Thursday, June 7, 2012

Murder at the Library of Congress

I confess this is the first book of Margaret Truman’s books that I have read. I picked it because the Mystery Readers group I belong to decided that this month we would read a mystery with a famous person as a character or one that was written by a famous person.
This book, published in 1999, opens with a break-in and theft of an oil painting from a museum in Miami. A security guard is shot and killed. Two of the three burglars are picked up right away, but the painting is not recovered. Within hours it is on its way to LA where it is exchanged for money.
The scene then switches to New York, where the main protagonist, Annabel Reed-Smith, receives an assignment to write an article for the magazine, Civilization, about the search for the diaries of Bartolomé de Las Casas, the friend and sailing companion of Christopher Columbus. The mysterious diaries, if ever found, would be very valuable, especially to the Library of Congress. She has two months to research and write the article.
Annabel takes the reader to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and we are introduced to the important characters and the workings of the Hispanic and Portuguese reading room. She soon learns that the leading expert on the subject she’s researching is a man who is despised by almost everyone who comes in contact with him. He is pompous, mean-spirited and vicious. The man, Michele Paul, is murdered (of course). That sets everyone in the department on edge because only a limited number of people have access to the reading room where he is found dead. It must be an inside job.
An aggressive TV reporter, Lucianne Huston, is sent from Miami to DC to cover the story and immediately unearths information about the disappearance eight years earlier of another Las Casas researcher. She keeps the pot stirred by hounding people with questions,  piecing the facts together and reporting what she learns on the TV news. Her boss tells her to follow the money and she does. She uncovers a tax evasion scheme of a very wealthy man who is connected to the Library of Congress.
The search for the truth takes the reader from Miami to Washington, DC to Los Angeles to Mexico City and back to DC. The murders are solved, corruption is uncovered and justice is served. I won’t reveal if the diaries are found, or if the painting in the original scene was important. You might want to check that out for yourself.
This book is a fast read, reasonably well written and interesting to anyone, like me, who doesn’t know much about the Library of Congress. I checked the reader reviews after I finished the book, and most gave the book three stars. Some of her other books got rave reviews, so I would read another.
Margaret Truman-Daniel was a prolific author. She began her writing career in the mid-fifties with a book about her father. Her mystery series began in 1980, and she wrote a book a year until she died in 2008 at the age of 83. Her last book was published in 2012, though probably not completed by her.

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