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Monday, June 11, 2012

Fatal Induction: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery by Bernadette Pajer

Fatal Induction: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery by Bernadette Pajer
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Seattle, 1901. The race to win an electrical competition incites Professor Bradshaw’s obsession for invention in this sequel to A SPARK OF DEATH. The winner’s telephonic system will deliver music of the Seattle Grand Theater to homes throughout the city, and Bradshaw is confident he can win. But a missing peddler and child divert him, while the assassination of President McKinley drops Bradshaw and the entire nation into shock.

When Bradshaw discovers the peddler’s child may have witnessed a murder, he follows her trail below Yesler Way, plunging into a seedy underworld of bars and brothels. Frustrated by the police department’s apathy and caught between power struggles, he doesn’t know who to trust. Each step of his investigation entangles him deeper in crime and corruption until he realizes that to save the peddler’s child, he must transform his contest entry into a trap to catch a killer.

The Professor Bradshaw Mystery Series features Benjamin Bradshaw, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington. Bradshaw’s electrical forensic and investigative skills, combined with a keen understanding of human nature, bring the Seattle Police, and murder, frequently to his doorstep during the social and scientific turmoil of the early twentieth century.

Will Bradshaw’s obsession kill him before he solves the mystery?

I knew I was in for a real treat when I read the first sentence of Fatal Induction. “The first indication that Professor Benjamin Bradshaw’s life was about to plunge again into chaos appeared in the form of a flatulent horse eating Mrs. Prouty’s broad beans over the garden fence, its huge teeth tugging greedily at the vines.” Ms. Pajer’s excellent word choice allowed me to picture the scene clearly in my mind. With a smile on my face, I eagerly dove into the book and lost myself in Professor Bradshaw’s world.

I liked Benjamin Bradshaw immediately. At first, he seemed like the typical disheveled, forgetful professor with a brilliant mind and less than stellar social skills. However, underneath all that, Bradshaw is a man who truly cares not only for his friends and family, but all the people who live in his city. I absolutely loved the tender moments when Bradshaw would take a moment to look at his son and marvel at how much he’d grown. Bradshaw’s interactions with a young woman named Missouri also serve to reveal his softer side and add just a hint of romance to the story.

When a young girl goes missing after witnessing the murder of her father, Bradshaw immediately throws himself wholeheartedly into the task of finding her. While I admire his genuine concern and determination, this situation exposes a dangerous element of Bradshaw’s personality. Bradshaw has the tendency to obsess over any problem his mind latches onto, whether it's experimenting with a new electrical invention or helping the police solve a crime. He works himself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. Since Bradshaw is a single parent, I do wonder why he wouldn’t take better care of himself for the sake of his son, if not for himself. I also couldn’t help but wonder if Bradshaw’s exhaustion is completely due to overwork or if something a bit more serious is going on. Perhaps I’ll find out in future installments of this series.

In addition to creating a compelling main character, Ms. Pajer has sprinkled her book with a host of delightful secondary characters. Bradshaw’s son, Justin, is my favorite. In many ways, he's a typical eight year old boy who loves to run around outside playing with frogs and getting into some innocent mischief. However, like his father, there's much more to him than meets the eye. Justin is an intelligent and somewhat sensitive boy who has inherited his father’s caring nature. While Justin retains a childlike innocence, in some ways he demonstrates a maturity far beyond his years.

Ms. Pajer wove her mystery well and I was right about one of the people involved in the crime, but I didn’t know how this person had done it until the very end. I must admit I smacked myself in the forehead when everything was revealed because I had forgotten an important clue early on that would have allowed me to fit all the pieces together. Even though I wasn’t successful in solving the mystery before Bradshaw did, I certainly enjoyed the journey to the solution. I thought the conclusion was bittersweet. There are certainly elements contained in the final pages that are cause for celebration and others that make the heart ache a little. While I can’t say that I completely loved the ending, it did have a very realistic feel to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Fatal Induction. While it's the second book in a series about Professor Bradshaw, Ms. Pajer included enough background information throughout the story so seamlessly that I never felt lost. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great, historical mystery filled to the brim with interesting characters and suspense.

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