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Mortal Friends: A Novel

Mortal Friends: A Novel

3.8 13
by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

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“Murder, blackmail, and betrayal, all set against the glittering backdrop of Washington society.”
 —The Today Show


No one knows the world of high society better that New York Times bestselling author Jane Stanton Hitchcock—and no one captures its behind-the-scenes scandals and secrets better.


“Murder, blackmail, and betrayal, all set against the glittering backdrop of Washington society.”
 —The Today Show


No one knows the world of high society better that New York Times bestselling author Jane Stanton Hitchcock—and no one captures its behind-the-scenes scandals and secrets better. In Mortal Friends, the Edgar® Award-nominated author of Trick of the Eye and Social Crimes offers readers a comedy of manners and murders which Barbara Goldsmith describes as a “dizzying dash through the heights of Washington society, a high velocity novel with more twists than a corkscrew.” Dominick Dunne said, “I had a great weekend with this book.” Find out how the other half live—and die—by spending some quality time with Mortal Friends.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In bestseller Hitchcock's whirling and suspenseful comedy of manners, gauche, aggressive Cynthia Rinehart, a self-made millionairess, explodes onto the philanthropy scene and the grand dames of old money Washington collectively clutch their husbands. Meanwhile, the Beltway Basher, suspected to be a member of the D.C. elite, continues to bump off young brunettes. Reven Lynch, an unmarried antique-shop owner, is tapped to play society informant, perhaps because her love interest, notorious playboy (and the D.C. version of Sex and the City's "Mr. Big") Bob Poll, is also a person of interest in the case. Gossip, manipulation and infidelity all happen behind Washington's velvet curtain, and it's the stuff of high school, but with higher-nay, deadlier-stakes. And among the backbiting, Hitchcock (Social Crimes) manages to stew a convincing homicide plot, peppered with enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing, and guessing again, to the novel's neat finish. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Bob Woodward
“A dazzling, wicked murder mystery that unmasks most of Washington, which may never be the same.”
“Riveting murder mystery”

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Mortal Friends
A Novel

Chapter One

Violet Bolton loathed concerts as much as she loved murder. Crime was the only real music to my best friend’s ears. She always invited me to the opening of the Capitol Symphony because she needed someone to laugh with, and her husband, Grant Bolton, never laughed if he could help it. But on that chilly September evening when it all began, Violet definitely had murder on her mind.

The Symphony Ball is the highlight of the Washington fall season. Violet had to go because she and Grant were big social deals in townâ€"not flashy, fun, publicity social, but solid, blue chip, discreet socialâ€"a couple whose presence at a big occasion was noted by important people. I loved this evening. Violet hated it. I couldn't afford to shell out the thousand bucks for a ticket. Violet couldn't afford to let her true feelings show. I went. She paid. The arrangement suited us both perfectly.

The three of usâ€"Violet, Grant, and Iâ€"sat together in the seventh row of the orchestra, listening to Mahler's Second Symphony.

"Maahhh-ler. So heavy. Reven, tell me why they can't just play show tunes and fuggetaboudit?" Violet whispered to me.

I stifled a giggle, and Violet let out an involuntary guffaw. A man in the row ahead of us ostentatiously shifted in his seat, and Grant gave us one of his stern hall-monitor looks. Grant was Mr. Straight Arrow. No, actually, he was more like a totem pole: tall, wooden, and joyless. I never quite knew when he liked something, but I always knew when he didn't. And he didn't like it when Violet and I misbehaved in public.

As the third movement ofthe symphony began, I scanned the glittery crowd, wondering if he was there. Violet was thinking the same thing because she surreptitiously pointed to the guy in front of us and mouthed the words, "Serial killer." She was kidding, of course, but it was titillating to think that someone we might actually know was a killer.

This being Washington, and Washington being the capital of ambition, there are a lot of killers around here, believe me. I imagined quite a few -people in that audience would be capable of murder if they thought it would advance their careers, or keep them in power. But at that point in time, as they say, there was a real, hands-on murderer on the looseâ€"the "Beltway Basher," as he was dubbed by the press. Over the course of the past three years, four young women had been molested and bludgeoned to death in parks around the District. They all had apartments around the Dupont Circle area. Three of the women had worked on Capitol Hill. One had famously been involved with a congressman. There were rumors floating around about a serial killer who was possibly a big shot, possibly in politics, probably a man of wealth and power, hiding in plain sight in Washington society.

I'm fascinated by crimes in which I could see myself as the victim. Not that I literally see myself as a victim, mind you, but I think we all wonder how we would react in a really dicey situation. As the symphony played on, I thought back on my life, wondering if I'd ever known anyone who'd committed murder, or been an accomplice to one. That had always been a question in my mind. Would I recognize evil if it came close?

The music ended to rapturous applause. Jed Jimson, the slick chairman of the Kennedy Center, walked out onto the stage into the spotlight. A tall, silver-haired man of sixty, Jimson always looked irritatingly smug. He adjusted the standing microphone, then gazed out at the audience as if we were guests in his living room.

"Well, friends," he began with the folksy confidence of a talk show host, "was that a great concert or what?"

Jimson turned to applaud the orchestra sitting at ease behind him. As the audience enthusiastically joined him, he swept a hand toward the wings. Leonid Slobovkin, the temperamental conductor of the Capitol Symphony, walked out from behind the curtain, gave a stiff bow, and retreated out of sight.

Jimson went on: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Kennedy Center is not only the cultural center of Washington, D.C. It is also America's cultural center. Built in 1967, this great complex is now well into middle age and, like many of us here tonight, showing the effects of long ser-vice to this country. . . ."

Polite laughter.

"As all of you here know only too well, we're always trying to raise money for our beloved center, which is in dire need of a face-lift."

Uncomfortable titters.

"Thanks to many of you, we've had success in maintaining our wonderful symphony orchestra as well as our ballet, opera, and theater companies. But we have not had sufficient funds to begin the vast construction project that is necessary to adequately house America's busiest center for the performing arts."

As he cleared his throat, Violet nudged me and whispered, "Here it comes."

"Tonight I have a very special announcement to make. . . . It is my great honor and pleasure to tell you that the Kennedy Center has just received an historic grant for the purpose of refurbishing, renovating, and adding on to the complex. . . ." He paused for effect. "A gift of One . . . hundred . . . million . . . dollars!"

A split second of silence was followed by gasps from the audience, then a cascade of applause. Over the clapping, Jimson cried, "Yes! Isn't that amazing?" so loudly that feedback screeched over the sound system. No one cared. The applause continued until Jimson shushed the crowd.

"And now I want to introduce you to the exceptional person whose foundation has made this historic gift possible. . . ."

He paused again, milking the moment as if it were the announcement of an Academy Award. Finally, he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, please say a warm thank-you on behalf of the Kennedy Center, on behalf of the American -people, and on behalf of all of us here tonight to Ms. Cynthia Rinehart! Cynthia, will you please stand up?"

Jimson thrust his arm forward and pointed down at the orchestra section. A spotlight hit the middle of the fourth row. A woman stood up and turned to face the auditorium. As the applause grew louder, she seemed to brace herself, as if she understood that she was now the focus of attention, curiosity, and more than a little envy. She was no beauty, but she was striking. With her pale skin, bright green eyes, and russet hair, she was exotic and sleekâ€"an Abyssinian cat among the dowdy squirrels of Washington.

Mortal Friends
A Novel
. Copyright © by Jane Hitchcock. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.


Meet the Author

Jane Stanton Hitchcock is the New York Times bestselling author of Mortal Friends, The Witches' Hammer, Social Crimes, and Trick of the Eye, as well as several plays. She lives with her husband, syndicated foreign-affairs columnist Jim Hoagland, in New York City and Washington, D.C.

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Mortal Friends 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Mysteries are all the more intriguing when mixed with power, seasoned with adultery, deception, the wealthy, and served from an exciting location. Jane Stanton Hitchcock has that formula down pat as we saw in Social Crimes and Trick of the Eye. She again followed this pattern with her latest, Mortal Friends. The scene is Washington, D.C. and there's a serial killer dubbed the Beltway Baser on the loose. He seems to have a bent for female victims and left his latest in Georgetown, enclave of the rich and political. One of the many who devours news re the murders is Reven Lynch, owner of an upscale antique shop. Reven (so named because it's 'never' spelled backward and her parents never expected to have a child) is very attractive, and knows who to hang out with. Her good friend, Violet, is wed to a wealthy banker. While one might think never the twain would never meet Reven does meet George Gunner, a detective assigned to investigate the murders. He believes that the killings are tied to a very important person (VIPs aren't on his speed dial), so he enlists the help of Reven to help him navigate the corridors of push and plunder. Ooops, the suspect that George comes up with is not at all who Reven would have thought, and she finds herself in a very sticky situation (that's an understatement). Jennifer Van Dyke gives excellent voice to narrator Reven, especially when making acerbic comments about some Washington insiders and their women. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book reminds me of a series written by p.b. ryan. The first book is called still life witb murder. Reafor surprising plot twists!
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msmys More than 1 year ago
Easy read, enjoyed it overall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept me in suspense until the very end. You suspected almost every character of being the serial killer. The outcome was a real surprise. It's refreshing to see a book with such a good plot. So many mysteries are not really mysteries. You can tell by the style of writing who the "bad guy" is almost from the beginning.
mjpin More than 1 year ago
Summer quick read. Always love to read about DC since I've been there many times. Characters and plot a bit shallow. But, a fun read.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Jane Stanton Hitchcock's newest novel Mortal Friends is a seductive mystery set in Georgetown, where the real Washington DC power lies. When the Beltway Basher's latest victim is found in a nearby park, best friends society matron Violet and antique shop owner Reven get involved in the crime. Violet is obsessed with true life crime stories, and Reven becomes entangled when a police detective asks her for help in solving the case. Hitchcock expertly draws the reader into this story and the world of political high society in Washington DC. She gives enough clues for readers to think themselves very clever when they figure out a few of mysteries, then throws in some twists that will send the reader reeling with surprise. Her descriptions of characters place them firmly in the mind of the reader."Grant was Mr. Straight Arrow. No, actually he was more like a totem pole: tall, wooden, and joyless." You get Grant right away from that. She describes an obscenely wealthy woman as wearing jewelry "clearly designed to illuminate her bank account as much as her face". Grant's statement about his overbearing mother, "Mother can't admit she's wrong, therefore she never is", explains a lot about Grant's relationship with her. But my favorite line is Reven's about her boarding school reunion: "Nobody looks great after forty. We just look better or worse than other people our age". That gives one pause to think. The story moves along at a brisk pace, and Hitchcock spikes her novel with references to real events, like the Chandra Levy murder and the Washington DC sniper attacks, that add to its authenticity. Hitchcock clearly knows Washington DC society, and gives the reader the inside scoop on the intrigue of it. Those who like mysteries that challenge the reader to pay close attention in an attempt to figure it out will appreciate this clever, seductive society story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The beginning of the book was okay, I felt like grabbing another book. The middle got interesting, but then it ended like a bad lifetime movie. I felt like I wasted my time. It was somewhat predictable- no originality.