Claudie held open the doctor's office door and followed Zebediah Gold out into the hallway. The week following hip surgery he was eager to get back to the gym, to long walks on the beach and driving his car whenever he felt like it. To his chagrin, he was being forced to understand that in his early seventies his body took longer to heal than it used to. The patience he generously imparted to his psychotherapy clients was less evident when it came to himself, and the unhappy thump of his cane on the polished floor shouted his feelings louder than an F-bomb.
That he was stewing over something had been noticeable from the moment Claudia picked him up...
As it happens, what? she asked when Zebediah left his words hanging.
"As it happens, I do need to fly. To Maine...Something just came up."
"Something that requires travel to Maine."
"Yes, and now I'm forbidden to go." They passed several traffic lights before Zebediah spoke again. "I need you to go in my place. Would you do that for me?
With her attention focused on avoiding a collision with a sports car that was drifting into her lane, it took an extra second to register what he had said. Claudia shot a surprised look in his direction. "Wait. What? You want me to fill in for you?"
"That's exactly what I want, sweetie. You would charge your regular fee for out-of-town travel plus all expenses, of course. Money no object.
"To do what? I'm not a licensed psychologist."
"You don't need a Ph.D. to do what's needed in this case. And don't sell yourself short. You know plenty about human behavior. I've been thinking about the possibility all night, and I know it's a lot to ask--"
The sudden prospect of an unexpected trip to the East Coast was going to take more than thirty seconds to absorb. "Why don't you tell me what you need me to do."
"To interview someone, for one thing."
"I hear an echo."
"Zebediah, please knock off the mystery. Interview whom?" The question hung in the air between them, the very definition of a pregnant pause. which Claudia tried unsuccessfully to imagine what name he might come up with."
"A prison inmate. You've done that before."
"Getting warmer. Someone in prison in Maine. Who?"
"Does the name Roxanne Becker ring any bells?" Zebediah asked.
It did seem familiar. Claudia searched her memory for references. Then it clicked and her eyes open wide. "The serial killer?"
"One and the same, dearest. Pique your interest?"
Zebediah did not need an answer to that. Of course her interest was piqued, as he had known it would be. He had baited the hook and was dangling the worm in front of her...It had been at least twenty years ago since Becker was convicted of killing eight men who had hired her for sexual services...
A Forensic Handwriting Mystery
By Sheila Lowe
Although I have not had the opportunity to read all of Lowe's books, I can say that, of those I've read, Written Off is the best of her best...so far... The story line is strangely compelling and brings the main character, Claudia Rose up front, totally alone as she responds to a request from her good friend, but also takes on solving a murder...and almost getting killed!
About Claudia Rose: She isn’t a detective or an amateur sleuth. Claudia is a forensic handwriting expert who uses her expertise, in some cases to help understand the people behind crimes, and in others to authenticate questioned handwriting. She is in independent practice and sometimes consults to the police.
Claudia has accepted to travel to the home of a professor who had longed ago been married to her friend, Zebediah... She has been murdered and it is important to gather up her work on a manuscript of a book soon to be published. Zebediah had told Madeleine Maynard, his ex-, that he would finish the book if anything happened to her. It sounded like a routine trip...
When Claudia made it to Maine, she agreed to live in the former home of the deceased. There she met a taciturn housekeeper, who at least provided good food for her and another border... Hayden had been one of Maddie's students. In fact, the professor had picked out a small group of her students for a special project. Either because they were treated differently or because of the specific students selected, they became known as Maynard's Maniacs...
In truth, as Claudia started searching for the professor's manuscript and research papers, Claudia discovered something strange not only about the students, but about the project that seemed to be ongoing...it may have been handled properly but there was certainly an ethical issue to what seemed to have been happening...
Fitting into the college and student environment, Claudia quickly learned that everybody was interested in her work as a writing analyst. Whether she wanted to participate or not, she was soon talking with Madeline's fellow academic staff and learning more than she would ever want to know. In fact, as she also met the Maniacs, who were very upset that their class project may be eliminated now, she began to put pieces together about who could have killed Maddie.
Both in the interview with the serial killer, as well as Rose's efforts to discover the murderer, Lowe does an outstanding job in detailing the psychological issues of both handwriting analysis as well as the various types of psychological diagnoses. At the same time, she has carefully pointed out that a "potential" diagnosis does not necessarily result in someone choosing to use violence in any given stressful time.
One other thing that gave me much pleasure was the setting for the book. Claudia Rose moves into the home of the professor who had both a beautiful home, but also pieces of furniture that were meant to be used for secret activities... Finding letters, for instance, in a secret compartment...or a fake head in a wardrobe...were used, perhaps, only to keep her secrets secret...but it seemed that there was something beyond the norm in practically everything Professor Maynard had been participating in... The story in intriguing, suspicious in content to be interpreted by Rose as well as the readers...and, at the end, we are left with the reality of how much nurture and a solid home environment means in the early and future development of our children...
The surprise ending involves secret hidden tunnels, a late-comer and possible killer into the story...and more...Lowe keeps us guessing, not quite sure who will be discovered as responsible...and why...the murder took place! I loved the mystery and surplus of possible options for whodunit, all of them within the college environment... The story is steady and slow, but also a page-turner as readers learn more and more. I was really into the suspense and didn't care I didn't have a clue! Kudos to the author! Highly Recommended!
Like her fictional character Claudia Rose in the award-winning Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert. She holds a Master of Science degree in psychology and has taught forensic handwriting examination at the University of California Riverside Campus in the CSI Certificate program and at the University of California Santa Barbara Campus in the Discovery program. She’s also the author of the internationally acclaimed “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis” and “Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous,” as well as the Handwriting Analyzer software. Sheila’s analyses of celebrity handwritings are often seen in the media. Connect with Sheila Lowe at www.claudiaroseseries.com or www.sheilalowe.com.