The Headmaster's Wife

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

FBI agent Gregor Demarkian has been a featured character in previous Jane Haddam novels, and is revived again in The Headmaster's Wife, a mystery set on the campus of a selective east coast prep school. The students at this pricey school range from brilliant to psychopathic.

Mark Deavecca is a fifteen-year-old student suffering from an inability to concentrate. The faculty believes he is a drug-addled slacker; Mark knows he is capable of high achievement, but admits to being inexplicably spaced-out. When he discovers his roommate dead in their room of an apparent suicide, Mark becomes frightened and calls on family friend and FBI agent Gregor Demarkian. Though Gregor is in the midst of career and domestic crises, he concedes to Mark's plea for help.

Mark is worried. Was it a hallucination, or did he really see something that could mean his roommate was murdered? He knows the roommate was a drug-dealing blackmailer who was having an affair with the headmaster's wife, Alice Makepeace. Alice is forty-five, beautiful, flamboyant and careless. She's bored with her stuffy husband and finds adventure through sexual encounters with young students. She makes a very good suspect.

In the denouement, Gregor Demarkian discovers that the roommate was indeed murdered. A teacher has also been killed and Mark Deavecca is next on the list. Agent Demarkian uncovers the truth about the murders, and in the process learns what has been causing Mark's mental deterioration.

Through somewhat labored dissection of the lives of many characters, Haddam unfolds a surprisingly plausible plot. The Headmaster's Wife takes the reader through engrossing twists, and turns out to be a compelling addition to author Haddam's prolific career.