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Detective Stories

The Glass Key. Dashiell Hammett. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1931.

Ned Beaumont, the protagonist of this novel, isn't a detective at all, but rather a gambler and a "hanger-on" for a corrupt ward boss. Nevertheless, when Beaumont discovers the body of a senator's son, he becomes involved in investigating the crime--although it's unclear whether Beaumont wants to identify the murderer or protect his own mentor. Dashiell Hammett, the master of hard-boiled detective fiction, considered this novel his personal favorite, while the New York Times wrote that it combined "the tradition of Sherlock Holmes with the style of Ernest Hemingway."

Jack and Jill. James Patterson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996.

A controversial senator is shot at his Georgetown apartment, the first of a string of celebrity and political murders. Meanwhile, another series of deaths strikes fear in a neighborhood far removed from the seat of power. These killings in such different worlds would seem unconnected, but Detective Alex Cross suspects otherwise. The prolific James Patterson is the author of more than forty books, including approximately a dozen featuring Dr. Cross, a Washington, D.C., homicide investigator and psychiatrist.

The Lost Symbol. Dan Brown. New York: Doubleday, 2009.

As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object--artfully encoded with five symbols--is discovered in the Capitol. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation . . . one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom. When Langdon's beloved mentor, Peter Solomon, is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him.

Murder in the Senate. Geoffrey Coffin. New York: Dodge Publishing Co., 1935.

F. Van Wyck Mason, a polo-playing Harvard grad who served in both world wars, wrote nearly 60 books, primarily historical fiction and spy stories. But he also penned two murder mysteries under the apt pseudonym of "Geoffrey Coffin." In this novel featuring "demagogues, fiery fanatics, self-seekers, and traitors," Justice Department Inspector Scott Stuart must solve four murders to rescue the country from extremist factions at both ends of the political spectrum.

The Capitol Hill in Fiction bibliography lists more novels about the Senate, House, and Capitol Hill.