When a beautiful female journalist working for The Washington Tribune is found murdered on premises, the newspaper is thrown into a tizzy. With mounting pressure from his editor and others above for an in-house investigation and possible scoop into the solution of the murder, veteran crime reporter Joe Wilcox is forced to come out the apathy that’s enveloped him as retirement age draws nearer.
Seeing in this death one final stab at journalistic glory, Wilcox is determined to do anything to get the scoop. A second similar murder in a park causes Joe to idly speculate in print about it all being the work of a sick serial killer. Before he knows it, the rest of the media picks up his theory and runs with it. Metro PD’s unhappiness with this rash theory rolls off Wilcox’s back as he’s flooded with requests for TV and radio interviews.
Like one lie begetting thousands more, Wilcox suddenly finds himself in dire need of an actual serial killer to keep his reputation intact. And who better to fit the profile Joe has spun out of thin air than his own long-lost brother, Michael, who was institutionalized for killing a young girl and who has suddenly and most unwelcome come back into his life.
This latest addition to the Capital Crimes series by Margaret Truman is, naturally enough set in Washington, DC, and primarily at a fictional newspaper called The Washington Tribune. Times have changed and so has journalistic integrity, until there’s hardly any difference between a newspaper and a tabloid. This is the core mantra of this cautionary suspense tale. No one represents this better than Truman’s character, crime reporter Joe Wilcox. With retirement staring him in the face, Wilcox feels nothing worthwhile has come out of all his years of dedicated adherence to the facts and nothing but the facts. The murder gives this dinosaur one final grasp at glory, and Joe is determined to have it, even if he has to abandon his scruples and make things up. What results is at once comical and tragic.
Secondary characters a-plenty help flesh out the novel. The serial killer investigation/reporting is the core plot, but other sub-plots revolve around it. Truman takes a penetrating look at the motivations of a newspaper in today’s era, where news can be found anywhere from the Internet to television more rapidly than a newspaper can , causing sensationalism to rise and become the motto of the day. The mystery has an altogether to-be-or-not-to-be kind of feel to it, but it retains an interesting edge until the unexpected end. Overall a bit dark but always suspenseful, Murder at the Washington Tribune is a sharply provoking and intriguing read.