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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review: Murder Inside the Beltway by Margaret Truman

Margaret Truman was the only daughter of President Harry Truman. She used her knowledge of national politics and Washington D.C. to write the Capital Crimes novel series. Ms. Truman died January of 2008 and this is her twenty-fourth and last book in the series.  Since this past Tuesday was election day, even if for local issues this year, I thought it would be apropos to see how easily politics can be criminal!

The novel opens with the murder scene of high-paid prostitute Rosalie Curzon (savagely beaten then strangled). Her murder creates a quiet panic among her high-powered clients when the local police discover she had videotaped her clients and the police start systematically investigating each of them. But early on there is a suspicion that one videotape may be missing.

The story is told primarily from young detective Matt Jackson's viewpoint as he deals with his demeaning and racist superior - a twenty-three year veteran, Walt Hatcher. A secondary plotline is Matt and his coworker, Mary Hall are romantically entangled and Walt can't stand a mixed couple so the pressure is on. Walt Hatcher's view point gets several chapters to get us into his anger-filled, often drunk and physically ill head.

Rosalie Curzon's murder soon becomes intertwined with a bitter presidential campaign between incumbent President Burton Pyle and his "shoe-in" opponent Robert Colgate. When the daughter of Robert Colgate's closest advisor and Washington power player is kidnapped things begin to spin out of control. Was there a video tape of opponent Colgate with the murdered call girl and what is it worth in a bitter campaign struggle? Will Detective Matt Jackson's education in Sociology help in unearthing information to solve the tangle of vice and dirty politics to save the kidnapped girl. Margaret Truman proves she knows how vile politics can be when power is the ultimate motive.

Detective Jackson and his racist boss are the most fully realized characters. Mary Hall could have been fleshed out a bit more, she was a likable character but didn't seem to come to life enough. Robert Colgate is painted as a hypocritical smooth politician, which speaks so much to our political scandal-filled time that it works in spite of its cliché status. Walt Hatcher is finely portrayed as the angry and hardened boss who is facing failing health, which he may have brought on himself. Colgate's political advisor, Jerry Rollins, is given several chapters which highlight the intricacies of Washington politics. Even Robert Colgate's wife gets a few chapters that give us a peek into how hard presidential campaigns are on the spouses - and how the wives have secrets too.

The end has a surprise twist, for the murderer is not as obvious as the reader may think. The climax is well done and will stick with you a while. The plot is nicely layered and even the wrap up gives a few surprises. All in all a solid police procedural mystery with just enough grit and grime without feeling like you wallowed in the gutter yourself.

Obtained book through: Library

For your convenience, you may purchase a copy here.

Part of the Book Blog Carnival

Until next Monday I wish you many mysterious moments.
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