Monument to Murder – Margaret Truman

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Monument to Murder is (probably) the last in Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes novels. Part of the mystery is determining who actually wrote the book. The 2011 copyright is held by Truman’s estate and she died in 2008. I know I read one of her mysteries years ago and I felt as if this one wasn’t as taut or dishy–and most of it isn’t set in Washington–so it’s possible the text was at least partly produced by a ghost. Still a good read though, if not as polished as I expected. 

Savannah, Georgia P.I. Robert Brixton is contemplating the bottom of his bank account when he is asked to take on a twenty year old murder case. Louise Watkins was a troubled teen drug addict who took the rap for a homicide in the alley behind a bar and was gunned down shortly after she was released from prison.  Her mother comes to Brixton with the claim that Louise told her she was paid to confess and that she directed the money to be paid to her mother. It was. And now her mother wants to know what really happened and to clear her daughter’s name.

Not so simple. This is Savannah. Louise was poor and black. Brixton starts to uncover cover-ups of a cover-up. Savannah society is involved. And so is Washington–its most prominent hostess may be a witness, her family implicated in the false confession, her best friend tied to events that long ago night that could bring down an administration now. The best friend is the first lady. And, soon enough, threats and break-ins and more bodies complicate the investigation. A CIA deep cover assassin surfaces, someone close to Brixton is reporting on his findings. He gets mugged and warned away and misdirected. Waste of time. The guy was an excellent cop and he is a relentless and pretty well-connected private investigator.  

The helpful couple who get Brixton close to the truth in DC are protagonists in Truman’s other Capital Crimes books but minor characters in this one. The story does reflect Truman’s insider knowledge of Washington–she grew up in the White House and her successful series always fused DC’s arcane ways and dirty little secrets with the headlines and policy decisions of the day. That still makes Monument to Murder fun to read, although the insider stuff doesn’t seem too insider and the contemporary touches post-date Truman’s death. Astute editing or something more? No idea.

But reading this book did remind me that I enjoyed a previous one so I might search for some of the older books to see how they hold up. I did not find Washington a very convivial place to live when I was there–kind of backward, crime-ridden and soulless actually, although I understand the shopping has improved vastly since my day. Still, it’s amusing to read about the (un)hallowed halls and the unholy goings on in and around them. Savannah is almighty slippery in the morals and truth department, too. 

Monument to Murder: A Capital Crimes Novel   Margaret Truman | Tom Doherty Associates   2011

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