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Murder at Ford’s Theatre by Margaret Truman


Rating: (Mildly Recommended)


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Lovers of Washingtonia will appreciate some of the local color that Margaret Truman provides in her new mystery novel, Murder at Ford’s Theatre, the latest in her capitol crimes series. I, for one, appreciated the reference to Waddy Wood’s architectural skill. Mystery lovers will be disappointed. While some of the classic structures are in place, and clues are dropped, the whole storyline is predictable and lacks elements of surprise and plot twists that confuse.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 9 (p. 68-9) with my favorite reference to Wood:

In the early twentieth century, the eminent architect Waddy B. Wood designed more than thirty elegant homes, some of them mansion size, in an area that was an extension of the exclusive Dupont Circle residential community. The area was known as Kalorama—Greek for "beautiful view"—and its  stately  Norman,  Tudor)   and  Georgian  homes   offered  stunning views of Rock Creek Park. One of the more imposing houses, in the chateauesque style inspired by Paris's Ecole des Beaux-Arts, was the residence of Virginia senator Bruce Lemer.

Lerner and his then wife, Clarise, had purchased the house in the early years of their marriage,  and  it was  to  there  they'd brought their only child, Jeremiah, home from the hospital. The previous owner had turned it into a bed-and-breakfast, a highly unpopular move with his wealthy neighbors, who were grateful when it again functioned as a private home for a distinguished U.S. senator and his family.

It was a large house, with twelve-foot-high ceilings, period moldings, and hardwood floors throughout its sixteen rooms. There were seven fireplaces, four baths, a separate two-bedroom apartment, maid's quarters, a three-car garage with a deck above that afforded views of Washington's monuments from its front, and from its rear, the park. Senator and Mrs. Lemer paid  $800,000 for it in the late '70s: its current worth was estimated to be well in excess of $2 million.


This night, Lemer sat on the deck, a glass of scotch on the rocks in his hand. His pose in the chair was relaxed, long legs in gray slacks stretched in front of him, double-breasted blue blazer hanging open, blue-and-white-checkered button-down shirt unbuttoned. Internally, he churned. The glass he held dangled at his

side, hovering inches from the tile floor.

"How inconsiderate," the woman in another chair said, referring to the sound of music being played too loud from somewhere, a car perhaps.

"I'm sorry," he said, realizing she was there and turning to look at her.

"The music. I don't understand why people think others should be subjected to their taste in music."

"It wouldn't bother you so much if it were Mozart," he said, returning his attention to the city's lights visible in the distance.

"It wouldn't bother me so much if it were anything other than what it is. You were saying before about the media calls."

"Oh, yes. They won't let it go, those damn rumors about Nadia and me." His voice was low and well modulated, and he spoke with deliberate slowness, a southern pace that he tended to exaggerate at times.

The woman, Shirley Lester, had been seen frequently with Lemer at myriad social functions over the past six months. They'd been friends for years. Lemer had been especially close to Shirley's deceased husband. Vice Admiral Nelson Lester, the navy department's inspector general. After her husband died, Shirley forged a closer friendship with the bachelor senator that quickly led—too quickly, some said—to a romantic one.

"Nelson used to say Shakespeare was wrong," she said. "It isn't the lawyers who need killing. It's the journalists."

"He was right, considering I was a lawyer." He drew on his drink. "Nadia was flirtations, Shirley. I don't doubt she would have entertained an affair with me."

"She flirted with you?"

"Yes. Hung around after hours a lot. Liked to squeeze in tight spots with me. She was damned tempting."

Truman’s dialogue is weak like this throughout the novel. The plot is predictable. I can recommend Murder at Ford’s Theatre only to those who just have to read this next installment in her series, or those readers who love the City of Washington.

Steve Hopkins, December 23, 2002


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the January 2003 issue of Executive Times


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