"Calamity at the Continental Club" by Colleen J. Shogan; Camel Press (272 pages, $15.95)
Fictional staffer Kit Marshall solved yet another murder mystery, but this time, it wasn't on Capitol Hill.
While her boss, a congresswoman from North Carolina, is home for spring recess, Marshall, her chief of staff, spends an extended weekend with her fiance's parents at a downtown Washington, D.C., club.
"Calamity at the Continental Club" takes place inside an elite club in a mansion inspired by Washington's Cosmos Club and revolves around a historical society's annual meeting. Over visits to various Smithsonian museums and fancy dinners, the society's president and his wife are found dead in the club.
Author Colleen J. Shogan, a senior executive at the Library of Congress, first introduced us to Marshall in "Stabbing in the Senate," the first book in her Washington Whodunit series. It was followed by last summer's "Homicide in the House."
The third in the series was released in July and Marshall, now a more senior staffer, has developed into a mature, sophisticated Washingtonian and is balancing her career with planning a D.C. wedding.
She is engaged to a Georgetown University historian and author whose life is much more relaxed compared to her busy days on Capitol Hill. Her home in Arlington, where she lives with her fiance and their dog, serves as an across-the-bridge escape for Marshall from her days inside the halls of Congress.
In the first two murder mysteries, readers got an inside look at Marshall in action on the Hill. The third novel's plot develops when she finds a body at the Continental Club and her natural instinct to play detective comes out.
While Marshall tries to figure out the murder weapon and the killer's motive, and gain trust from the D.C. detectives on the case, her job on Capitol Hill is always at the back of her mind.
"Our laughter thankfully lightened the mood, which had gotten more depressing than a Senate committee hearing to solve the national debt crisis," she says after the second body was found.
Marshall recruits her friend, also a Hill staffer, and another D.C. acquaintance to help her and her fiance solve the murder. The two recruits don't get along and as she walks into a room with them seated inside, she says, "They were in a corner booth, sitting on opposite sides and glaring at each other with the vitriol usually reserved for health care reform debates in the House of Representatives."
The two friends, with Marshall listening in, debate whether staffers are "wasting" their lives working for Congress. Marshall is defensive of her job and committed to her boss.
In a detour from her previous books, Shogan includes many different sites around D.C. to create a mini-tourism guide of the nation's capital.
"I write these books to help folks experience places they don't have access to – the real Washington, but with some fun twists. That's why I started with the inner workings of the U.S. Senate and House," Shogan said in a news release.
Marshall uses visits to the National Museum of Natural History, the National Archives, and Mount Vernon to solve the murder. The Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art is also the location for a special celebration.
Prior to her job at the Library of Congress, Shogan was deputy director of the Congressional Research Service and before that, a Senate staffer.
She is working on a fourth addition to the series, "K Street Killing," that will be released next summer.
"Stabbing in the Senate" won first place in the mystery category at two book festivals – the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards. It will also be reprinted as part of Harlequin's Worldwide Mystery series.