Thursday, June 30, 2011

"A Spark of Death"

Bernadette Pajer is the author of the Professor Bradshaw Mysteries.

She applied the Page 69 Test to A Spark of Deaththe first book in the series, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative? When I first drafted this post, all I had was the ARC (advanced review copy) and yes, page 69 read like a mini-introduction to the book so far, showing Bradshaw's world and the scene of the crime. The actual books just arrived, and page 69 is the next page. It's technical and directly addresses the investigation into the "how-dunnit," but I wouldn't say it's representative of the majority of pages. The story is driven by characters and hidden motivations and Bradshaw's personal struggles as he tries to get inside the mind of a killer.

Would a reader skimming the page be inclined to read on, you ask? That is, of course, my goal as a writer, for a reader to want to turn the page, every page. For every reader, the reaction will be different. That's the magic of books; we read the same words but go on unique journeys. Since page 68 ends with Bradshaw asking Tom Hill to "help me look," I'm hopeful a reader would be curious to know what it is they're looking for on page 69, and if it will solve the mystery of Professor Oglethorpe's death.
...approached the apparatus and began inspecting. The job would have been easier had the Machine been left intact. The guilty wire or component that actually caused Oglethorpe's death may have been inadvertently moved into some unsuspecting position.

They examined first the Leyden jars. Bradshaw even used a magnifying glass to peer at the connective metal knobs, but there was nothing whatsoever to indicate that the jars had discharged a fatal blow. Bradshaw and Tom moved slowly on to other components.

"What exactly is it that we're looking for, Bradshaw? A loose wire? A wire that doesn't belong?"

"Yes, anything that strikes you as being in any way out of place, but also look for dried ink."


"India ink. It will look like black, sparkling dust or grit. There won't be much, the police have already looked." He explained to Tom what he'd learned this morning about the dried ink in Oglethorpe's hair and on his clothes.

“What does it mean?”

“I wish I knew. What other lethal sources of current are down here, Tom?”

They both scanned the room.

“We've got a couple induction coils, batteries, the generator, and of course big Stan.” Tom was referring to the Stanley transformer on the wheeled dolly in the corner. Crucial to alternating current distribution, Big Stan was used to demonstrate step-down and step-up voltage, but it wasn't used indoors. Yes, it could conceivably deliver lethal current, but in what circumstances might Oglethorpe have been enticed to encounter such current? That was the unfathomable mystery of his death. He was far too knowledgeable to do anything stupid with any of the equipment in the room. And if Big Stan had been connected to the building's electric system, the lights would not have flashed and dimmed but gone out. The transformer would have blown the main building fuses. Bradshaw turned up his left palm, remembering the burn pattern on Oglethorpe's palm.
Learn more about the book and author at Bernadette Pajer's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue