The Edison Effect: Bernadette Pajer
When we think about electricity, the light bulb, the phonograph or anything involving electrics we immediate think Thomas Edison. Edison was a brilliant inventor and when he enters the office of electrical engineering Professor Benjamin Bradshaw the electricity that he emanates is far stronger than any of his inventions. The setting is Seattle and year 1903 as Edison wants Bradshaw to turn over what he has learned or knows about an invention created by the professor’s former student, Oscar Daulton. Here is where things get interesting, heated and the energy level raised within his office as Bradshaw and Edison faceoff. Oscar Daulton created something that dealt with direct electrical current and decided to take this invention and throw it into Elliot Bay. But, for years many divers have been trying to locate it or replicate what he did but to no avail. Just who might know more and where this invention might be is just part of what makes The Edison Effect an electrically charged and highly explosive novel. Bradshaw does not trust Edison and will not help him to find what Daulton created. A chain of events that leads to a murder at the Bon Marche where the head electrician dies in a suspicious manner with Edison’s Christmas lights in his hands.
But, this is just the beginning as Bradshaw’s help and skills are required by Detective O’Brien of the police department to help find out just who was behind the death of Vernon Doyle, dig into his life and learn the secrets that have been lying dormant for so long. But, the Professor has other things on his mind as he has been awaiting the return of his girlfriend and hope to soon be his wife, Missouri which causes him to question his faith, his belief in God and his religious values.
The primary focus is to find the invention and as Bradshaw investigates, learns more he too becomes vulnerable to attack as his home and his office are ransacked by someone known as Tycoon Tommy who finds his way into homes unseen. But, Bradshaw is not immune to Edison’s anger as he is being sued for created a microphone which Edison files a lawsuit against him for infringement of invention. Sidetracked waiting for Missouri to return he becomes distracted when he learns she is delaying her visit to watch the Wright Brothers attempt their first flight. That has to be exciting and I know that there are many today that would have loved to have seen them take off.
The time period does not allow for DNA testing but fingerprinting has now become part of their investigation and using the Bertillon Anthropometric System helps the investigators in their investigations. Hoping to find Oscar Daulton’s invention leads to many hidden secrets that come out as Chief Sullivan questions Bradshaw about his connection to Daulton and the invention. Beginning to investigate both the detective and Bradshaw start with the employees at the Bon Marche department store beginning with the store manager Ivar Olafson and then with a young window dresser named Billy whose appearance will give readers much pause of thought and wonder adding in Mr. Andrews their chief electrician and maintenance manager whose stories seem to veer in different directions. But, there are many more players that are anxious to weigh in on this invention including John Davenport Maddock who is Edison’s attorney who prides himself on creating lawsuits for his main client and really does not care if he wins hoping to destroy the person being sued. Maddock was greedy, underhanded and hoped to catch his visitors off guard. But, Bradshaw had his number right away not allowing himself to be intimidated.
With the aid of Henry Pratt his assistant and his investigative skills they uncover a mystery and web of deceit, lies and betrayals that are not only linked to Doyle and Daulton but to someone else too. Added in the author shares her knowledge of the old fashioned typewriter ribbons, how Bradshaw uncovers some vital information and how using this ribbon he learns how a dangerous man lured people out of their homes thinking they were going to receive something special from the Bon Marche. But, Filly Creasle had his own agenda that caused many in the employee of the Bon Marche to suffer, get fired or be demoted in order to foster his own agenda. Even bringing false charges and casting doubt and a huge cloud over the character of the store manager for his own self-worth and purpose did not deter this young man from trying to find his way to the top of the Bon Marche ladder. But, there are many who would defend Olarson and others who might not. Billy, the assistant window dresser worked with Troy Ruxauskas a window dresser and artist who was passed over for a promotion thanks to Billy. Trying to impress a young lady’s parents and hoping to be accept as her life partner, Troy really needed this promotion. The times were hard and the salaries were not the highest and Troy wanted to marry out of his station and not being worthy or rich enough comes into play as Bradshaw once again reminds readers as he is called in by his priest to discuss his religious beliefs, how he is bringing up his son and his future if there is one with Missouri whose religious beliefs are not quite what the priest would accept. Will he risk being excommunicated? Will Bradshaw drop Missouri or will he stand on his convictions?
Meet the wife of Vernon Doyle who presents yet another perspective of this man. Not well known or even well liked we learn just how he treated his sons and wife and wonder how they survived. Vernon Doyle’s character was suspect and he had made a deal with someone concerning the invention but who?
The chief electrician examined the lighting system and found no problems. Vernon Doyle appeared to be respected but was he liked? Edison was suing Bradshaw for his detective microphone that he had patented. Maddock was sly and did not want to speak to either the detective or Bradshaw and threats of taking him into custody to talk held no weight with him. Stating that his time or conversation with Doyle had no bearing on his death but was he telling the truth? Could someone have entered the store after hours and was hiding until it was time to strike? But, someone lured Bradshaw’s housekeeper Mrs. Prouty away from doing her duties and to Bon Marche pretending that she was to receive a special shopping experience there. As Bradshaw assesses the suspects the author in Chapter 14 sums up who might be guilty. Billy Creasle who was sly and made sure he moved up the Bon Marche ladder by lying about others and making sure they were fired or demoted. What about Ivar Olafson who might have wanted to get rid of Doyle to hide someone’s secret? What about Maggie Adkins, Doyle’s mistress and seamstress? Troy Ruzaukas the window dresser or even J.D. Maddock whose primary motive had to be greed and power were also prime suspects but what about the diver who took many others down to try and find the invention that Daulton threw overboard?
When Bradshaw decides to dive himself and wants to try and find the invention himself what happens will not only send someone else to the hospital who is close to Doyle but allows readers to see the cigar box, smell the sulfur and wonder just why Daulton killed three people for three different reasons and just how dangerous was this invention if found?
An ending that will be quite explosive and an investigator that will not give up until he finds the answers he needs as the invention in question is found but who finds it and how? Who killed Vernon Doyle and why? Where was the invention and when the crime is reenacted whose face will shine within the flame? When the culprit is caught and someone faces the inevitable truth just where will Edison’s loyalties lie and what will happen to the lawsuits against Bradshaw? With a touch of Adrian Monk, a slight pinch of Perry Mason and a definite huge helping of Poirot and his own special flare, Benjamin Bradshaw is an investigator not to be taken lightly and whose rise to fame along with his ability to investigate all things electric will definitely never be extinguished. One great novel that takes us back in time before all of the technology used to solve cases, author Bernadette Pajer allows readers inside the mind of an investigator that does it the old fashioned way and detective, like Columbo that writes it all down.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer