Thursday, April 26, 2007

Murder at the Washington Tribune, by Margaret Truman

Murder at the Washington Tribune: A Capital Crimes Novel (Truman, Margaret, Capital Crimes Series.)

The theme is a good one: a long-time journalist succumbing to a temptation to invent to get a better story. But the details drag it down, make it unbelievable.

First, the protagonist has been a highly-ethical straight-shooter for his entire career. As he engages in his bit of fraud he hardly seems bothered by it. The reasons for his deception are slim and not convincing. I simply didn't buy that this type character would do these things.

Second, the police investigation. At heart of the story is the contention that two closely-spaced murders could be the work of a serial killer. The conclusion is drawn from the fact that both women were strangled, both were young and attractive, both were in journalistic careers. There are, however, many ways to strangle someone, and each creates a kind of "signature". It is unlikely that two different persons would have exactly the same signature. Yet there are no details of the killings given. Only that they were both strangled. It is as if the police were investigating a crime in 1950, not now.

THere are other aspects of the investigation and of the reporting that don't ring true. A lead is a lead, and both the police and a reporter are likely to follow it up, whether or not they think it's useful. Yet we have most of these characters deciding what's important and what isn't without making the extra effort. I simply do not buy it.

Then there is the matter of the missing brother who turns up suspiciously. His story never falls together right.

Read it on an airplane or waiting room. It will give you something to do and it's better than a romance novel.

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