Capitol Murder, by Judith Erwin [review]


Capitol Murder is the first book in a new series by Judith Erwin, featuring former FBI Agent and current hunk P.I. Jake Shepherd. Ms. Erwin is a new author for me and I picked up this book on a free Kindle offer. The writing here is good and the characters are interesting. Jake and his love interest, Scarlett, seem poised to have a long romantic story arc into future books.

The best part of this read is the hard-boiled banter between Jake and Scarlett (and to a lesser degree between Jake and every other character). Jake is a classic hero – a crack shot with military training, who spent time as an FBI agent and has almost superhuman instincts and intuition allowing him to instantly tell when a witness is lying and anticipate the moves of the bad guys. Jake is also a Yale law graduate and is ruggedly handsome (from Oklahoma) with “washboard abs” and charisma that makes all the ladies swoon. His foil, Scarlett, is a Harvard law graduate (he calls her “Harvard”) and a partner in an Atlanta law firm specializing in family law. She’s also accomplished with a gun in her hand (her father taught her) and can match wits and barbs with Jake. They are the stars of the show and the story is really about them and their relationship. It’s a romantic thriller with the emphasis on romantic, but without any explicit sex scenes.

The main plot involves the death (murder?) of a U.S. senator, who is the husband of Scarlett’s twin sister, Savannah. Jake is engaged by a rich benefactor to head up both the security team and the investigation team charged with protecting Savannah and proving that she did not murder her husband. This is a tall order, particularly since Savannah is not willing to be honest with Jake. The setup is quick and the book settles into the details of Jake’s investigation, the parallel FBI probe, and the things we learn about Savannah’s dead husband.

The winding road of the investigation is filled with wrong turns, blind alleys, and wild goose chases. This gives us plenty of time to get to know Jake and Scarlett (and for them to get to know each other). The problem with the story is that it’s mostly false leads and wasted time. Jake uncovers plenty of interesting facts about the dead senator, none of which really helps determine who killed him. There are many long scenes that are well-written, interesting, and filled with Nick-and-Nora-style banter, but at times it seems like all the information gathered is leading nowhere. The Main plot could have been tighter and some thriller readers will wish there was a bit more action. Mystery readers trying to solve the crime will want a few more clues. And some readers will wish the end had included more explanation about the obviously unanswered questions. Even with these issues, the story is a fun ride and the terrific writing and engaging characters keep you turning pages and wondering where the author is leading you.

I’ll be looking forward to the next installment in the Jake-and-Scarlett story. I’m hoping the next book will have a tighter and more exciting plot. I’m sure it will have an engaging and sizzling subplot with these two.

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