A Spark of Death
Review: A university teacher is accused of somehow being involved in — perhaps even perpetrating — the death by electrocution of a fellow professor, one with whom he had had widely known professional and personal disagreements, in A Spark of Death, the first mystery in this series by Bernadette Pajer.
University of Washington Professor Benjamin Bradshaw is initially accused of causing the death of Professor Oglethorpe, who is found inside a Faraday Cage, a visually spectacular electric device that is actually quite harmless … if one is careful. Bradshaw and Oglethorpe had argued endlessly about the best way to educate students and the role they play at the university, and it was no secret they had little regard for each other. The police believe Bradshaw may have somehow cleverly murdered Oglethorpe, and indeed initially arrest him for the crime, but he's soon released, if not entirely exonerated. It isn't until two other people die, and an attempt is made on his life, that Bradshaw realizes someone is trying to frame him for the murder … and if that doesn't work, kill him instead.
Bradshaw makes for a fine series lead, an amateur sleuth who uses his brains to eliminate the emotional aspects of the case and rationalize what's happening around him based on facts. Early on he tells himself, "Think of math. Think of something safe. Algebra. Oglethorpe's sudden death was like an algebraic equation not yet deciphered. Yes. That was it." There's also a bit of humor interjected here and there, as in the scene where Bradshaw is brought to the police station for questioning. The meticulous notes he has taken of the site of Oglethorpe's death are interpretted by the officer in charge of being a confession of guilt; no one would know so much about the where the man died unless Bradshaw himself had committed the crime!
The author makes judicious use of societal and technological parallels between turn of the 20th century scientific advancements and those of today, that there's always some new and different gadget or device to learn about, and sometimes it isn't always used for the common good. The narrative occasionally gets a little too professorial, sometimes editorial and moralistic, as if the reader is being lectured to, though this is perfectly understandable and contextually proper given the Bradshaw's position in the university.
Relatively short at just over 200 pages and largely free of tangential subplots, A Spark of Death is a solid start to this new series.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided a copy of A Spark of Death for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), May 2012
ISBN-13: 9781590586129; ISBN-10: 1590586123
Location(s) referenced in A Spark of Death: Seattle, Washington
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A Spark of Death by Bernadette Pajer — A Benjamin Bradshaw Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: July 2011
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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