Written Off (Forensic Handwriting)
by Sheila Lowe
Review by Gayle Surrette
Suspense Publishing Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781976507915
Date: 19 September 2017 List Price $12.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Zebediah Gold, a friend of Claudia Rose, asks her to go to Maine to bring back a manuscript and other working documents for a book that he was co-authoring with Professor Madeleine Maynard, who'd recently died. Zebediah had always been there when Claudia needed him. So, even though it was the holiday season, she agreed to go. She expected to be back by New Year's Eve to be with her fiancé and to plan their wedding.
Once Claudia arrives in Summerhays, Maine, she learns that Maynard was murdered, the manuscript, her cell phone, and laptop are missing. The police have no suspects for the crime. So, it's up to Claudia to go through all the papers in Madeleine's home and campus office to see if there is a copy of the book. She's also scheduled to interview the book's subject, female serial killer, Roxanne Becker.
In seeking the papers, Claudia learns or suspects that Maynard was using her special group of five students in her own psychological experiments without their knowledge or consent. One of the students has been living in Maynard's home as Maynard often took in students in need. Each of these five students exhibits behaviors and characteristics that cause Claudia to be a bit nervous about what Maynard was attempting.
It also soon becomes apparent that there's a lot going on in the background. On meeting Maynard's colleagues at the college, she realizes that academic politics may have been related to the murder. Or, it could be the murder is related to the project the students in her special group were working on. It could also be simply a crime of greed as Maynard was exceedingly rich. Who would benefit?
As with previous books, the character of Claudia Rose is one that is entirely believable. A professional woman in a field, forensic handwriting analysis, that is often looked down upon so she has to stand up for herself and the work that she does. She reacts as most of us would if we were put in similar situations. She attempts to do her best and survive. She’s a character that changes as the series moves on based on what has happened to her in previous books.
The plotting is tight, twisted, and logical once you get to the end and look back at all the clues left for the reader. So, the story is satisfying in that all the loose ends are taken care of. but there's always the possibility of more books due to the nature of her work.
Each book can be read as a standalone, but after reading one of them you may find yourself wanting to start at the beginning to share all Claudia's adventures and to learn a bit about forensic handwriting analysis–-it's fascinating, at least to me.