Murder in Georgetown


It's early in 1935, and Washington, D.C. is enjoying a mild winter. But from the bleak expression on the face of Eleanor Roosevelt's young friend Jessica Dee, as she sits across from the First Lady in a shapeless prison dress, Mrs. Roosevelt can almost believe that a frigid chill has enveloped the nation's capital. Jessica, a beautiful young Jewish woman who was smuggled out of Poland as a child, has been accused of murder. One of her lovers, Sargent Peavy, a member of the Federal Treasury Board, has been found ...
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It's early in 1935, and Washington, D.C. is enjoying a mild winter. But from the bleak expression on the face of Eleanor Roosevelt's young friend Jessica Dee, as she sits across from the First Lady in a shapeless prison dress, Mrs. Roosevelt can almost believe that a frigid chill has enveloped the nation's capital. Jessica, a beautiful young Jewish woman who was smuggled out of Poland as a child, has been accused of murder. One of her lovers, Sargent Peavy, a member of the Federal Treasury Board, has been found dead of a gunshot wound in his Georgetown townhouse.. "Despite the evidence against her, Mrs. Roosevelt refuses to believe that Jessica could be guilty of murder. Not only is she a personal friend, but Jessica has proven invaluable to Mrs. Roosevelt's husband, the President, by passing along information gleaned while working as a secretary in the office of FDR's most potent political rival. Senator Huey Long, the Kingfish. Determined to clear Jessica's name by solving the crime, Mrs. Roosevelt uncovers a trail of deceit and greed that leads all the way to the privileged world of Boston banking and the dark underworld of the Irish mob, her every move shadowed by a notorious female assassin whose calling card is a fiery mane of hair.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Eleanor the Private Eye is utterly endearing.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like its predecessors (Murder in the Map Room, etc.), this latest (and posthumously published) mystery by the son of Eleanor and Franklin portrays the First Lady engaged in D.C. crime fighting while carrying out her White House duties. When Sargent Peavy, a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, is found murdered in his Georgetown home, police detective Lt. Edward Kennelly arrests Peavy's lover, Jessica, a staff member in Louisiana Senator Huey Long's office. The First Lady, who placed Jessica in Long's office, doubts the girl's guilt. She works with Kennelly to find out if Jessica really did shoot the man. After learning that Peavy had broken off with Jessica because his wife strongly objected to the affair, they hear rumors that he had taken up with a stunning, mysterious woman who has caught the eye of even Joe Kennedy. When a hitman is killed with the same pistol that shot Peavy, the mob connection adds a new element to the puzzle. While publicly entertaining celebrities such as H.L. Mencken, W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers, Eleanor goes undercover to interrogate suspects and does her own brand of cerebral sleuthing with the help of a chalkboard listing of possible motives. Fans who enjoy constant name-dropping and tidbits about the famous and infamous won't mind the cardboard characters or thin plot, as long as FDR and Missy end up in bed together and Eleanor and Lorena Hickock exchange at least one steamy note. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Murder In Georgetown ( Oct. 1; 256 pp.; 0-312-24221-2) Another trip to the author's posthumous vault takes his mother, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Murder in the Map Room, 1998, etc.), back to 1935, when Federal Reserve governor Sargent Peavy is murdered. Eleanor, taking the word of his distraught lover, Huey Long staffer Jessica Dee, over that of the officers who arrested her, snoops discreetly into the case on her considerable own.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568958071
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Series: Eleanor Roosevelt Mystery Series, #18
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

FOR FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, President of theUnited States, Wednesday, February 13, 1935, beganas nearly every other day began: sitting in his bedpropped up by fat pillows, eating breakfast from histray and scanning the morning newspapers. A Camelcigarette lay at hand, already in its holder, ready to belighted as his first of the day as soon as he had finishedeating and was drinking his coffee.

    Marguerite "Missy" LeHand, his longtime personalsecretary, sat on the side of the bed, near the foot,eating from her own tray. She wore a sheer white peignoirover a dark-blue silk nightgown. She, too, wasscanning newspapers, occasionally marking a story oreditorial with red ink to bring it to the President's attention.

    This was their morning routine. Newspapers fromas far north as Boston, as far south as Atlanta, and asfar west as Pittsburgh arrived by train before dawnand were delivered to the White House for the President'sattention. Lately newspapers from Cleveland,Chicago, Louisville, and St. Louis had been coming inirregularly by airplane.

    "My God!" said Missy. "Sargent Peavy is dead.Somebody murdered him! And ... Jessica Dee ...Isn't Jessica Dee the girl Mrs. R sent up to the Hill towork for the Kingfish?"

    "Louie did that, actually," said the President. "ButI believe that's the name. Jessica Dee. Is she dead,too?"

    "No. She's in jail. Charged with murder. She's accusedof murdering Sargent Peary!"

    "Let me see," the President said,reaching for thepaper.

    The story—



Sargent Peavy, member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, was murdered last evening in his home in Georgetown.
Jessica Dee, a member of the Capitol Hill staff of Senator Huey Long, has been arrested and accused of the crime.
D.C. police headquarters received a telephone call at about 8:00 P.M. from a woman described as hysterical who screamed that Mr. Peavy had been murdered in his home and then hung up. When police arrived at the address, they found the lights burning and the doors locked. They decided to break in, but before they could do so a car driven by Mrs. Letitia Peavy pulled into the driveway. She admitted the officers with her key, and inside the house, in the main bedroom, they found the body of Sargent Peavy, killed by a single bullet fired into his forehead.

The body, police say, was completely nude.

Mrs. Peavy immediately accused Jessica Dee of the murder of her husband. Other evidence shortly discovered led police to accept the accusation and send officers to arrest Miss Dee.
The D.C. police department has refused to say what that other evidence was.
Miss Dee was arrested at her home and taken to the District jail, where she was formally charged with murder and held for a court appearance likely to take place today.


Sargent Peavy, who was appointed to the Federal Reserve Board by President Roosevelt in 1933, was formerly a professor of economics at Harvard. Regarded as a distinguished economist, he served also as a member of the boards of directors of several banks.

He was forty-four years old.

Mrs. Letitia Peavy, née Craft, was married to Sargent Peavy in 1919. She, too, was a member of the Harvard faculty, a professor of political science. When Peary accepted appointment to the Federal Reserve and the couple moved to Washington, she became a professor of political science at George Washington University.
The couple had no children, and Mr. Peavy is survived by his wife, his father, a brother, and a sister.


Jessica Dee is a subject of the British monarchy, having come to this country from Edinburgh, Scotland. She is twenty-six years old.
For about two years she served as a receptionist and law librarian at the firm of Covington & Burling. In recent months she has been employed by Senator Huey Long of Louisiana, as a general administrative assistant.

Senator Long was not available for a comment.

Lieutenant Edward Kennelly, homicide detective, said that Miss Dee has not cooperated with the police in their investigation, but that he has enough evidence in hand to justify the charge of murder.

    At approximately the same time when the Presidentwas reading the story of the murder, Mrs. Rooseveltreturned to the White House from a morninghorseback ride in Rock Creek Park. She was fifty-oneyears old that year. Americans who had not seen herin person generally did not realize that their First Ladywas almost six feet tall. She had something of a perversetalent for choosing clothes that did not flatterher—hats in particular—but her riding clothes suitedher perfectly, and with them she wore her hair tiedback by a wide band of yellow silk. As she strodethrough the halls of the White House, gently slappingher boots with her riding crop, she was a stunning,appealing figure.

    She was scheduled to meet for breakfast with adelegation of congressional wives who wanted her towin the President's support for an appropriation tostudy the extent and effect of geophagy in the South.Hundreds of thousands of people, it had been reported,supplemented their meager diets by eatingclayey soil, from which they obtained bulk and minerals.Mrs. Roosevelt had been shocked to hear it andwanted to know more.

    She had only ten minutes to change out of her ridingclothes and dress for the breakfast. Even so shetook time to stop in her study to see if there were anyurgent messages for her.

    Malvina "Tommy" Thompson had found the same

[Missing Page]

    At first Mrs. Roosevelt had disliked him intensely.Then he had become her mentor. No one could remainpolitically naive with Louis McHenry Howe around.

    On that morning in October, five months ago Howehad recruited Mrs. Roosevelt to help him with a littlepolitical scheme he had in mind.

    "We've got to figure that quiet, modest, self-effacingman the Kingfish is going to run for Presidentagainst Frank in 1936," he had said. "If that were allhe might have in mind, I wouldn't worry about him,but Huey Long is one of the most dangerous men inAmerica. He may be thinking of starting his own politicalparty. He may be thinking of challenging Frankat the convention. We can't know what he has inmind."

    "Well, Louie, I'm not sure what we can do aboutit."

    Howe was one of the few political people aroundthe President that Mrs. Roosevelt called by his firstname, even by his nickname, Louie. He was a small,untidy man whose suits fit him ill. Dandruff flakes layon his shoulders, cigarette ash on his lapels and vest.In the course of a day he would smoke five or six packsof his signature brand of cigarettes, Sweet Caporals.He was always wreathed in smoke and he hacked constantly.

    "I have an idea," he said. "I'd like to send a girl upto the Hill, to see if she can't get a job working for theKingfish. Really, she'll be working for us."

    "Is that ethical?" Mrs. Roosevelt asked with a sly,measured smile.

    "Of course it's not ethical," said Howe. "But all'sfair in love and war ... and politics. Think about it.The Kingfish could hurt Frank's candidacy in 1936.Suppose he split the Democrats and brought the Republicansback in."

    "Or worse," said Mrs. Roosevelt, "suppose he wereelected."


    "But really, Louie, how can we place a girl on hisstaff? Whatever Senator Long is, he is no fool."

    Howe grinned. "Yes, he is. Wait till you meet thegirl. You'll see what I mean. Her name is Jessica Dee,and Jessica could melt Billy Sunday. If she goes tothe Kingfish with a letter of recommendation fromyou—"

    "But I have another ethical concern. Won't we bethrowing the poor young woman to the lions?"

    "I want you to meet her. I think you'll agree thatJessica is quite capable of taking care of herself."

    "What does she do now? I mean, is she employedsomewhere?"

    "Indeed she is. She works for the law firm of Covingtonand Burling, as a receptionist and law librarian."

    "How did she come to your attention?"

    "Believe it or not, through Justice Oliver WendellHolmes. He met her somewhere, was impressed byher, and invited her to his home. As I think you know,the justice asks a few young people to come to hishome and read to him. Jessica did that, and he broughther to the attention of Justice Brandeis, who in turnbrought her to the attention of Dean Acheson. And soshe wound up being employed at Acheson's firm. Itwas Acheson who introduced her to me."

    "Well ... I will meet her."

    "You will be pleasantly surprised."

    Mrs. Roosevelt had invited Jessica to the WhiteHouse for lunch and had seen immediately what Howehad meant when he said the young woman couldmelt—by which he had undoubtedly meant entice—BillySunday. She was a diminutive, exceptionally attractiveyoung woman of twenty-six. Blond, with amodest though shapely figure, she possessed an ingenuousoutgoing charm that appealed to Mrs. Roosevelt.It was easy to see that men would find herirresistable.

    She was modestly and stylishly dressed in a blackcalf-length skirt cinched by a wide black patent-leatherbelt, a black jacket, and a white blouse.

    The way she spoke English would also win overanyone. "Ah, Mrs. Rrrroosevelt," she said. "'Tis mosthonored I am to meet ye."

    "Where are you from, Jessica?"


    "How long have you been in the States?"

    Jessica laughed lightly. "Long enow to ha' unlearnedme Scots burrr. But ... it has proved useful.Some people like it."

    "Yes. It is charming."

    "'Tis no natural," said Jessica. "I learned it. I willtake you into my confidence, Ma'am, as I did Mr. JusticeHolmes. I'm nayy Scot. Noo. I am a Polish Jew."

    Mrs. Roosevelt frowned. "Indeed!"

    "Aye. We hear much these days about Germananti-Semitism. The most virulent anti-Semitism in theworld is Polish. I am a child of a Jewish family fromLublin. My real name is Lala Berg. When Poland becamea nation in 1919, it— Well. Let me explain. Myfamily lived in Lublin, but not one of us could speak aword of Polish. We spoke Hebrew. Some Yiddish. Butwhat we spoke on the streets and to our neighborswas Russian. The Russians, after all, had ruled in thatpart of Poland for many, many years. Why speak Polish?Why not speak the language of the governors, themasters? Well ... The Poles resented it. Anyway, ourfamily was most fortunate. A Zionist organizationcommitted itself to rescuing Jewish children from thepogrom they expected in Poland. When I was ten yearsold, I was sent to Edinburgh. I was adopted by a Scotsfamily. They named me Dee, after the river. I havenever seen my Jewish family since."

    "That is tragic, child," said Mrs. Roosevelt, all buttearful.

    "I was one of the few lucky ones. Mr. JusticeHolmes taught me American history. I taught him Hebrew.Can you imagine? At his age he wanted to learnHebrew, so he could read early texts of the Bible andcompare them with the translations with which he wasfamiliar."

    "How did you come to meet Mr. Justice Holmes?"

    "Luck," said Jessica. "The dear old man was alwaysattentive to girls he found attractive. I was a deliverygirl, which was all the work I could get in 1930.I made a delivery to his home from time to time. Onenight he came to the door himself. He invited me tocome into his home and visit with him. At first I justread to him, which he loved to have young people dobecause his eyesight was falling. Then he learned Icould read and speak Hebrew, and the next time I sawhim he had a Hebrew book. He asked me to read it tohim, and translate. Would you believe it? He becamea little bit fluent. But ... I hear he is very low, now."

    "His health is falling rapidly," said Mrs. Rooseveltsadly.

    They talked for an hour. Mrs. Roosevelt gave Jessicaa letter of introduction to Senator Huey Long—

    Dear Senator Long,

The bearer of this letter is my new young friend Jessica Dee who is looking for employment in a congressional office. I thought you might be interested in interviewing her.
I will leave it to her to fill you in about her curriculum vitae. As you will learn, she is not an American citizen and is anxious to work in government, where she can learn more about our country. She is at present employed with Covington & Burling. She was brought to my attention by Mr. Louis Howe, who learned of her indirectly from Mr. Justice Holmes.
If you can spare the time to give her a hearing, I will regard it as a courtesy to me.
Sincerely yours,
Eleanor Roosevelt

    "My dear," she had said to Jessica, "you must understandthat Senator Long is a most erratic man. Ifhe gives you any trouble, let me know. I will not leaveyou without employment."

    Somewhat to Mrs. Roosevelt's surprise, SenatorLong had hired Jessica immediately. Shortly she receiveda handwritten note from the senator—

Dear Eleanor,
All kinds of thanks for sending me Jessica. She is a delight. If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know.


    She wondered if Howe had not done somethingmore to encourage him. She tried not to think aboutthe possibility that Jessica herself had done somethingto encourage him.

    From time to time over the ensuing months, Jessicahad come to the White House, invariably in theevening. She was reporting to Howe what she overheardin the senator's office. Two or three times Mrs.Roosevelt saw her and invited her to share an eveningpot of coffee. Jessica never said anything about theKingfish, except that he was a funny man. Her reportsto Howe were undoubtedly more specific.

When Mrs. Roosevelt returned to her study afterher breakfast with the congressional wives, TommyThompson reported that Lieutenant Kennelly had saidhe would be honored to see her any time. She shouldcall, and he would arrange for her to enter police headquartersunseen by the reporters who hung aroundthe place. She dictated answers to eight letters and at10:45 left for headquarters.

Excerpted from MURDER IN GEORGETOWN by ELLIOTT ROOSEVELT. Copyright © 1999 by Gretchen Roosevelt, Ford Roosevelt, and Jay Wahlin. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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