Truman offers what no other mystery novelist can: unparalleled knowledge of Washington, D.C., a city whose institutions she exposes brick by brick, and whose secrets she reveals clue by clue. The subterfuge we suspect each day in the morning newspapers plays itself out page by page in Truman�s novels, and Murder at the Opera is one of her most thrilling efforts to date. The heart-stopping story includes an attempt on the President�s life, undertaken on opening night at the Kennedy Center � a venue where it�s hard to tell if the greatest actors are on stage or sitting in the best seats.
Bestseller Truman's 22nd D.C. mystery (after 2005's Murder at the Washington Tribune), one of her strongest, opens with what looks like a simple crime of passion: a promising young Canadian opera singer found dead at the Kennedy Center's Washington National Opera. Criminal lawyer turned law professor Mackensie Smith and retired cop Ray Pawkins both happen to be at the theater when the body is discovered, both there as extras in an upcoming production of Puccini's Tosca Mac pressed into service by his wife, Annabel, and Ray involved because of his love of opera. While the two put their talents to solving the case which turns out to involve corrupt talent agents and international terrorism Truman widens her scope to reveal a charming supporting cast including fictitious U.S. president Arthur Montgomery. Opera buffs will enjoy the Tosca anecdotes and occasional glimpses of intelligence gathering in the Middle East lend a timely feel. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 21, 2006
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Excerpt from Murder at the Opera by Margaret Truman
Mac, you must do it. No. It's an honor, for you and for the school.
I don't see anything honorable about middle-aged men dressed in loincloths strutting around carrying spears. I thought we'd progressed beyond that.
Annabel knew her husband wouldn t be an easy sell. But his flippant comment meant she was making progress. There would be an obligatory protest before caving in.
I'm not an actor, he added.
They'd finished breakfast and had taken refilled mugs of coffee out onto the balcony of their Watergate apartment. It was a warm, muggy morning in early June, a harbinger of another sweltering summer in D.C. The sky was a milky blue. Below, the rippling waters of a cleaner Potomac River danced in the sunlight. Farther up the river, the familiar spires of Georgetown University rose proudly into the air.
Of course you're an actor, Annabel said. You can t be a high-powered trial lawyer without being an actor. I saw you in action when you were trying cases. You were Olivier in a gray three-piece suit.
That was then, he said. Today I am just a stodgy professor, and happy to be.
She considered her next argument. She d practiced her own share of theatrics while representing clients in high-profile domestic disputes. That was then, too. She'd given up matrimonial law to open a pre-Colombian art gallery in Georgetown, which was doing nicely. Giving up their respective law practices had been a decision they d come to at different times, and for different reasons.
For Annabel, attempting to mediate wrenching battles between warring spouses had become almost unbearable, especially when both sides were engaged in self-destructive behavior, domestic suicide bombers intent on injuring each other.
For him, the death of his first wife and only child at the hands of a drunken driver on the Beltway one rainy night had tipped the scales in favor of his escaping what had become one of Washington s preemi- nent criminal law firms, abandoning it to his three partners, and becoming Mackensie Smith, professor of law at the prestigious George Washington University.
Neither Mac nor Annabel had regretted their decisions, not even fleetingly.
Mac, she said softly, touching his arm, using prominent people as supernumeraries in productions has gotten the opera lots of good press, which translates into ticket sales. You'll be in good company. Last year, two spear-toting Supreme Court justices wore costumes in a production. You read about them in the Post. And the Secretary of State and his wife did, too, the season before. This time it s professors from the area s universities. Besides, it s Tosca, Mac. Puccini. You ll love it.