a tree, killing the driver. At the funeral, Chapin is recognized from the bank surveillance video, and a warrant is put out for her arrest. But Chapin disappears, and neither the police nor FBI can find her. They do discover, however, that the dead driver was Chapin's cohort in the bank robberies - an empty bank bag is found in his home, but the $250,000 stolen during the robberies is never found. Nor does it ever get spent, because the serial numbers are all traced. The money, like Chapin, has just vanished.

Thirty years pass.

Gregor Demarkian, renowned FBI agent (and he must have become pretty famous in the previous books, because characters living in Alwych know who he is, though Demarkian hails from Philadelphia), is hired by the town of Alwych Connecticut to crack a confusing case. It turns out the body of Chapin Waring has just been discovered in her family home. Chapin was stabbed in the back with a knife. Why was she killed now? What was Chapin doing in the family home? After the sensational news about the wealthy teenage girl who turned into a murderous bank robber broke, there has become a cottage industry that speculates about her disappearance, sort of like D.B. Cooper disappearing with a suitcase full of money after his famous parachute jump. Waring's family moved out of the huge mansion on the beach, but never sold it, figuring that it's lurid history would drive the price below its true value. So for thirty years it has sat vacant, though gardeners and maids are periodically sent to the estate to maintain it.

Demarkian flies to Connecticut. There were six people in the car when it crashed into the tree; four of them are still alive. Demarkian wants to interview them, plus a host of other people in small town Alwych. The novel tells the story of his investigation. I think the appeal of the book, and probably the series, must be in the characterization. Haddam creates a convincing cast of players, and then has Demarkian interact with the lot of them. Although I guessed who killed Chapin, I did not know why. Overall, it was intriguing enough that I would read other books in this series (though at the moment all of the other volumes are checked out).