Mortal Friends: A Novel

Mortal Friends: A Novel

by Jane Stanton Hitchcock
Mortal Friends: A Novel

Mortal Friends: A Novel

by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

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Overview

“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.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061173714
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 06/29/2010
Pages: 334
Sales rank: 1,153,300
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

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.

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Bob Woodward

“A dazzling, wicked murder mystery that unmasks most of Washington, which may never be the same.”

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