Title: "Written Off"
Author: Sheila Lowe
“Written Off" is author Sheila Lowe’s seventh book in her Forensic Handwriting Mystery series. Much like her fictional character in the series, Claudia Rose, Lowe is a real forensic handwriting expert.
As a southern Californian graphologist, Rose uses her specialized training and expertise to authenticate legal documents in the court systems. She is called upon a friend, Dr. Gold, to lend her talents to a project in Maine. Not only has Rose never visited Maine, she had never heard of the village of Summerhays, or even Graystones University, much less the newly deceased Professor Madeleine Maynard. Gold admits the professor was once his wife when they were young and attending graduate school. He was a young instructor and she a student. After that brief marriage, they remained long distance friends across the United States for more than 40 years.
While his career was interesting as a prison psychologist working with hard-core criminals, he endured the cruelty of their crimes, their hideous childhoods and the barbarous conditions of their incarceration. Gold has published several articles about serial murder in prestigious journals and textbooks on abnormal behavior. No longer able to stomach this career path, he semi retired and began treating mainly celebrities in the Los Angeles area.
Maynard, on the other hand, had chosen to teach at the small university in Maine, where she published a number of textbooks on abnormal psych and many journal articles. Her specialty was serial murder.
Since Gold had been collaborating on a new book with Maynard on serial murderers, he was asked to complete the book by the publisher’s deadline. With Gold’s new titanium hip, he was not able to fly for some time. He suggests Rose travel to Maine, retrieve the manuscript and interview the current most famous female serial murderer who was imprisoned there. It didn’t take much persuasion for Rose to jump at this opportunity to possibly analyze this infamous prisoner’s handwriting.
Two days later, when Rose arrives in Maine, she is greeted by the late Maynard’s attorney and finds she is staying in the deceased professor’s home, a house built more than 200 years ago by a sea captain. Five miles from the village, it's a three-story gray structure with a Mansard roof and eight Greek columns supporting the roof over the porch. At about 7,000 square feet on four acres of woodland, it has nine bedrooms and five baths. In the back was a carriage barn, turned into a large garage.
When the attorney mentions that Maynard had been murdered in the woods nearby and that the entire village was concerned, Rose quickly sets out to find the notes and make the prison visit. Little does she know that murder lurks around every corner and her presence makes her an immediate target. With an ancient housekeeper out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, a gothic-styled student living in one of the many bedrooms, and an academic faculty filled with envy, no one's above suspicion. Not until the local chief of police asks Rose to authenticate the signature of a handwritten will, supposedly of Maynard’s, does this fast-paced mystery come to a cessation.