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When Murder in the Senate, the third novel by Maine Republican Sen. William Cohen (co-written with Thomas Allen), appeared in hardcover in 1992, its premise seemed far-fetched, but possible. Cohen and Allen wrapped their mystery around a Senate filibuster over D.C. statehood, imagining a fight so ferocious that a Louisiana senator had her throat slit for choosing the wrong side. Murder appears in paperback this month from St. Martin’s Press (366 pp., $5.50), and now, with the District facing insolvency and Congress on the verge of seizing the city, the book reads like science fiction. But despite the untimeliness of the plot, as well as the gracelessness of the prose, Washingtonians can still enjoy the jabs at D.C. government incompetence and appreciate thinly disguised characters such as corrupt, race-baiting D.C. Mayor Lydell Mitchell and eloquent D.C. Del. Gwenda Harris-Topping. (Watch out, Ms. Norton! Harris-Topping has an unfortunate encounter with a knife.)