A Book Review of “Capacity for Murder,” a Mystery by Bernadette Pajer

I first met Bernadette Pajer, another Pacific Northwest author, when Joshua Graham and I hosted her on our talk radio program, Dialogue: Between the Lines. A little less than a year later, in June 2013, Ms. Pajer’s next book will be released,  CAPACITY FOR MURDER (Poisoned Pen Press), the no. 3 book in her Professor Bradshaw Mystery Series.


I have included below the author information and my review of this book directly after the book’s story blurb.

Blurb for CAPACITY FOR MURDER by Bernadette Pajer

When Healing Sands Sanitarium, southwest of Seattle, Washington, sits on the sandy doorstep of the Pacific Ocean. Famed for its restorative rest-cure, fermented diets, and Dr. Hornsby’s electrotherapeutics, no one has ever died at Healing Sands. Until now. When Professor Bradshaw is summoned to investigate, he knows this was no accident, but his only clue to foul play is as insubstantial as smoke–to anyone other than an electrical engineer. In this isolated location, suspects are limited to a handful whose lives–and lies–must be exhumed and examined. A sinister tale emerges as deep undercurrents turn personal, provoking Bradshaw to make a decision about the woman he loves. And then an everyday object provides the key, alerting Bradshaw that one among them is a walking dead man, and another possesses the capacity for murder.

Book Review by Susan Wingate

When I began reading this story, I noted the amount of scene-setting description which not only adds wonderful sensory detail but also a host of clues one might find when reading any classic-style mystery novel. However, what I found lovely about reading Ms. Pajer’s CAPACITY FOR MURDER, is the intertwining of a past and a lost (but not forgotten) romance between Professor Bradshaw, the much older professor at the turn of the century (the 20th century) University of Washington and one of his students, Ms. Missouri Fremont.

As I continued reading this tale two questions kept arising. First, what elements create a good mystery? And second, what elements create a good romance? Mind you, Ms. Pajer has embedded both genres within the fiction subgenre of historical fiction.

Ms. Pajer’s historical information has been thoroughly researched and not only fits well by layering setting–time and place–as a fundamental part of the mystery with clues popping up all over the place but Ms. Pajer has also captured the other two parts of her story very well. She solidly answers my two previous questions with finesse, weaving all the parts (historical fiction, mystery and romance) together seamlessly.

So, to my first question: what makes a good mystery? The riddle plot is one of my favorites and I’m fond of classic and noir styles of mystery. Pajer’s CAPACITY FOR MURDER resonates of the time within the story but it also resonates in the style of the classic mystery. Reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle with hints of Edgar Allan Poe, this book pulls the reader in to the problem quickly with a beckoning and desperate letter from someone who needs the help of Professor Bradshaw–a rather reluctant (and not-so) amateur sleuth. Since book number one of this series, the Professor now regularly works as a private investigator, concentrating on issues where electricity is involved. And electricity is involved in this story, not only as an integral part of Bradshaw’s investigation, story and plot but also with a pulsing energy in Pajer’s storytelling acumen. This story lights up! In other words, CAPACITY FOR MURDER is a page-turner. I read until two a.m. getting closer and closer to the end and not wanting to go to bed. Well-executed mysteries also bait-and-switch information so that the reader keeps (mentally) pointing here and then there trying to figure out who dunnit. And if you want murder, the body count is as high as the entertainment count. Ms. Pajer has writing the mystery novel down in spades.

Okay, now for the next question: what makes a good romance? Well, all romances rely on this formula: A boy meets a girl (and falls in love). The boy loses the girl. The boy…

Well, I don’t want to ruin it for you but Pajer, an accomplished and sensitive author, understands the romance reader’s longing for closure. Her hero and heroine have seemingly insurmountable problems with each other with tension between them as hot as alternating current! Any more information than this will have to include spoilers.

Let’s just say that readers of historical fiction, mystery and romance will love this novel too. Heck, readers of any fiction will love this book. Many thumbs up for a story well-told. I highly recommend CAPACITY FOR MURDER by Bernadette Pajer.


BernadettePajer-AuthorPhotoBernadette Pajer is the author of the Professor Bradshaw Mysteries, fast-paced whodunits in the Golden-Age tradition. The books in the series have earned the Seal of Approval for Science from the Washington Academy of Sciences (established 1898.) She’s a graduate of the University of Washington and a proud member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Northwest Science Writers, and the Seattle7Writers.org. Research is Pajer’s favorite activity, and she happily delves into Seattle’s past and the early days of electrical invention as she plots Professor Bradshaw’s investigations. Pajer lives in the Seattle area with her husband and son.

To learn more and read a sample chapter visit her website at bernadettepajer.com.

A SPARK OF DEATH, The First Professor Bradshaw Mystery, July 2011.
FATAL INDUCTION, The Second Professor Bradshaw Mystery, May 2012.
CAPACITY FOR MURDER, The Third Professor Bradshaw Mystery, June 2014

For more information about Bernadette Pajer, you can find her at her website: http://www.bernadettepajer.com

For her books on Amazon, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Bernadette-Pajer/e/B004FP7O3M/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

And for her books at the publisher’s website, head over to: http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/bernadette-pajer/


5 thoughts on “A Book Review of “Capacity for Murder,” a Mystery by Bernadette Pajer

  1. Michael Phelps April 30, 2013 / 11:47 am

    Thank You, Ms. Wingate for an excellent review, compelling me to Buyt and Read (Review) CAPACITY FOR MURDER!

    • Susan Wingate April 30, 2013 / 12:24 pm

      Wonderful. You won’t be sorry. It’s great fun.

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