Book Review: Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer

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Capacity For Murder

Bernadette Pajer

Poisoned Pen Press

252 pages

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Capacity For Murder, the third book in Pajer’s Professor Benjamin Bradshaw Mystery series, opens with a cry for help via telegram from Dr. Hornsby, owner of Healing Sands Sanitarium in Ocean Springs, WA. The Dr. begs Professor Bradshaw to come to him immediately, because he is a leading expert in electricity and there has been an “accident of electrical nature”.

Reluctant to leave Seattle for the untamed coastal retreat, Bradshaw declines at first. Nevertheless, the lure of mystery, science and the fresh ocean air eventually convinces him to help. He sets off with his young son, the college students from his summer school class, his close friend Henry and Henry’s sister Missouri.

Upon his arrival at Healing Springs, Bradshaw finds Dr. Hornsby an emotional mess. He appears to have accidentally killed his beloved son-in-law with an electrotherapy machine. The Professor soon realizes the machine was sabotaged, making this a murder, not an accidental death.

The patients at the Sanitarium are sequestered on the property until the killer is found. The odd  rules and foul smelling food served is as off-putting to the Professor and his group as the array of strange characters they have to interview. Most of them seem to have the motive to kill the victim.

The reader learns about Professor Bradshaw’s personal life as he fights his attraction to Missouri as the demons in his past that keep him from her. Meanwhile, Henry plays a perfect Dr. Watson to Bradshaw’s Sherlock Holmes as they look for clues to find the killer.

Pajer brings history to life through this wonderful work of fiction set in the early 1900’s.. Oftentimes I read books that have facts in them that I assume to be true, but they could possibly be a fragment of the truth wrapped in fantasy to fit the story line. Capacity For Murder has a seal on the front proclaiming it was “Peer Reviewed & Approved for Science” by the Washington Academy of Sciences.

This certification cannot be taken lightly. Her manuscript was approved and certified after a “rigorous scientific review” determining the science in her novel is accurate. This is by far the most interesting and enjoyable science lesson I have ever read.

Professor Bradshaw and his cohorts are likeable characters. The mystery was fun to try and solve along with them as the clues stacked up. Sometimes I find it is difficult to pop into an established series without reading the previous books. This is not the case with Pajer’s book. I did not feel lost or confused; she perfectly wove in backstory without dwelling on it to bring new readers into the story. This is a solid standalone mystery, and I enjoyed it so much I will seek out the first two and look forward to a fourth.

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: Fade to Black by Jeffrey Wilson

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Fade to Black

Fade To Black

Jeffrey Wilson

Published by Journalstone Publishing

ISBN-978-1-936564-85-9

254 pages

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Fade To Black pulls the reader into a life and death gun battle between six Marines that were separated from their platoon and an unknown number of insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq on the first page. Bullets fly and men die. One of the sniper’s bullets finds Sargent Casey Stillman, critically wounding him as he tries to save his fellow Marines.

He fades from consciousness only to wake up screaming. He isn’t dying in the hot, sandy street, but falling out of the bed he is sleeping in with his wife, Pam. The sounds, smells and horror of Fallujah slowly fade as he realizes he is home with his wife and his baby daughter is sleeping down the hall. He is not a Marine Sargent; he is a high school science teacher, Jack.

Jack’s horrible nightmare is so real he cannot stop thinking about it. His life feels somehow off kilter, familiar things seem foreign to him as he tries to make it through his workday.

His nightmares increase and Jack begins to think he is crazy. He seeks help from his family doctor, who sends him to a therapist. Pam stands by him, surprisingly calm during his struggle to grasp reality. Things get worse. He starts seeing the Marines killed in his dreams when he is awake. He knows facts about the men who died in Fallujah as if he really was their Sargent. How could he be Casey Stillman, when he was never in the military? Is he Casey or is he Jack?

Jeffrey Wilson’s third novel is a nail-biting, heart-stopping, gripping story told with such detail the reader is grabbed by emotion from the first page to the last. This book appeals to many different tastes on numerous levels. It is a war story – but not typical. It is a story about the love a man has for his wife and daughter – but not a love story. It is a mystery – just who is the main character? Is it Jack or is it Casey?

Wilson served in Iraq as a Marine combat surgeon. He brings the realities and horrors of war to the pages of his book with sounds, smells and images. Layered with emotions Fade To Black is an amazing, sometimes uncomfortable ride, but one you won’t want to put down until the last page is read.

Copyright © 2013 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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