Picks and Pans Review: Murder in the Smithsonian

updated 08/15/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/15/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Margaret Truman

After authoring three mystery novels set in Washington, Truman is beginning to show some improvement. In this case, her light tone works—and that's not easy when the subject is violent death. Early on, a history expert is stabbed in the back with Thomas Jefferson's sword during a reception at the Smithsonian. A piece of famous jewelry that once belonged to a secret society is stolen. The DC. detective assigned to the case is a recently divorced man who likes to cook, and who's the murdered man's beautiful Scottish fiancée flies in, the detective wants to make his chicken-and-dill dish just for her. The staff of the Smithsonian is peopled with the types mystery readers love to suspect, even if practiced fans will have figured out the plot long before the end. There are, however, some amusing variations, such as a transvestite who flits among the First Ladies' gowns at night in the museum and a police commissioner who is neurotically dapper. After writing books about murders in the White House, on Capitol Hill, in the Supreme Court and now at the Smithsonian, how about pushing someone off the Washington Monument next time, Miss Truman? Or better still, have a poisoning at Art Buchwald's house. (Arbor, $14.95)

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