Sen. Cale Caldwell and his blue-blooded wife maintained a far-reaching and powerful grip on Capitol Hill society, but not powerful enough to save him from foul play. The influential senator’s life is cut short in brutal fashion at a glamorous reception held in his honor.
It happens just two short years after tragedy struck the Caldwell family in the form of the unsolved murder of his niece, but when attorney Lydia James suggests a connection, she’s shut down, and fast. Who stands to benefit from the Caldwells’ tragedies, and James’s silence—the senator’s political rivals, the media, or perhaps even the family’s closest allies?
“A dazzling series.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Murder on Capitol Hill proves that the author is much more than a one-term mystery writer . . . All the insider’s knowledge and gossip that made Murder in the White House so captivating.” —Booklist
“Truman has settled firmly into a career of writing murder mysteries, all evoking brilliantly the Washington she knows so well.” —The Houston Post
About the Author
After college, she pursued her interest and talent in singing and from the late 1940s into the early 1950s she performed around the world, as well as on radio and television shows. Her singing career received mixed reviews, but nonetheless was followed closely by the media in her day. Truman remained in the public eye when she went on to become one of the first women to be part of the then fledgling morning news and entertainment shows, paired with Mike Wallace on NBC’s show Monitor in 1955.
She began her writing career in 1956 with her first book, Souvenir, Margaret Truman's Own Story. The autobiography was followed by several works of nonfiction including books about her father, her mother, Bess Truman, and several books focusing on the history of the White House and its previous inhabitants, including former pets of White House families. In 1980, with the release of Murder in the White House, Truman began her foray into the world of fiction, which would continue for the rest of her life. Her Capital Crimes series remains popular with a whole new generation of readers who are intrigued by behind-the-scenes pictures of the political process.
A prolific writer in both the fiction and nonfiction genres, Truman has written a total of thirty-five books and is today a truly popular American writer. Margaret Truman died in 2008 at the age of eighty-three.
Read an Excerpt
It was his favorite tool.
It weighed more than a pound. Most of the weight was in an elaborately carved ivory handle. Its blade was six inches from the butt of its handle to its sharp tip.
He'd taken steel wool to it only the day before. He often did that with the tools of his profession. He took pride in them, considered them surgical instruments. He knew that without them, he could not be the best in his profession.
He stepped back and surveyed his work, his favorite ice pick in his large, beefy hand. He was not what most people would envision a sculptor to be. There was nothing artistic about him. He was broad and lumpy and very Scandinavian-looking. His large head was bald, with the exception of a soft fringe of blond and gray hair over his ears and an unruly tuft of it spiraling up from the center of his dome.
Just a little more, he told himself as he stepped forward, weighed the ice pick in his hand, then chipped away on the right side of the work. As long as he'd been sculpturing ice he'd never gotten over the joy of feeling the pick ram home at precisely the right spot. He could sever a block of ice in seconds with the pick or, as was now called for, could gently and deftly shape a corner, deepen relief on an ice portrait, turn frozen water into whatever he wished.
Again, a step back to gain perspective. Good, he told himself. Just one more spot.
"Looks good," an employee of the restaurant said from behind him. The voice distracted him. He jerked his head and felt the point of the pick break through the skin on his left thumb.
"Damn it," he said as he looked at his hand. It wasn't much of a wound, just a small hole in the skin from which a tiny bubble of blood welled up.
"I'm sorry," said the restaurant worker.
The ice sculptor laughed and shook his head. "I haven't stabbed myself in years." He placed the pick on the table. His own blood was on its tip. "I'm done anyway," he said as he sucked blood from his finger into his mouth and packed up a black bag in which he carried the tools of his trade. "Like a surgeon's bag," he often said about it.
He took one final look at his work, then turned and walked from the large banquet room.
"He forgot his pick," the restaurant worker mumbled to a coworker who'd just come from the kitchen. "No wonder. He stabbed himself."
The other young man looked down at the pick and said, smiling, "It's a good thing he didn't stab himself in the wrong place. That thing could kill you."CHAPTER 2
Senator Cale Caldwell entered the Senate Dining Room at precisely twelve noon. He liked being early for lunch because it meant that his favored table, in a far and secluded corner and affording a view of everyone who came and went, would be available. He could have demanded that the table be set aside for him no matter what hour he arrived, just as others did, but never had, which endeared him to the dining room's staff and management. Not that Cale Caldwell was without appreciation for the perks that accompanied his position as Senate Majority Leader and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He enjoyed them along with the rest of his colleagues. It was just that he liked being liked by those who served him, especially in restaurants, which, he sometimes speculated, probably resulted from having waited tables to help put himself through the University of Virginia Law School.
"Senator Caldwell," the assistant restaurant manager said, "you're looking splendid today."
"Thank you, Charles, I feel splendid. But then again, I always do once the first fall snap hits. What's for lunch?"
"Vermont Day, Senator."
"Really? Do I have to have pancakes and maple syrup?"
Charles laughed. "Of course not, Senator." He consulted the menu he carried. "We have a boiled dinner, beef pudding and lime-baked chicken."
Caldwell moved into the dining room and headed for his table, muttering as he went, "I've never understood why we have to have every day devoted to one damn state or another. Any bean soup?"
"Yes, sir. Will you be alone?"
Caldwell pulled out a chair. "No, my son is joining me."
"Very well. Your usual?"
He adjusted his legs beneath the table, pulled up one long black sock that had drooped and placed a white linen napkin on his lap. He noticed a white speck on the lapel of his dark blue suit and brushed it away. Cale Caldwell was known as one of the best-dressed men on the Hill. A local columnist repeatedly placed him at the top of her yearly best-dressed list. He hadn't the money while a student to afford nice clothes and was constantly embarrassed around his more affluent classmates at the University of Virginia. Once he'd graduated and had begun his rise in law and politics, his clothing had become almost an obsession with him.
He waved to a senator at another corner table who'd been served a large platter of cold shrimp, which the lawmaker had flown in fresh daily and that was stored for him in Senate refrigerators. The chef had prepared a special sauce for the shrimp and had garnished the platter with tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers. Because the senator provided his own shrimp, he was never charged for lunch. Rank — and homegrown fish — had its privileges.
Charles returned with a Virgin Mary — liquor was not served with lunch in the Senate Dining Room. "Here's to you," Caldwell said, raising his glass.
"Here's to the Redskins," Charles said. "They won last night."
"I know, my son and I were there. Hell of a game." He spotted his son standing in the doorway, stood and waved him to the table.
"Good game, wasn't it, Dad?"
"Yes, it was. Did you make your appointment this morning?"
"Sure. I think he'll go with me. I could use another client."
They ordered, bean soup for the senator, chicken for his son. When their appetizers were served, Caldwell asked, "Have you heard from your brother?"
His son shook his head and started on the salad. His father watched him. They looked very much alike, both tall and rangy and with full heads of hair, although Cale, Sr.'s had turned completely silver. Both had green eyes and aquiline noses. Cale, Jr., had followed in his father's educational footsteps and had graduated from law school at the University of Virginia. After working in two prestigious law firms, one in New York, the other in Washington, he'd set up his own practice which, as it developed, had turned increasingly into a lobbying activity. He had three industrial trade associations as clients, as well as a conservative foundation that was dedicated to social change through political efforts. Both knew that the senator's lofty position on the Hill helped to attract clients to the son's office, and they carefully avoided any overt use of that competitive edge.
"Tell me about the new client," the senator said.
"Not much to tell. Small trade group representing a loose group of U.S. watch manufacturers. They want trade restrictions with Japan, that's all." His laugh was sardonic. "Same thing happened this morning as always happens. Because I'm a Junior, they assume I was the firstborn. Had to tell 'em it isn't true. Why they even bring it up is beyond me."
His father smiled and wiped his mouth. He'd wanted to call his firstborn Cale, Jr., but had given in to his wife's wishes that their first son be named after her father, a distinguished and wealthy Virginia landholder and industrialist whose roots went back to Jefferson, and whose name had been Mark Adam. So their older son had been named Mark Adam Caldwell. Two years later their second son was born and the father's name Cale was bestowed on him.
The elder Caldwell finished off his lunch with rum pie. His son declined dessert. "Seeing anyone special lately?" asked the father.
Another nonverbal denial. The younger Caldwell resented his father prying into his social life. Neither brother had ever married, although Cale, Jr.'s social life was an active one. He was a prized eligible bachelor in a city crawling with unattached women, and was often seen at dinner parties and quasi-official Washington social gatherings and fund-raisers on the arm of a beautiful woman. Surprisingly, it was his father who most often expressed a desire that his son settle down and begin raising a family. Veronica Caldwell seemed to enjoy her younger son's free and easy movement through the city's social circles and often laughed at her husband's protests.
"Are you bringing someone to the great party your mother is throwing for me night after next?"
"I don't know, Dad. I'll be there. Isn't that enough?"
The senator glanced around to see whether anyone else had caught the hostility in his son's voice. He leaned across the table. "What the hell is eating you?"
"Nothing. I happen to think it's great Mother is doing this for you, but what I hear are sarcastic comments. You ought to be happy that she loves you enough to turn herself inside out to honor you —"
"I know, I know," he said, half meaning it, actually more anxious to change the tenor of their conversation than anything else. He knew his son was right. Although he didn't have any particular love or appreciation for the arts, he'd worked hard within various committees to increase that portion of the federal budget allocated to creative and performing endeavors, all very dear to his wife's heart. That year it had reached a level unparalleled in history, and a sizable hunk of it had gone to the Caldwell Performing Arts Center.
Were Cale Caldwell a man of lesser stature, and were his reputation for honesty and integrity not as firmly established, eyebrows might have been raised. Actually, his wife's passion in life, the center, had received what could only be considered a fair share of the pie. It had applied for the funds through normal channels, with her close friend Jason DeFlaunce spearheading the drive on her behalf and her board of directors. A simultaneous and energetic private fund-raising campaign within Washington's society and artistic communities had brought in large amounts to supplement the federal grant. All in all, the financial picture at the center had never been brighter, and Veronica Caldwell was the first to acknowledge that her husband's efforts in Congress, and having his name attached to the private fund drive, had played a major role. Which was why she'd insisted on hostessing a party for him two nights from then in the Senate's largest private dining room. Attending would be an assortment of her associates from the center, some of Cale's closest friends, his family and, in the interest of continuing publicity, selected members of the print and electronic media.
They left the now-crowded dining room, stopping at a few tables on their way for Caldwell to greet a friend and to introduce his son. Finally, they reached the corridor.
"Where are you off to now?" the father asked.
"The office, and I have an early dinner engagement."
"I have a committee meeting, a couple of votes and a doctor's appointment this afternoon. Wish you were free tonight. I know your mother would like to have you for dinner. She hasn't seen you in a while."
"She's going out for dinner, then to the center."
"I called her this morning."
They took a few steps before Cale, Jr., said, "Dad ..."
Caldwell stopped, looked at his son.
"Are they still planning a hearing on religious cults?"
"Hard to say ... Senator MacLoon seems against it —"
"Couldn't you do something to kill it?"
Caldwell raised his eyebrows. "It's not exactly my concern —"
His son's face hardened, his mouth tightened. When he put on that expression he looked like his mother when she was upset or angry, and Cale Caldwell had always intensely disliked that expression on both of them. The son broke in, "It is your concern, it's all of our concern."
"Come for dinner some night and we'll discuss it. I'm late for my meeting."
"You don't really care —"
Caldwell glanced around. His son's voice had risen. "We'll discuss it at home, where it belongs. Well, thanks for coming, I enjoyed lunch."
"Yes, well, so did I ... I'll see you at your ... testimonial."
His father looked at him, wondering if he only imagined a tinge of sarcasm.CHAPTER 3
Lydia James was grateful the performance was over. She'd never particularly appreciated Haydn, though she did admire some of his symphonic works like "London" symphony Number 101 that mixed a rondo with a variation form.
She glanced across the partially filled hall at the recital's sponsor, Veronica Caldwell, wife of the Senate Majority Leader and Lydia's friend, whose face reflected her intense enjoyment of the evening. Veronica was partial to string quartets.
"Bravo," Veronica called out as she stood applauding. The members of the string quartet, who'd just completed Haydn's "Razor" Quartet — the composer had given it to an Englishman in exchange for a new razor — stood and bowed.
The man next to Lydia sighed and scratched his Adam's apple. "The best thing that ever happened to Haydn was meeting Mozart. Everything he composed improved after that."
Lydia smiled and placed her hand on the arm of Clarence Foster-Sims. Among other things, he'd been her last piano teacher before she gave up her early dream of a performing musical career for the more pragmatic one of law, at which she was damn good. She'd once blamed him for being so tough on her that he'd undermined her, but finally she was able to acknowledge that his demanding, caustic approach had helped make her a brilliant lawyer instead of a so-so piano player.
The sparse audience stood and filed into the lobby. Foster-Sims excused himself, and Lydia watched his tall, angular frame, from which a brown tweed suit hung loosely, slice through clusters of people to the men's room. A handsome self-possessed man, she thought. No use denying it, she was very attracted to him —
She turned to face Veronica Caldwell.
"Oh, hi, Veronica. I enjoyed it very much."
"So did I. Every time I listen to Haydn I'm more aware of how he must have suffered being married to that awful woman ... You look lovely."
"Thank you." Lydia appreciated the compliment. She didn't feel lovely. It had been a long hard day at the office, and she'd barely had time to brush her hair and change into a beige linen suit before Foster-Sims had picked her up.
"Is Cale here?" Lydia asked, referring to Veronica's husband, the Senate Majority Leader. She would have been surprised if he were. Cale Caldwell was not a concertgoer, although he was dutifully supportive of his wife's involvement in the arts, and of the center that carried their name.
Veronica waved to someone across the lobby, then said, "No, he went to some game ... baseball, football, I'm not sure."
"Ready?" Foster-Sims asked Lydia as he squeezed through the crowd and came up to her side.
"I think so."
"Good. Let's stop off for a brandy. Haydn's so damned dry, I work up a real thirst listening to him."
"Bull, but okay ... Good night, Veronica," Lydia said.
But before they could escape, Jason DeFlaunce came up, decked out in a green velvet jacket, an open white shirt, brown-and-green paisley ascot, wrinkled gray slacks and brown molded shoes. Lydia had never particularly liked Jason. Too much ... Still, he was well-known in Washington's so-called creative community as someone who could get things done. Which was to say an ability to raise money for the arts, which Veronica Caldwell especially appreciated. Jason was also, to some, witty and well-connected. Foster-Sims had once labeled him an unregistered lobbyist — "unregistered whore" was actually what he'd said. Clarence had strong opinions.
"Hello, Jason," she now said. "You look ... well."
Eyebrows arched. "Actually I haven't been feeling all that well, Lydia. I suspect I'm terminal."
"I'm very sorry to hear that," she said with a straight face. Jason extended his hand to Foster-Sims, who seemed to examine it before shaking. "Let's go," he said to Lydia.
She nodded. "Well, see you soon, Veronica, and my best to Cale."
"I'll tell him if I ever see him. Being married to a United States senator is no bed of roses, or petunias for that matter ... By the way, Lydia, you will be at Cale's testimonial, won't you?"
"You, too, Clarence?"
"I wouldn't miss it." Unless he could figure out an excuse, which he doubted.
Lydia and Clarence went to a bar in the Hotel Madison where they ordered brandy — Hennessy for him, Rémy Martin for her. The bar was virtually empty as they settled into a corner booth, sipped from their snifters.
Lydia broke the brief silence. "I felt sorry for Veronica tonight, Clarence."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Murder on Capitol Hill"
Copyright © 2015 Margaret Truman.
Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.
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
keeps you juggling too many characters from the beginning that lack development. overall a decent storyline.
The second book of the Capitol Murders series, I picked this up from the library mostly based on the series name. Having lived near and worked around DC, the setting is well known to me.Revolving around the death of a prominent US Senator, Truman takes us deep in the political intrigues of a senator's family, and the skeletons rattling around in the closet. Who had the motive to kill the Senator? One of his two sons, his adopted daughter, the head of a cult, his wife, a television talk show host, a rival senator, a SIG, or someone else entirely? Follow Lydia's investigation as the special investigator appointed to a Senate commitee group to "find out what happened."
Like other Margaret Truman murder mysteries in her series set in the District of Columbia, this book is enjoyable entertainment. Her books bring the familiar buildings of the nation's capital to life. For the onetime area resident, it's a visit back to the land of national memorials, museums, and monuments; to marble and granite government buildings with their columns, domes, balustrades, and stone steps; to Rock Creek Park, The Mall, the Potomac River, and Georgetown; and to national treasures like the Smithsonian. Her stories achieve mystery without resorting to gimmicks, no cleverly-authored trickery to fool the reader, no artificial and contrived plotting. Her characters are interesting and they often reappear from story to story. For the most part they are complex but clear, with motivations and backgrounds typical of the people who come to the nation's capital for fame and fortune, for power and service, for good and bad.