Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Spark of Death-Bernadette Pajer

A Spark of Death
Bernadette Pajer
Poisoned Pen, Jul 11 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590589052

In 1901 in Seattle, University of Washington Electrical Engineering Professor Benjamin Bradshaw discovered the corpse of a peer Professor Wesley Oglethorpe inside the Electric Machine’s Faraday Cage as the Tesla Coil electrocuted the victim. Because Benjamin and Wesley were angry rivals who publically loathed each other and the former knew how to operate the killing gizmo, the police immediately suspect Bradshaw killed his colleague.

Bradshaw knows he must find the real culprit as he worries about his son Justin if he is arrested. He also agrees with police detective O’Brien that a homicide occurred even though the crime scene looks like an accident happened. He begins sleuthing while wondering if electoral engineering student anarchists did the deed as precursor to President McKinley's upcoming visit to the U of W. The only other persons with motive and means are the victim’s pregnant wife Marion and Bradshaw’s best friend Henry Pratt who fled for Alaska. Ben knows he is onto something though unsure what as the killer tries to murder him even as he welcomes his friend (and suspect) Henry’s niece Missouri Fremont who excites him with her suffragette views.

This first historical amateur sleuth mystery stars a delightful hero who uses logic to try to prove his innocence and solve the case. The key to this engaging tale is turn of the twentieth century Seattle as the introduction of the new technology electricity has frightened many locals who believe it is unsafe. Ben is a terrific hero while the support cast adds depth to a strong opening period piece whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

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