I have been on a historical mystery binge lately, though with this latest novel I shifted gears in terms of time and place. Murder in the Oval Library by C.M. Gleason is set in Washington, DC during the first days of the Civil War.
The day after the news reaches the US capital of the fall of Fort Sumter, the mutilated body of a young soldier is found in the library on the second floor of the White House, just two doors down from the bedroom occupied by President and Mrs. Lincoln. Adam Quinn – who is part of the president’s security team, but who is disillusioned with the capital and wants to return to his native Kansas – becomes involved in the investigation.
From the start, the case is puzzling. How could such an act have been committed with the presidential mansion full of Frontier Guardsmen, camped there to protect the house and the man, both symbols of the Union, from the expected Confederate attack? With the help of one of the only black doctors in Washington and a young woman dreaming of an impossible career as a journalist, Quinn begins to follow the clues, with twists multiplying around every corner.
When they find out that the dead soldier is not who they thought he was, and when another victim is discovered, mounting evidence starts pointing to the general in charge of the Frontier Guardsmen, Jim Lane. But before he accuses his friend and mentor of a grievous crime, Quinn pursues another lead that he hopes may exonerate Lane. But how to find a needle in a haystack in a White House with hundreds of men, and where President Lincoln and his advisers are preparing for a war that may tear apart the nation?
Murder in the Oval Library is a well-written, well-researched historical mystery. With information about the causes of the Civil War, the workings of the Underground Railroad, and the struggles of the poor – freed blacks and European immigrants alike – in the 1860s Washington woven into the narration, it is a satisfying read for fans of both historical fiction and the mystery genres.
You can read the Prologue to my upcoming murder mystery Silent Water (A Jagiellon Mystery Book 1) here. The book is now available on pre-order and will be released in ebook and paperback on August 6, 2019.