**I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.**
Stabbing in the Senate by Colleen J. Shogan
Published: November 15th, 2015 by Camel Press
Genre(s): Mystery, cozy mystery
Trigger Warnings: murder and attempted murder (duh), gore
Pages: 236 pgs
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Life is good for Kit Marshall. She’s a staffer in D.C. for a popular senator, and she lives with an adoring beagle and a brainy boyfriend with a trust fund. Then, one morning, Kit arrives at the office early and finds her boss, Senator Langsford, impaled by a stainless steel replica of an Army attack helicopter. Panicked, she pulls the weapon out of his chest and instantly becomes the prime suspect in his murder.
Circumstances back Kit’s claim of innocence, but her photograph has gone viral, and the heat won’t be off until the killer is found. Well-loved though the senator was, suspects abound. Langsford had begun to vote with his conscience, which meant he was often at odds with his party. Not only had the senator decided to quash the ambitions of a major military contractor, but his likely successor is a congressman he trounced in the last election. Then there’s the suspiciously dry-eyed Widow Langsford.
Kit’s tabloid infamy horrifies her boyfriend’s upper-crust family, and it could destroy her career. However, she and her free-spirited friend Meg have a more pressing reason to play sleuth. The police are clueless in more ways than one, and Kit worries that the next task on the killer’s agenda will be to end her life.
Book 1 in the Washington Whodunit mystery series.
In Washington, DC, the political game can often get exceedingly cutthroat. When it comes to pushing your own political agenda, one really doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of some of those staffers and lobbyists, because the claws definitely come out. While in the real world, it’s been quite some time since someone occupying a seat in the House of Representatives or the US Senate has been deliberately targeted and murdered — Robert Kennedy, may he rest in peace — it still doesn’t take away the inherent danger of playing the game. However, it’s far more often that a political misstep results in a loss of reelection, not of life. The way things have been going lately on Capitol Hill — amongst the threat of government shut down and a looming presidential election — it’s not too hard to imagine someone taking a power trip far too seriously if things continue down this path.
Longtime Senate staffer Kit Marshall has actually found herself in the midst of such a scenario. Just days before an important committee vote for a government energy contractor, her boss, Massachusetts Senator Lyndon Langsford, was found murdered in his office. Unfortunately for Kit, she was the one to come across the body and, as such, has found herself overwhelmed by the media circus as the lead suspect. Now that her career as a staffer has met an end almost as grisly as her former boss’, it’s up to her and her savvy friend Meg to determine who really killed Senator Langsford to clear her name. The thing is, nearly everyone around her has a motive for assisting the Senator in meeting his maker, but they all have an iron-clad alibi to back themselves up. In order to protect both her future and herself, Kit must figure out the real killer, or else she’ll have to kiss her cushy way of life goodbye.
Given that this was my first mystery since reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in the seventh grade, I have to say that I definitely came into reading Stabbing in the Senate with an open mind. Anything in the mystery genre — be it a movie, tv show, whatever — usually bores me to tears. Granted, I wasn’t expecting this book to be anywhere near the level of Christie’s works, as she’s considered to be a master of the genre for a reason, but I wasn’t expecting to actually find myself pleasantly entertained by the book, either! Having lobbied in the past at my state Capitol (and rallied up at the actual Capitol), reading something that took place in a familiar arena made the experience that much more fun. I felt like all of the schmoozing and other goings on were quite accurate based on my short time as a lobbyist, which makes sense as Shogan is a former legislative staffer herself. As gruesome as Langsford’s death was, it was fun to pretend to be a sleuth alongside Kit and Meg, as I found myself eager to make sure the mystery was solved for her sake. It was easy to like Kit’s character because she felt like someone I could relate to: competent in a lot of areas, but not boastful about her abilities. I was actually able to figure out the murderer before Kit; that was fun to feel accomplished in that manner during the climax of the story. Kit also loves dogs, which is always a plus in my book for a character.
However, there were quite a few snagging points for me in Stabbing in the Senate that held me back from getting overly excited about it. First and foremost, even though we heard a lot about Kit’s personality — which, again, is great! — the audience never really gets a physical description of her. Granted, there’s some hints about her wardrobe sprinkled here and there when it’s relevant, but literally every other main character is described in such detail on a regular basis that I could probably hire a sketch artist to draw Meg, Kyle, Doug, Mandy, Vivian — EVERYONE. But to skip over the main character’s appearance altogether? Were we supposed to put ourselves into her shoes and see things from her eyes? Furthermore, I felt like there was a lot of information repeated over and over and over again to the point where it was quickly becoming a point of irritation for me. For example, in almost every scene in which Meg appeared, Kit goes into extreme detail about how much of a waif she is, how much men are attracted to her, her level of physical perfection. Whenever Kit’s beagle, Clarence, was mentioned, we got a paragraph and a half about how much he was food-motivated, but it was pretty much the same explanations behind his food motivations every time. It’s little things like that which made me feel a little bit like Shogan was condescending to her readers, as if within the span of two pages, we were going to forget these aspects of the characters.
While I’m still slow to hop on board the mystery train, Stabbing in the Senate provided a fun, quick little trip through a city that I hold near and dear to my heart. I enjoyed solving the mystery alongside the sleuthing duo of Kit and Meg, even though I came to the conclusion that a certain character was the killer long before the girls did. However, there were certain areas in which I felt that Shogan was talking down to the reader a little bit; intentional or not, it’s a bit of tone that could have been polished away during the editing phase. All in all, though, I have to say I’m intrigued by the start of the Washington Whodunit series; we’ve already killed off a Senator, so who’s next?
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