Capacity for Murder

Written by Bernadette Pajer
Review by Tess Heckel

Professor Benjamin Bradshaw, an electrical engineer in a burgeoning career of the early 20th century, makes his living filing patents on his electrical discoveries as well as teaching at Seattle’s state university. Understanding this invisible miracle gives him more insight when electricity is perverted to commit crimes. While planning a summer course, he is interrupted by a telegram from a Dr. Arnold Hornsby, urging him to investigate “an electrical accident” at Healing Sands sanitarium on the Pacific coast. During a routine treatment in an electrotherapy chair, the machine suddenly malfunctioned. Dr. Hornsby insists that Bradshaw bring his students as guests, all expenses paid.

Thus begins a journey into the spartan world of 1903 health cures, fermented food, and “sparking” sands. With tools in hand, Bradshaw tests the machine and realizes it’s murder. With his usual focused method, Benjamin hunts for clues and examines buildings and every scrap of evidence he can find to determine the culprit, beginning with the guests who have stayed on. Bernadette Pajer has created an intriguing and likable detective who not only solves unusually baffling crimes but must be both father and mother to young Justin, who has inherited his father’s curiosity and determination. The author makes the early Pacific Northwest come alive with interesting period details, which add to the feeling of being there. She also includes a unique readers’ “extra” in the Afterward that’s well worth checking out. A highly recommended read.