The Mayflower Society is about to hold its annual meeting at Washington D.C.'s swanky gathering place for the elite, the Continental Club. That means Kit Marshall's upper-crust future in-laws, Buffy and Winston Hollingsworth, are coming for a visit. Annoyed that Kit has not set a date to marry Doug, Buffy wants her to commit to a high society wedding at the club. Kit, though chief of staff for a congresswoman, feels uncomfortable with Buffy and Winston's crowd.
Kit receives an unexpected reprieve in the form of murder. En route to her morning jog, she encounters the corpse of the leader of the Mayflower Society, conservative multimedia tycoon Grayson Bancroft. On the security cameras, no one was seen entering or leaving the club, which means the culprit had to be an overnight guest. Little love was lost on Bancroft, but the police have their prime suspect: Doug's father.
Buffy and Winston, formerly disdainful of Kit's sleuthing, urge her to investigate. With her future in-laws' freedom and reputations at stake, Kit sets out once again to solve a murder mystery, this time aided by her fiance Doug in addition to her friends Meg and Trevor and her dog Clarence. Her search for clues will take her from the club to the Smithsonian Museum, the National Archives, and Mount Vernon.
Book 3 of the Washington Whodunit series, which began with Stabbing in the Senate and continued with Homicide in the House.
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Doug was conked out. I dressed quickly in my exercise clothes and grabbed the room key card before quietly closing the door. I skipped down two flights of stairs and arrived at the floor where we'd had dinner the night before. As I turned the corner past an antique grandfather clock, I spotted the portrait on the wall of Gertrude Harper, the granddaughter of the original mansion proprietors. I was no art historian, but I'd read that the Vermeer-influenced Frank Weston Benson had painted the comely twenty-four-year-old at the turn of the century. The National Gallery of Art owned the original oil painting, which had been on display in prominent places such as the vice-president's residence and the National Portrait Gallery. With no chance of acquiring the masterpiece, the Continental Club had commissioned an impressive reproduction.
I'd planned to examine the portrait last night. Impressionism, even the American version, was my favorite period of art. We hadn't lingered in the anteroom before or after dinner, so I'd given the painting no more than a passing glance.
Now I walked toward the mantelpiece to take a closer look. Gertrude really had been a beautiful young woman. The websites detailing the history of the building and the club hadn't exaggerated her enchanting smile and the long strokes used to depict her flowing white dress. She was the Continental Club's Mona Lisa.
My Fitbit buzzed, its annoying way of reminding me it was time to get moving. Somehow Gertrude Harper had managed to remain slim without jogging around Dupont Circle. I wasn't so fortunate.
I turned away from her portrait to head back toward the main staircase. In the far corner of the room near the entrance to the club's library, I spotted a man's dress shoe. How odd. The Continental Club wasn't the type of place where patrons had one too many glasses of wine and lost their footwear en route to bed. That went double for the Mayflower Society crowd who occupied the vast majority of suites inside the building.
Curiosity got the better of me. The library entrance was adjacent to another Continental Club treasure I'd wanted to check out, the bronze bust of Benjamin Franklin. During the Second World War, when the club met inside Dolley Madison's former house, the Franklin statue adorned the room where key discussions about nuclear fission and the atomic bomb took place. Now it resided on a perfectly engineered pedestal in front of a prominent arched window, inviting photographers strolling along the nearby street to take advantage of the striking profile it provided when the light was just right.
I didn't get much of a chance to admire Franklin or read the detailed inscription at the base of the statue. A guest who'd unwisely overindulged hadn't abandoned his shoe the night before. Instead, the shoe belonged to a man whose body lay flat on the floor of the library.