Time for a book that’s been sitting on my TBR pile for over a year – ever since I read A Spark Of Death, the first mystery featuring Professor Benjamin Bradshaw, and awarded it the Puzzly, my Book of the Month award, for February 2012. So why wait so long to get back to the series? Absolutely no idea – my Kindle is very full of all sorts of things, and things can tend to get lost sometimes…
Anyway, following on from the end of A Spark of Death, and America is in shock as President McKinley has been shot by an anarchist. Professor Bradshaw has other things on his mind; apart from his attraction to the niece of one of his old friends, there’s a competition to design a new transmission system for sound – and an abandoned caravan belonging to someone peddling cure-all tonics.
It soon becomes clear that the peddler had a daughter who is also missing – and when a dead body turns up, Bradshaw becomes obsessed with finding the girl – and the killer. But with a divided police department, neither faction of which seems to treat the girl as a priority, Professor Bradshaw takes things into his own hands…
First of all, I’ll repeat a comment from my recent review of Vigilante by Kerry Wilkinson
WARNING WARNING WARNING
This book repeatedly spoils the ending of A Spark Of Death – somewhat understandable, as an important character from that book plays a role in this one. But that book’s well worth reading, so I’d heartily recommend you read that one first.
Back to this one – and I’m coming to the conclusion that Professor Bradshaw is one of the more interesting sleuths to turn up in recent years. His deductive process genuinely feels like a scientific academic’s thought processes – as a mathematician, his inner thoughts regarding his deductions just felt… right. But he’s also a human being, with enough flaws to be interesting – his wife killed herself, a secret he keeps from his son, he obsesses over problems, scientific or otherwise (something else I can relate to).
As for the mystery, I should make it plain that this isn’t a cozy mystery, but a properly clued recent-historical. The city of Seattle at the turn of the century is an interesting choice setting, and the timing allows things that are accepted in the modern day become scientific wonders to be discovered. There are also plenty of clues for the armchair detective to try and spot the villain of the piece and it all fits together to make sense very well indeed.
However, where it falls down a little, for me, was that the central mystery didn’t seem that interesting for a long time in the book. Indeed, with the other plot points abounding, primarily the contest, it doesn’t get much page-time early on. As the revelations come towards the end of the book, you realise the complexity of the plot, but there isn’t really a hint of this until the complexities are revealed. Having said that, the… distractions, for want of a better word, are perfectly entertaining and keeps the reader engrossed. I would imagine that the reader may well spot the villain, but even so, the rather impressive clue that is hidden in plain sight is rather admirable.
Anyway, this book comes highly recommended, but, as hinted above, READ THE FIRST ONE FIRST!