Margaret Truman thrills again with Experiment in Murder, a riveting installment in the Capital Crimes series!
A Washington psychiatrist is killed in a hit-and-run on the street in front of his office. Suspicion quickly focuses on one of the doctor’s patients, and Mackenzie Smith is called in to defend her. Then information emerges that links the slain shrink to a highly secret CIA mind-control project.
A young man, the perfect mind control subject, is programmed to assassinate the front-runner in the U.S. presidential race. As he zeroes in on his target, other government agencies become aware of the rogue CIA program. Mac's client, the accused killer, seems to be the key to infiltrating the project—she's become the perfect spy.
But the assassin is programmed to kill anyone who threatens him or his organization—even Mac and his wife, Annabel.
About the Author
Donald Bain, the author of 115 books, including forty of the bestselling Murder, She Wrote novels, was a longtime friend of Margaret Truman. He worked closely with her on her novels, and more than anyone understood the spirit and substance of her books.
Margaret Truman won faithful readers with her works of biography and fiction, particularly her series of Capital Crimes mysteries. Her novels let readers into the corridors of power and privilege, and poverty and pageantry, in the nation’s capital. She was the author of many nonfiction books, including The President’s House, in which she shared some of the secrets and history of the White House, where she once resided. Truman lived in Manhattan.
Read an Excerpt
Margaret Truman's Experiment in Murder
A Capital Crimes Novel
By Donald Bain
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2012 Estate of Margaret Truman
All rights reserved.
He'd crossed Virginia Avenue a thousand times since taking an apartment across the street from his office three years ago. It meant jaywalking — one summons in the three years, a small price to pay for not having to trudge to a corner crossing, especially in the sweltering heat of summer in the nation's capital. His morning sprint across the broad avenue involved more than avoiding a ticket, however. Dodging speeding cars was a greater hurdle, with more dire consequences. He'd come to consider it a contest, a test of his agility and quickness of foot, a game he'd always won.
* * *
His move to the apartment followed the divorce from Jasmine, his wife of twenty-two years. Until the breakup he'd commuted from their home in Chevy Chase to his downtown office, where he spent the day listening to the trials and tribulations of his patients as they reclined on his couch, a box of tissues always within easy reach, and poured out their troubles to Dr. Mark Sedgwick.
"Dr. Mark," as his patients called him, at least those with enough tenure on his couch to be comfortable with it, graduated from the University of California Medical School in San Francisco in 1964. He'd aspired to become an orthopedic surgeon, but his manual dexterity was judged lacking by his professors. They suggested a medical specialty demanding less physical challenge. What could be less physical than psychiatry?
He wasn't disappointed at this shift in direction his medical studies had taken. He quickly discovered that he enjoyed delving into the human psyche more than peering into spinal columns or replacing arthritic knees and hips. What prompted people to do things became infinitely more interesting to him than how they did them.
He'd intended to do his residency in San Francisco, where he'd been born, and to establish a practice there. But an offer from the George Washington University Department of Psychiatry in Washington, D.C., lured him east. Fresh with an M.D. after his name — and now better able to secure restaurant reservations as Dr. Sedgwick — he would have followed through on his intention to return to San Francisco. But he met Jasmine, a nurse at the hospital.
Jasmine Smith — her parents chose the more exotic first name Jasmine to counterbalance her mundane last name — set her sights on the handsome resident Mark Sedgwick from the day he walked in. Her feminine charms were evident front and back, but it was her wide, ready smile that derailed his plan to return home. He accepted a staff position at the hospital, and they were married after a relatively short courtship. Two children later, a boy and a girl, they bought the house in Chevy Chase and settled into what was to be blissful domesticity. But the bliss soon came off the rose, to mix metaphors, and they grew increasingly apart, especially when Sedgwick resigned from the hospital to open a private practice on Virginia Avenue N.W. The pressure of getting an office up and running, coupled with a growing involvement with a psychiatric institute in San Francisco, meant little time at home for the good doctor and led to the eventual dissolution of the marriage, which Sedgwick choreographed in order to, as he told Jasmine, minimize the hurt to all. He was, after all, a psychiatrist.
* * *
Now, three years later, he began his day as he always did. Sedgwick was very much a creature of habit — routine was essential. His alarm went off at seven twenty, its backup buzzer sounding at seven thirty. Coffee had been ground and mixed the night before, and the coffeemaker was timed to begin brewing at seven fifteen. Because it was summer, Sedgwick took his coffee and a bowl of yogurt with mixed fruit and nuts to the balcony of his third-floor apartment, shady in the morning before the sun swung around to make it uncomfortably hot. He downloaded that day's Washington Post to his BlackBerry and read the news while eating.
At eight o'clock he was in the shower, dried off by eight fifteen, dressed by eight forty-five, and on his way downstairs at eight fifty-five. His first patient would arrive at nine twenty for her forty-minute session.
He prepared to cross the avenue the way he always did after having received his jaywalking ticket a year earlier, looking up and down the street for signs of the police. Seeing none, he stepped off the curb and took in the traffic. It wasn't unusually busy at that hour, men and women driving to work in the city's major industry, government and all its elements. He waited until a stream of cars had passed and there was a break in the traffic. The sun to his left blinded him as he looked in that direction, then he observed the situation to his right. It looked good, and he started across.
He was halfway to the other side when he became aware of a car bearing down on his right. He hadn't seen it, but he sensed it. He turned in that direction, and his mouth opened and a prolonged "Nooo" came from it. The vehicle, a white sedan, raced toward him, going at least sixty miles per hour, probably faster. Because he stood in the middle of the avenue, the driver could have opted to go either in front of him or behind. But the car straddled the median stripe, its engine revving loudly, no sound of brakes being applied, no sign of trying to stop. It struck Sedgwick head on with a thud that was heard up and down the street and sent him flying onto the hood, his head crashing into the windshield and creating a spiderweb of cracks on the driver's side. Sedgwick's body was propelled off. He hit the pavement and tumbled thirty feet before coming to rest, a pool of blood oozing from his crushed skull and creating a crimson circle around it.CHAPTER 2
Shrieks were heard up and down Virginia Avenue. People turned from the scene and covered their eyes with their hands. Some cried. "Call for help" was a chorus. Cars came to a screeching halt to avoid the body.
The 911 calls poured in to police operators, some from the street, others from people who'd witnessed the scene through their office windows. Within what seemed like only a few seconds, uniformed officers in patrol cars arrived and took control of the swelling crowd. Other police vehicles joined them. Virginia Avenue was shut down in both directions. An occasional horn blew as though that would miraculously open the street. An officer walked up to one horn blower's car that was only a dozen feet from Sedgwick's body and said, "You blow that freakin' horn again, pal, and you're toast."
Some of the officers stood over the body. There was no need to press fingertips against the neck to seek a pulse. The victim's life was all over the pavement, bits of white brain matter, bones jutting through skin, and blood glistening in the morning sun. An ambulance with two EMTs joined the tragic scene, followed by an unmarked car. Two detectives got out.
"Driver just took off?"
One of the detectives surveyed the crowd. "See if anybody can describe the car that hit the guy," he told an officer. "Whoever's car it was gotta be mangled, too."
"Got an ID on him?" asked the second detective.
None of the uniformed cops wanted to admit that they'd been reluctant to touch the grotesquely battered body. A detective bent down and fumbled for Sedgwick's wallet in his rear pants pocket. He stood and went through its contents. "He's a doc," he said to no one in particular. "Sedgwick. Mark Sedgwick." He consulted another card and looked across the street to a four-story office building. "He's got an office over there," he said, pointing. He turned. "Lives in that apartment building."
Sedgwick's body was photographed from every angle, as was the street in the direction from which the car had come. It had rained earlier, and close-up photos of tire tread marks were also taken. Measurements were made, although there wasn't much to measure aside from where the initial impact had occurred to where the body had come to rest. The area was searched for anything that might have fallen from the car, but nothing was found aside from a piece of clear plastic that presumably had come from part of a headlight. While one detective dictated into a small handheld tape recorder, the other went to the sidewalk where officers questioned bystanders.
"Anything?" he asked.
"A lot of people saw it but don't remember much about the vehicle. That woman over there, though, says that she saw the whole thing and can describe the car."
The detective went to her, introduced himself, and asked what she'd seen.
She spoke rapidly, and he asked her to slow down.
"You say you can describe the car?" he said.
"I think so."
He hated hearing "I think so."
"Go ahead," he said.
"It was white, a white car."
"What kind? A sedan? SUV?"
"I don't know much about cars. This one looked like any other car, normal, you could say, with four doors."
"A sedan," he said.
"Yes, a sedan. Like my parents drive. Just ... just a normal white car."
"I don't suppose you caught a glimpse of the plate."
"It had the American flag on it, I know that much."
"D.C. plate," he said.
"Yes. I see them all the time in the city. I live in Virginia."
"What else did you notice?"
"It was a woman? You're sure?"
"Oh, yes, very sure. It all happened fast, but it was a woman driving."
"Can you describe her?"
"Not very much. She was blond, though. I saw that much."
"Did she look like she was trying to avoid hitting the victim?"
A man interjected himself into the conversation. "Hell, no, she didn't try to miss him. Aimed right at him, was going like a bat out of hell. Looked like she wanted to hit the poor bastard. His head shattered the windshield. At that speed —"
The detective thanked them and went to his car, where he called in. Sedgwick's body was placed into the ambulance and driven away. Horns began blowing again.
"Get some cones on this mess," a detective ordered an officer. "Divert traffic around it until it's cleaned up."
The detectives moved their car to the curb in front of Sedgwick's office building, got out, and pushed through a knot of people.
"Hell of a way to die," one said as they waited for the elevator.
"Is there a good way?"
"You think what the witnesses said is true, that some blonde ran the doc over on purpose?"
"Maybe a patient. He was a shrink. Maybe he got too chummy with a blond patient, crossed over the line. They've got rules about that."
"Having sex with a patient."
"Do they? They should."
"Yeah, they do. Not that shrinks care about rules. I heard about a shrink who left his wife to marry a patient. Happens all the time, I hear."
"Well," his colleague said as the doors opened, "if that's the case here, maybe the blonde was his wife, not his patient. A woman scorned. Hell of a way to die."CHAPTER 3
Betty Martinez had worked as Mark Sedgwick's receptionist for seven years. There wasn't much to do as a psychiatrist's receptionist, so she assumed a variety of other roles, including insurance expert, bookkeeper, travel agent, and personal gofer. Sedgwick traveled a lot, often on the spur of the moment, which meant not only booking his flights, hotels, and rental cars but also salving patients who had to be canceled at the last minute. Most of his trips were to San Francisco, where he often met with others at the Lightpath Psychiatric Clinic, about which she knew little except that it demanded a great deal of his time.
Her dusky complexion and last name testified to her Hispanic American heritage, mother American, father Puerto Rican, no siblings, and half a degree in business administration. Lack of money had led to dropping out of school after her sophomore year. Her hair was so black and dense that it might have been mistaken for a high-priced wig. She was just a few sit-ups and fast-food meals away from sliding into overweight.
On this morning she'd arrived at the office at eight thirty, a little earlier than usual, and had settled at her desk in the reception room. It was a good job. Dr. Sedgwick was generous with pay and gifts. The office suite was at the rear of the building. She would have preferred an office at the front, where larger windows let in more light and afforded a view across Virginia Avenue. The few times she'd brought it up, Sedgwick had explained that the building's rear was quieter, a better setting for seeing patients. It wasn't her place to debate it, and so she didn't. Still, it would have been nice to be in the front.
Except for this morning.
The two detectives entered the area and one flashed his badge. "This is Dr. Sedgwick's office?" he asked.
"Yes." Having two detectives arrive unexpectedly unnerved Betty, and the quiver in her voice mirrored it. "Is something wrong?" she asked.
"I'm afraid so, ma'am. You work for Dr. Sedgwick?"
"Yes. I'm his receptionist."
"I'm afraid there's been an accident."
"To the doctor?"
"Yes, ma'am. Were you expecting him this morning?"
"Yes. I saw that he was running a little late but ... is he ill?"
"He was struck by a car in front of the building, ma'am. He's dead."
She burst into tears as the door opened and the morning's first patient, a heavily made-up middle-aged woman wearing a tight beige pantsuit and huge gold hoop earrings that bounced off her shoulders entered. She looked at the sobbing Betty, then at the two men in suits. "What's happened?" she asked.
"There's been an accident, ma'am."
"I have an appointment with Dr. Sedgwick. Betty, what's going on?"
"Dr. Sedgwick is —" Her sobs muffled her words.
"I'm afraid you'll have to leave," said a detective. "The doctor won't be seeing patients today."
Confusion was written all over the woman's face. She started to ask more questions but took a hint from his stern expression and left. When she was gone, one of the detectives perched on the edge of Betty's desk. He placed a hand on her shoulder and said, "I know this is a shock to you, but do you think you can pull yourself together to answer some questions?"
"I ... think ... so."
A few tissues later, and a trip to the bathroom to splash cold water on her face, she returned.
"We'll need a list of the doctor's patients," said a detective.
"A list? I can't give you that."
"I know, I know, there's doctor-patient confidentiality involved. But it appears that what happened to the doctor might not have been an accident. The driver — she left the scene — might have deliberately struck him."
"Why would someone do that?"
"Can we have a list?"
"No. I mean, I'd get in trouble if I did that."
"We can get a warrant." He knew that few judges would issue a warrant for a doctor's patient list based upon the assumption that the doctor might have been a victim of a crime, but the threat sometimes worked. It didn't with Betty Martinez.
He shifted the conversation.
"Was the doctor married?"
"Where's his ex-wife live? And kids."
She gave him the address and phone number in Chevy Chase.
"He have a girlfriend?"
She managed a smile. "A few."
"What about his patients? He get involved with any of them?"
"Involved? You mean romantically?"
"I don't think so."
He hated "I don't think so."
But she did know. She'd become aware over the years of working for him that he had become sexually involved with a few of his patients. It bothered her, but she wasn't in a position to challenge him about it.
The detective's cocked head invited her to answer again.
"No," she said, "I don't think so."
Nothing to be gained by pressing her.
"He have any enemies, you know, people who got mad at him for something he did or didn't do in his practice, somebody who held a grudge?"
"I don't think so. I mean, I don't know of anyone."
Their questioning of her lasted another fifteen minutes. Their final query was, "Do any of his patients have blond hair?"
This brought forth an incredulous, pained laugh from her. "Lots of them do," she said.
After suggesting that she call all the patients to alert them that the doctor wasn't available — and informing her that other officers would be back later that day to ask more questions and to examine the office — they left.
"He was screwing patients," one said as they drove back to headquarters.
"Looks that way."
"You figure that's the direction we go?"
The driver shrugged and swerved to avoid a bicyclist. "Idiot!" he muttered.
"The world's full of them."
"If the good doctor was playing kissy-face with his patients, the world has one less idiot."
"Me, too. Dunkin' Donuts?"
Excerpted from Margaret Truman's Experiment in Murder by Donald Bain. Copyright © 2012 Estate of Margaret Truman. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
While I enjoyed this book, it would have been better served not being part of the Margaret Truman series. There were too many new characters and not much development behind them. The 2 mainstays were inconsequential to the book. At 750 pages, it was quite long and wordy. If a new one is to come out, I hope that the original characters play a better part in it.
I was sorely disappointed with this title. Trying to favorably compare any of Margaret Truman's other titles in the series with what Donald Bain did in this one would be a stretch of more than imagination. I saw the PrePub alert by Library Journal (07/12) and can't believe that they even cracked the cover. They said that, "Mac and Annabel unearth an assassination plot." Mac and Annabel are secondary characters at best with new characters doing the action. However, the story line is poorly contrived. I have read some of Bain in the past and did not have bad heart burn for what his stories were worth. But, this was a truly poor showing and I read the whole thing hoping to the last that it might get better. It didn't get better. I saw elsewhere opinions that there was more selling of agendas than story telling. I would have to concur with those opinions.
Worst book I have read by M. Truman. She must be turning over in her grave.
This is an excellent book, and one that had decided to read, as some of the earlier Truman books were awkwardly written in places. I lived in DC for 10 years so I was eager to see how she might use the locale. In most the locale won over, but now that Bain has been revealed art the author of most of Truman's books, it seems that he has been freed from her direct influence, and this book is a winner. I am trying to juggle it with my work, and use it as a treat after a hard day. Superb work. Read it!
Not worth reading--someone's political agenda. Only the names are Truman's.
Enthralling, attention sustaining series of crimes set in Washington DC. I’ve read all of them ... and wish there were more.
His name in very small print who did plot and who did writing? This plot of made killers by secret goverment agencies by cia or fbi is one of a dozen part of the series was the focus on w d c various institutions like library of congress or watergate etc this is no longer a truman and in all honesty just get her name off cover and his in big print will not continue series
Not as good as real Margaret Truman
Very disappointing. The writing rambles and the story drags. I am 3/4 through the book, and I will finish it, but I am not enjoying the read. I wish I hadn't paid money for the book.
I have always enjoyed reading this series, but this book was awful. I don't think M. Truman would recognize her characters. And no real sense of Washington D.C.