This is the 14th -- and one of the best -- additions to Margaret Truman's popular Capital Crimes Series, a virtual guide book to Washington, D.C., and environs.
The daughter of former President Harry Truman has so far sited her murder mysteries in nearly every interesting venue on the Potomac. Now it's the turn of the House of Representatives to take the limelight, even as real-life goings on there monopolize press and TV coverage of campaign-funding scandals and the growing presence of foreign influence in swelling Democratic and Republican party coffers.
A similar case dominates Truman's whodunit. An international, globe-hopping financier and money manipulator, Warren Brazier, has entered the U.S. domestic political melee with his shady dealings, suspicious friends and unknown foreign alliances. Infighting over shadowy lucrative spoils increases.
Eventually, President Scott's selection of Congressman Paul Latham to be secretary of state runs into roadblocks. There's loose talk that Latham was on the take from Brazier, and that the lawmaker will be accused of sexual misconduct with his office aide. Before Latham can sort this out, he's shot to death by a perpetrator who clumsily tries to make the hit look like a suicide.
President Scott turns for help to lawyer-professor Mackensie Smith, who obliges with a probe unmasking a Communist assassin as Latham's slayer. This discovery leads to a white-knuckle pursuit through the stately, cavernous lower house of Congress.
Few have Truman's intricate knowledge of the political, social and practical workings of that national center of power. She explores them here. This, together with a finely orchestrated storyline and a lean narrative delivery, makes "Murder in the House" the most contemporary and topical of her splendid crime series.
MURDER IN THE HOUSE
By Margaret Truman
322 pages, $24
More thrills, briefly
Bomb Grade, by Brian Freemantle; St. Martin's, 407 pages, $25.95 -- Unlikely, scruffy British secret agent Charlie Muffin is at it again, upending a post-Cold War move by Russia's Mafia to hold civilization hostage to 250 kilograms of weapons-grade nuclear material. Charlie goes undercover to Moscow as an arms trader to prevent the dangerous stuff from being smuggled out of the country. The pace is unflagging, the excitement intense, the climax explosive -- topped off with a bittersweet ending.
Killer Market, by Margaret Maron; Mysterious Press; 273 pages, $22 -- Against her backdrop of a charming but rapidly changing South, North Carolina Judge Deborah Knott must find a murderer before she herself is dangerously implicated in the crime.