Books by James Bradberry

EAKINS' MISTRESS by James Bradberry
Released: May 16, 1997

The author's architect/sleuth Jamie Ramsgill (Ruins of Civility, 1996, etc.) wants to give up teaching and hopes to join the commercial Philadelphia firm in which his old friend David Laycutt is a partner. Jamie has also contacted his long-estranged brother Michael, a Philadelphia lawyer married to Cate, and the assistant curator at the Philadelphia Museum. Arriving for his job interview, however, Jamie finds that Laycutt has disappeared, leaving behind an envelope with an address in the town of Jim Thorpe, taking with him a gun and most of the company's cash. All of this has to do with a painting by Thomas Eakins, once owned by a Mrs. Addison, eventually sold by her to Laycutt and collector Harold Farber. It was first declared a fake, then pronounced genuine but copied at one point by painter Major Devero, who lives in Jim Thorpe. His blackmailing letter has led to Laycutt's sudden departure. Jamie takes it upon himself to follow Laycutt to Devero's address, but he's powerless to stop the carnage that ensues. As for the Eakins painting, the peregrinations of both original and copy are lost in a dizzying morass of confusion—a description that could equally apply to a well-written but exasperating story that loses credibility with each succeeding chapter. It's a challenge to carry on to the finish. Most readers won't. Read full book review >
RUINS OF CIVILITY by James Bradberry
Released: July 10, 1996

A second outing for architect/author Bradberry (The Seventh Sacrament, 1994) and his sleuthing Princeton professor Jamie Ramsgill, now visiting Cambridge and his onetime mentor there- -professor Rainer Grass of the School of Art and Architecture. On the night before Jamie's arrival, Grass had attended a small retirement party in his honor, during which he declared a change of mind about retiring, had a violent argument with student girlfriend Amy Denster, and disappeared. Days later, after Grass's picture was publicized, a night porter at one of Cambridge's colleges tells Detective Chief Inspector Lyndsay Hill that he saw Grass on the fateful night—tied up in the bottom of a punt being poled by a second person. Hill has found conflicting time frames and plenty of motives among the party guests: Iain Frontis was set to take over Grass's job; Amy was pregnant by the sixtysomething professor. Her American ex-boyfriend Gaines Simpson was also there, as was Nigerian student George Boye, who's deep into an affair with Grass's estranged wife, Ghislaine, and whom Grass was about to report for plagiarism. The professor was said to be at odds, too, with rich, well-connected Cheverton Beggs, about Beggs's soon-to- be-published book on architectural ruins. Jamie quickly insinuates himself into the investigation—figuring out the body's ingenious hiding place but unable to prevent a second murder. He does rescue a third potential victim, however, uncovering a buried chapter in his own life along the way. More than you ever wanted to know about architecture, the Cambridge landscape, or sophisticated computer skills, in an overworked story crammed with repetitive detail and soap-operatic characters. Gung-ho lovers of architectural arts may revel; for others, a long, dull journey. Read full book review >
Released: July 20, 1994

A satisfying although somewhat formulaic whodunit from first- time novelist and architect Bradberry. The setting is the Italian Renaissance villa of Dottor Renzo Piruzzi, the richest man in Italy, who's paying Professor Jamie Ramsgill to serve as advisor to an architectural competition among six of the world's most renowned architects. The prize will be a commission for a building and an estimated fee of five million dollars. Each architect is required to come to the villa and to complete a design in the course of just one weekend, alone, and in complete isolation from the outside world. The writing is rich with the language of architecture and the flavor of Italy. The portraits of each of the architects and their intellectual squabbles are an amusing look into a professional world. But amicable disagreement soon turns to cutthroat competition. Then, one by one, the architects start dying—the first seemingly from drinking, the second an apparent suicide. Ramsgill turns sleuth and discovers that the murderer's leitmotif is the seven sacraments, a theme in the art of Catholicism, which leads him to conclude that all six competitors, and he himself, are targets. Sometimes plodding and mechanical, but usually well-written and thoughtfully plotted—with a pleasingly surprising ending. Read full book review >