"R" is for RealWhoDunik (Roosevelt)

What I read: Murder in the Oval Office by Elliott Roosevelt.

"R" contains a plethora of mystery authors: Kathy Reichs (who, despite my love of Bones, I have not read); Ruth Rendell; Kate Ross (author of the very good Julian Kestrel books); Mary Roberts Rinehart; Gillian Roberts; Laura Joh Rowland; and Deanna Raybourn whose Lady Julia Grey books I've just begun.

I checked out an Elliott Roosevelt mystery on the mistaken assumption that I was checking out one of Margaret Truman's novels. Not that I customarily confuse Roosevelt with Truman: my thought was "mystery novel about politics? this must be from that series . . ."

It wasn't. Elliott Roosevelt's books star Eleanor Roosevelt as the detective while Margaret Truman's detectives appear to vary. Elliott Roosevelt's mysteries take place in a historical time period replete with historical personalities. Margaret Truman's novels, from my brief exposure, are more about the political/Washington setting than the historical one.

I found both authors fairly unreadable. This is mostly because politics do not interest me in and of themselves. That is, while I might be interested in a particular time period or country, I don't feel the same way about political people and locations. Reading Murder in the Oval Office is like reading People magazine: very little mystery; lots and lots of name-dropping (and then Eleanor met the young, brash Lyndon B. Johnson!).

Margaret Truman's mysteries aren't riddled with name-dropping--the president of Murder in the White House is entirely fictional. Rather, her mysteries are riddled with political minutiae. Reading the beginning of Murder in the White House is rather like reading a Tolstoy spy novel: twenty billion people from twenty billion organizations conferring in little groups throughout the White House and . . . yaaawwwn.

The political murder mysteries I do like are by the mystery writing team, Emma Lathen (as R.B. Dominic). Emma Lathen is better known for her Wall Street mysteries starring John Thatcher. Her political mysteries are mostly out of print. I like them though. Like in her economic mysteries, she focuses on "domestic" crimes, employs humor, and uses a detective who, while important (a Senator), isn't high profile.

Politics is always best dealt with indirectly.

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