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Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I must admit to a fascination with Margaret Truman’s mystery novels. If you’ve read David McCullough’s biography of President Truman, Truman, you know Margaret as a beloved, pampered first daughter whose talents were nurtured, often publicly. Makes me wary. Her mystery novels, however, all called Murder at (location), acknowledge that there is talent!

Each book revolves around a Washington DC locale, and for those familiar with DC, the ping of recognition brings added delight.

Additionally, Margaret’s experience and insight into the machinations of DC politicos gives her license to sling a bit of sarcasm-laced mud, often jibing the sanctimonious and absurd “inside the beltway” thinking. She loves to lampoon the over-inflated self-proclaimed important. Watching her deflate adds fun to the books.

Murder at Union Station brings us right into the location, describing its marble grandeur. Prior to air travel, this is the place from which presidents and other important personages boarded trains for their travel. The presidential waiting room is now BSmith’s restaurant, and it is deliciously described in the novel. Description is Truman’s strength, not only in setting but also in character.

Meet Geoff Lowe, powerful senatorial staff member who believes in trickle-down importance. What he will do to achieve political objectives may be heinous but not necessarily surprising. There’s Chet Fletcher, political advisor to the President. Here’s a man on the opposite side of the aisle but no less a potential villain. He’s almost out there to dispassionately field test his academic theories on politics.

Toss in a lonely, alcoholic DC cop, Bret Mullin, looking for a connection and involved with solving crimes almost despite himself, Tim Stripling, a former CIA agent “consulting” on a secret per diem basis, Louis Russo, a reputed Mafioso living in Israel under the Witness Protection Program, and Richard Marienthal, a young, frustrated writer dying to show his successful lawyer father that he has the right stuff. You're well into a plot that twists, turns, and drops hints not only about the crime but also about the dirty underside of Washington politics.

The title is the only hint I will give you to the plot. Reading as the solution materializes will keep you guessing. Suspense is another Margaret Truman strength.

This is a quick, enjoyable read that will probably lead you to explore Truman’s list of murders a bit more thoroughly. If you do, I recommend Murder at the Kennedy Center.
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