Who is Jane Barcroft?

Arlington County political circles were buzzing last week about the identity of the mysterious author whose crime novel "Murder Across the Board: An Arlington County Mystery" turned up on Amazon.com recently.

The self-published book contains thinly -- very thinly -- veiled portraits of real-life Arlington County Board members and the gadflies who frequent their Saturday board meetings.

The novel, narrated by an insomniac journalist named Paige Smith, opens with a bang:

Politician "Hector de la Roja" -- clearly modeled after real-life Board Member Walter Tejada (D) -- is found lying dead in a pool of blood just as the board meeting is about to start.

"I had gotten out my cell phone camera and nailed two shots before a crew of paramedics pounded around the corner . . . barely bothering to speak to us as they boiled us away from the men's room door where Hector de la Roja lay half in and half out of the corridor," Barcroft writes. "It did not look like they were going to be able to do a lot for him."

Sarah Wischhof, a publicist for the Lincoln, Neb., publishing company that put out the book, iUniverse, Inc., confirmed that Jane Barcroft is a pseudonym for a woman who "does not wish to have her identify be known."

Shortly thereafter, however, an e-mail arrived from janebarcroft@yahoo.com in which the author described the book as a "whimsy."

"Don't you ever feel a longing for something really exciting to go on in that boardroom?" the author wrote. (Yeah, we do.) "It seemed such a perfect challenge to see if one could make it into the traditional hard-boiled detective novel with its formula elements."

A quick search of U.S. Copyright Office records revealed that the book was copyrighted to a "Karen E. Murry." But janebarcroft@yahoo.com denied she was "Karen Murry," hinting that even that name was a ploy.

There is a real Karen E. Murray, who spells her name with an 'a' and is active in politics in Arlington, but she denied being Jane Barcroft.

"I think someone's playing some kind of whimsy or game or whatever," Murray said, using the same word to describe the work that janebarcroft@yahoo.com chose. "This is weird. It feels kind of like I'm being stalked."

As for the real-life Tejada, he said he didn't know about the book, but he was not amused when he learned he had been unceremoniously killed off in Chapter One. "I won't dignify that with a response," he said.

Hurricane Help on the Fly

Old Town businessman Chris Farley was driving to work three weeks ago when he heard customer and political operative James Carville on talk radio discussing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Farley, the owner of Pacers Running Store, said he knew right then what he had to do: Put on a race to benefit the victims.

Despite a scant two weeks to plan the event, the Gulf Coast Relief 5K was held Saturday in Old Town, bringing together 4,000 runners and walkers and raising about $114,000 for the Red Cross Hurricane 2005 Relief Fund.

"It was a major outpouring," said Steven J. Mason, a spokesman for the city, which was one of the event's sponsors. "There was such a high level of enthusiasm. Everyone was pumped to be out there and able to do something. "

Also sponsoring the race were Alexandria residents Carville and his wife, Mary Matalin, Mizuno USA, Roll Call Newspaper and Great Harvest Bread Company of America.