Monday, September 5, 2011

Margaret Truman's Capital Crimes

Monument to Murder
Margaret Truman
Forge (Tom Doherty Associates)

With regret, I finished the latest in the always reliably enjoyable Capital Crimes series written by the late Margaret Truman. A mix of mystery and thriller with Ms. Truman's insider knowledge of Washington and its insidious ways adding a certain spice. I have read a lot of her books, tossed off in an afternoon or at the beach. They are well-crafted with interesting characters. Many of them feature Mackenzie Smith and his lovely wife Annabel Lee Smith.

This latest, number 20-something novel in the series, is set in Savannah as small time PI and former cop Bob Brixton is hired to look into the case of a young black hooker who may or may
not have committed a murder of a low-life outside a druggie bar in the bad side of town 20 years before. The young woman, Louise Watkins, served time for the murder before being gunned down in a drive by shooting the day she is released from prison. Her kindly, religious mother has never accepted the commonly held version of the crime and wants to know who committed this crime and who paid her daughter off to go to jail.

Brixton is a cliched and familiar honest but put-upon detective with hated ex-wife, greedy kids, politicized police pals on the take, pretty secretary, and good-natured girlfriend (he calls her Flo). The more he looks into the crime, the more he faces a series of attacks and bribes from Savannah's leading citizens.

The potential scandal reaches to Washington and the president, an ex-Georgia governor with tea party politics as ruthless as Nixon and LBJ and as bad tempered as Bill Clinton. It is not too hard to infer Margaret Truman's Democratic politics in what she says of this imaginary president. You can also read of her regret at the change in Washington from a more genteel time to the intensely polarized place it has become. Secret CIA assassination teams, murders of foreign diplomats with James Bondlike poisons, high society hostesses, and fancy catered parties are also involved. It's in the secretive and dangerous yet glamorous streets of Washington that the story gets really interesting. Mac and Annabel provide Bob with a Washington entree but are fairly minor in this tale. I have to admit I guessed the solution pretty early in the story but enjoyed it pretty well

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