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Can’t get enough of political Washington? Here’s your summer reading list

New novels from Stacey Abrams, Jake Tapper and more

Beach reads: These books breeze through old ideas about Washington, D.C. (Composition by Chris Hale)
Beach reads: These books breeze through old ideas about Washington, D.C. (Composition by Chris Hale)

Stacey Abrams is finally writing fiction under her own name, Jake Tapper is pumping out another congressional murder mystery, and Bill Clinton is back with another thriller co-written with James Patterson. 

Your definition of “beach read” can get a little warped when you follow politics, but these new books probably count. 

From the halls of Congress to the banks of the Anacostia River, here are a few novels set in Washington to add to your summer reading list.

Stacey Abrams, “While Justice Sleeps” (Doubleday, May 11)

When her Supreme Court justice boss suddenly keels over and slips into a coma, law clerk Avery Keene solves the puzzles left behind. 

This isn’t Abrams’ first novel, or even her second. She published eight romantic suspense books under the nom de plume Selena Montgomery, starting long before she ran for governor of Georgia and became a leading advocate for voting rights. 

Now she’s publishing under her own name.

“My mother, a librarian for most of my childhood, had taught us how books shaped our sense of the possible,” she wrote in her 2018 memoir. “For me, for other young black girls, I wanted to write books that showed them to be as adventurous and attractive as any white woman.” 

Jake Tapper, “The Devil May Dance” (Little, Brown and Company, May 11)

The Marders have a knack for solving mysteries in the nation’s capital. Now lawmaker Charlie and zoologist Margaret are skipping town and heading to 1960s Hollywood, where they cozy up to the Rat Pack.

“Tell me, Congressman,” one character asks, “don’t you have, like, laws and stuff to write? Something to do besides sit around drinking with a couple of crooners and their pals?”

“We’re on recess for another month,” Marder coolly replies.

During moments like that, you can almost hear longtime journalist and CNN anchor Tapper giggling in the background. But for the most part, this sequel to “The Hellfire Club” sticks to a familiar script, full of baddies, heroes and power that corrupts.

Bill Clinton and James Patterson, “The President’s Daughter” (Little, Brown and Company, June 7)

“All presidents have nightmares. This one is about to come true,” goes the tagline for this thriller, which takes the trope of a kidnapped daughter and runs with it.

Political novels written by politicians are supposed to be teeming with details only an insider would know, or at least that’s the sales pitch. It starts to get weird when you remember that while Clinton was in office he was raising a teenage daughter of his own. 

But the 42nd president didn’t write this book alone. It’s the second collaboration for Clinton and James Patterson, granddaddy of the formulaic thriller and author of the Alex Cross series, also set in Washington.

Clinton is hardly the first politician to call in a ringer when his ambitions turned to fiction. Another example is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who teamed up with author Pete Earley for recent spy novels like “Shakedown” and “Collusion.”

A murder rips through the cloistered, mostly white circles of Georgetown, Kalorama and Capitol Hill, destroying the myths that prop up Washington’s elite.

This is McDowell’s first novel, but her 2015 memoir “After Perfect” covers much of the same ground. 

“My father was being handcuffed, his face smashed against the pink Persian rug in the foyer,” she wrote then, describing the moment the FBI came for Tom Prousalis.

Her cushy life fell apart after her father went to prison for securities fraud, but McDowell draws on her own experience in the rich set to satirize the worst impulses of Washington. 

Lauren Edmondson, “Ladies of the House” (Graydon House, Feb. 9) 

When scandal envelops her senator father, Daisy Richardson sells her family’s home in Georgetown and tries to start again.

This loose retelling of “Sense and Sensibility” looks and feels like a romance novel, as Daisy replays Jane Austen’s classic and slowly pines for her best friend. But it also includes another fantasy — the dream of leaving political Washington behind.

The heroine of this tale makes it only as far as an apartment in Logan Circle, but the real victory is breaking free of charismatic, domineering, old-school politicians like her father.

Morowa Yejidé, “Creatures of Passage” (Akashic Books, March 16)

Taxi driver Nephthys Kinwell travels the streets of a dream-like Southeast Washington, mourning her murdered brother and dealing with a ghost in the trunk of her Plymouth Belvedere.

Set in the 1970s, the book includes elements of magical realism and fantasy, but it paints an all-too-real picture of a divided city. Congress, the White House and the corridors of power are just “a vast gray mass glimpsed across the water” of the Anacostia River.

“It’s a window into the unseen Washington, the Washington that usually does not get covered by the media. … This is a very vibrant place where everyday people are living out their lives,” Yejidé told Washingtonian in March.

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