Picks and Pans Review: Murder and the First Lady

updated 07/02/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/02/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Elliott Roosevelt

If Margaret Truman can write mystery novels, why doesn't Ron Reagan write a Western thriller set on his father's ranch? Isn't it time Amy Carter wrote something titled The Deadly Disappearance of the White House Dolls? Anyway, for those not disturbed by such trivialization once removed, Elliott Roosevelt's murder story has his mother Eleanor's pretty young British secretary suspected of jewel theft and a poisoning. Mrs. R. doesn't believe the girl is guilty and sets out, working with the chief of police and a man from Scotland Yard (in spite of the machinations of a sinister J. Edgar Hoover), to find the real criminals. The author has lots of fun. There are light, convincing descriptions of FDR's cocktail hour, with the President himself measuring out the vermouth and gin for his particularly lethal martinis. The First Lady is on the go every minute—displaying the amazing energy that was hers in real life. One of the funniest scenes has her in disguise at a seedy gambling roadhouse where the entertainment is a stripper. Her companions, both policemen, are embarrassed, but Eleanor is quite happy to be seeing such a performance. The plot is convoluted, with stolen jewels hidden in a jar of face cream, British con men pretending to be people they are not, and a surprising twist. Murder and the First Lady reads as if it were written to become a TV movie starring Jean Stapleton. (St. Martin's, $12.95)

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