The scenic campus of the Washington state capitol is outwardly calm, but the Legislature is in session and no one better understands the turmoil that swirls beneath the surface than professional lobbyist Sandy Dalton. In the middle of a busy day, a powerful senator is found dead in his office with an antique Native American hunting knife in his chest. Sandy becomes the prime suspect in the case, having had an argument with the senator the morning of the murder and been the last to see him alive, but he isn't the only one to have disagreed with the senator's policies. The resulting tectonic shift in the political landscape turns the legislative world upside down.
As motives, conflicting testimonies, and hints of behind-the-scenes blackmailing add up, Sandy embarks on a struggle to clear his name. It seems almost everyone in Olympia politics has a stake and almost anyone could be the killer.
About the Author
Don Stuart has over 20 years of lobbying experience in the Washington, Oregon, and Idaho State Legislatures and in the U.S. Congress. He served as Executive Director for Salmon for Washington, a trade group representing commercial fishermen and fish processing firms (1990-96), Executive Director for the Washington Association of Conservation Districts, a professional association representing local governments assisting agricultural landowners (1997-2000), and Northwest Regional Director for American Farmland Trust, a national environmental organization protecting local farmland from development (2000-2011). Don was also the campaign manager and public spokesperson in the successful defense of a Washington statewide anti-commercial fishing ballot initiative (I-640) in 1995 and he ran for the U.S. Congress in Washington's First District in 1996.
Don is also a former Alaska commercial salmon troll fisherman (1962-65, 1980-89), a formerly practicing Seattle trial attorney (1972-79), and was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps during the Viet Nam War (1968-72). His opinion column on fish politics appeared monthly in the Fishermen's News from 1990-96. He is the author of Barnyards and Birkenstocks: Why Farmers and Environmentalists Need Each Other, published by Washington State University Press (2014), and of The Washington Guide to Small Claims Court, published by Self-Counsel Press (1979).
Read an Excerpt
When I saw the TV evening news on the Monday of the week following the Senator's death, I knew we were in for it. The coverage could not have been more cleverly designed to gin up public outrage.
How could such a thing happen right on grounds of our own State Capitol?
Who could do something like this; was it a terrorist?
Why hadn't the authorities identified the killer and made an arrest?
What impact would this have on the orderly conduct of government?
Commentators had picked it up and were adding fuel. But the origins were clear to anyone inclined to look. There were always one or two highly vocal elected officials who loved to pose as brave guardians of liberty standing up in the face of personal risk.
By Tuesday, the actual absence of any such existential threat had apparently become irrelevant. Its absence did not prevent the Senate, that morning, from adopting a floor resolution for a "thorough and complete investigation" into the death of Senator Abel Mortenson and for recommended "changes in law or appropriation which might be needed to assure the safety of our public officials" or which might be required to "create a secure climate within which elected representatives might, effectively and without intimidation, conduct the people's business."