Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Capacity for Murder: Review

Bernadette Pajer does it again in another electrifying installment of her Professor Benjamin Bradshaw historical mysteries.  Capacity for Murder is the third of the Bradshaw stories and in this one he takes on death by electrotherapeutics.  Bradshaw is an electrical engineering professor at the University of Washington at the dawn of the 20th Century.  By now he has been involved in two major criminal cases (documented in A Spark of Death and Fatal Induction) and he and his assistant Henry have been called in on enough electrical-related cases since then that they have acquired licenses as private detectives.

In this outing Dr. Arnold Hornsby of the Healing Sands Sanitarium sends an urgent message to Bradshaw, begging him to come and help him with a terrible "accident of an electrical nature."  Accident, indeed. Hornsby's son-in-law has been killed during a session of electrotherapeutics and the good doctor is on the verge of facing negligence charges at best and an accusation of murder at worst.  The local sheriff is ready to accept the death as an accident, but Bradshaw is convinced that someone rigged the therapeutic chair to deliver the deadly charge.  There aren't many suspects--the small staff and few patients--and there seems to be even less motive.  Then one of the guests dies from poisoning and Bradshaw follows a trail into the past to find a remorseless killer who is determined that nothing--not even the professor--should stand in the way of what they want.

Pajer continues to expertly weave her research into delightful historical mysteries. She has nailed the time period and made it her own--instantly transporting the reader to the early 1900s.  Deft handling keeps the intricacies of turn-of-the-century electricity from overwhelming the story. While it is an integral part of the series and the mode of murder, the details are never allowed to overshadow the characters and the plot.  And the characters are what make the story--from Bradshaw to his ten year old son to his assistant Henry, to his housekeeper Mrs. Prouty, to Missouri Freemont--Henry's niece.  All of these regular characters are well-drawn and interesting and distinct. I enjoy the way they interact with one another and how they fill the book out.  My only quibble is with Bradshaw and his ever-lasting doubts about following through on his feelings for Missouri.  Let's get that romance show on the road, shall we, Professor?  Four stars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds great Bev - I have yet to sample her books so will aim to start at the beginning - ta very much!