Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Colleen J. Shogan and her cozy mystery novel, Larceny at the Library.
Congressional chief of staff Kit Marshall is finally figuring out what it takes to work for a newly minted committee chair in the House of Representatives. After a swanky evening soiree at the Library of Congress, Kit’s husband Doug discovers the body of a high-ranking librarian inside a ceremonial office. In addition to a murder, there’s also a major theft to complicate the situation. The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets the night he was assassinated have gone missing. Kit’s political boss and the Librarian of Congress ask Kit to investigate, and she’s released into a world of intrigue populated by a frisky donor, an ambitious congressional relations specialist, a cagey rare books curator, an overly curious congressman, and a baseball-loving lawyer. Kit must solve the crime before Doug’s career is tanked by suspicion.
The case takes her to the inner bowels of the Library of Congress, Ford’s Theatre, the National Portrait Gallery, and the D.C. Public Library. In the end, Kit must put her own life on the line to retrieve her most valuable possession, which goes unexpectedly missing as she hunts down the killer and thief.
In Larceny at the Library, Colleen J. Shogan has written an enjoyable cozy mystery enhanced with an insider’s knowledge of DC politics and a wealth of fun information about the Library of Congress and the world of historical artifacts.
Her amateur sleuth, Congressional chief of staff Kit Marshall, is diligent and methodical, and she delivers an admirable solution to the crime, just in time. I liked Shogan’s supporting characters and felt she introduced enough about each to make them three dimensional without getting bogged down in extraneous plots. On the whole, the story works well on an intellectual level.
I wish I’d read the previous novels, as I’m guessing author Shogan covered basics I missed. I needed to know more about Kit Marshall in order to really like her. I kept wondering what she was doing solving murders. Worse yet, when characters from previous stories showed up, I found their cameo appearances frustrating. I have a feeling this particular book works better on an emotional level if the reader is already invested in the main character and is happy to see people from her past.
Every book stumbles a bit somewhere: for this novel I’d say it could use a little more zing. I don’t want car chases and ticking bombs in my cozy mysteries, but less mundane food descriptions, fewer extraneous references to pop culture, and a lot less dialog that boils down to people introducing themselves to each other would have allowed this basically good story to pack more punch.
As it is, it’s a fun read and I’d like to read more by this author. I do recommend this book to all cozy mystery fans, and particularly to those who are also history buffs or are fascinated by watching the DC scene.
About the Author
Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at several universities and previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as a senior executive at the Library of Congress. She is currently the Senior Vice President of the White House Historical Association.
Colleen is a member of Sisters in Crime. “Stabbing in the Senate” was awarded the Next Generation Indie prize for Best Mystery in 2016. “Homicide in the House” was a 2017 finalist for the RONE Award for Best Mystery. “Calamity at the Continental Club” was a 2018 finalist in the “best cozy mystery” at Killer Nashville. She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.
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Yes, there is a giveaway
The Author will be awarding a $75 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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My Favorite Excerpt
Dunlap motioned for me to follow inside her private office. With a spectacular view of the historic Jefferson Building and the United States Capitol accompanied by floor to ceiling windows, the Librarian’s corner suite constituted prime real estate on Capitol Hill. Her desk was littered with papers and books. I appreciated a disheveled work space and instantly felt at ease with the homey appearance of her personal space.
“Please sit down, Ms. Marshall,” she said, pointing to a leather armchair. She took a seat directly opposite me, straining to offer a smile.
“I’ll touch base with Sergeant O’Halloran later this afternoon,” I said. “I’ve already done a preliminary survey of the immediate suspects so we can talk freely about where the investigation stands.”
“Impressive,” said the Librarian, her hands folded neatly on her lap. “How did you come up with such a list?”
I explained that a limited number of people knew that only her fingerprints and Gustav Gaffney’s could open the safe. Given Doug’s observations, if we assumed that Gaffney was killed last night instead of this morning, then only those already inside the building would have had access to the Librarian’s ceremonial office. That narrowed the list of possible suspects considerably.
“Then who are we talking about specifically, Ms. Marshall? asked Dunlap. “After all, I’m in charge of the Library of Congress, and I need to know who might be responsible for these heinous crimes.”
“Of course, ma’am.” I ticked off the known suspects with my fingers. “There’s Gordon Endicott, Joe Malden, Lea Rutherford, Janice Jackson, and Congressman Henry Chang.” After taking a breath, I continued. “The police likely consider my husband Doug Hollingsworth a suspect, too. But I don’t.” I chuckled. “For obvious reasons.”
“Thank you for those names, Ms. Marshall,” said the Librarian, now with a pinched expression on her face. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to go back to the drawing board.”
My head flinched backwards. “Excuse me, ma’am?”
“Many of those individuals are my employees here at the Library of Congress,” she said. “None of them could have killed Gustav Gaffney or committed theft.”
“It’s hard to imagine a colleague you know and trusted could have done this. But I’ve seen this unfortunate scenario time and time again. You’d be surprised what motivates people to do horrible things.”