Tuesday, February 18, 2020

"The Other Mrs."

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, Don't You Cry, Every Last Lie, and When the Lights Go Out.

A former high school history teacher, Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Other Mrs., and reported the following:
The Other Mrs. is the story of a Chicago family, Will and Sadie Foust, and their sons, Otto and Tate, who inherit a home on a remote island off the coast of Maine when a sister of Will’s dies. What they’re hoping for is a fresh start after a number of personal and professional setbacks in Chicago; what they find instead is their family entangled in a shocking murder mystery when a neighbor – one Sadie fears Will may have been having an affair with – is found stabbed to death in the middle of the night. Soon after, all eyes in this close-knit, unwelcoming community look to the Fousts as suspects, which begins on page 69 when the island’s police officer informs Sadie that a witness claims he saw her fighting with the deceased just days before she died. Sadie finds this accusation absurd; she never met the victim. Her career as one of only two physicians on the island keeps her too busy for any sort of social life. Sadie begins to wonder what reason this witness would have to lie, and why she is being scapegoated. From here, the tension escalates as Sadie realizes the only way to clear her own name is to solve this murder herself. The Page 69 Test is an accurate representation of this book; by picking up the book at that page, a reader is dropped directly into the unfolding mystery of who killed Morgan Baines.
Visit Mary Kubica's website.

The Page 69 Test: Every Last Lie.

The Page 69 Test: When the Lights Go Out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 17, 2020

"The Dark Corners of the Night"

Meg Gardiner is the critically acclaimed author of the UNSUB series and China Lake, which won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original and was a finalist for NPR’s 100 Best Thrillers Ever. Stephen King has said of Meg Gardiner: “This woman is as good as Michael Connelly…her novels are, simply put, the finest crime-suspense series I’ve come across in the last twenty years.” Gardiner was also recently reelected President of the Mystery Writers of America for 2020.

The Dark Corners of the Night is the third novel in her Barry Award–winning UNSUB series, which received three starred reviews from the major trade publications and is soon to be a major television series.

Gardiner applied the Page 69 Test to the new novel and reported the following:
My thriller The Dark Corners of the Night is the newest novel in the UNSUB series, and throws FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix into her most challenging case yet. A killer who calls himself the Midnight Man is wreaking havoc in Los Angeles, slaying parents and leaving children alive as witnesses. As his attacks escalate, the city is gripped with fear. Caitlin and her FBI team must stop him before he turns his wrath on survivors who could identify him.

On page 69, Caitlin and FBI technical analyst Nicholas Keyes take a late night visit to a crime scene—a suburban home where only a toddler was left alive. There, they try to understand the killer’s methods and psychology.
Keyes turned toward the front of the house. “I think he parked on the street, under the broken light.”

He towered over her in the dark, always an uncommon phenomenon, because Caitlin was five-ten and even taller in her Doc Marten’s.

“I do too,” she said. “He gains a sense of power by standing outside a home’s front door—the face it presents to the world—while the family inside is oblivious to the danger they’re in. He wants to savor the sight, and the sensation that he’s Destruction itself, about to descend. And to bask in the thought that once he breaks in, all that will be left is death and fear.”

He said nothing for a cold moment. “Deep,” he finally murmured. He pointed at the corner of the house. “The gate.”

“There’s no lock on it. No mention of one in the police report. The toddler’s too little to have reached the latch. This is a safe neighborhood. They didn’t lock it.”

“Safe neighborhood,” he said.

She couldn’t read his face. But his voice had an undertow.

She walked back across the patio. “He came in from the street. No lights on. No barking when he opened the gate. He prowled around back and saw a little kid’s toys. No dog bowls. No curtains on the kitchen window. This was where he staged.”

Keyes gazed at the sky. The half-moon going down. “He attacked at this time of night, but six weeks ago. The moon was waxing crescent. It had already set.”

“He calls himself the Midnight Man for a reason,” she said.
This is the tenth time I’ve put one of my novels to the test. So I really shouldn’t be surprised that Page 69 captures the plot, tone, and main characters of the novel. Because it does! The novel delves into both psychology and procedure. Much of it takes place deep in the night. The killer has spread a pall of dread over Southern California, and the heroes are desperate to stop him. Page 69 brings all that out. It also hits on a point that becomes increasingly important as the story develops: The killer attacks “safe” neighborhoods. Why? What is he trying to accomplish? How can Caitlin unwrap this M.O. and use it to identify him?

The Dark Corners of the Night is a high-stakes rollercoaster ride, and I can’t wait for you to read it.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Gardiner's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: UNSUB.

The Page 69 Test: Into the Black Nowhere.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 14, 2020

"The Seventh Sun"

Lani Forbes is the daughter of a librarian and an ex-drug-smuggling surfer, which explains her passionate love of the ocean and books. A California native whose parents live in Mexico, she now resides in the Pacific Northwest, where she stubbornly wears flip-flops no matter how cold it gets. She teaches middle school math and science and proudly calls herself a nerd and a Gryffindor. She is also an award-winning member of the Romance Writers of America and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Forbes applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Seventh Sun, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“What supplies will you require for the ceremony?”

“Um.” She swallowed hard. “Some water?”

“How much, my lady? A bowl? A jar?”

Her palms started sweating again. Mayana wished more than anything she could run home and hide behind the waterfall gushing off the temple pyramid in Atl. It was one of her favorite places in the world, listening to the roaring water, watching the rainbows in the mist dancing on the stone wall. An idea hit her like a ball from a ceremonial game.

“I just need a bowl.”

The servant dipped her head and left the room.

“You look beautiful, Mayana.” Yemania appeared in the doorway. Her red skirt and top did not reveal as much skin as Mayana’s, but it flattered her figure. The designs painted in red on her cheeks distracted from her nose.

“You look beautiful too.” Mayana gave her a sad smile.

“Do you know what you are going to do to display your power?”

“I have an idea. But it’s a little risky,” Mayana said.

“I wanted to know if you’d help me with mine.” Yemania shuffled her feet and didn’t meet Mayana’s eyes. She needed to display her ability to heal ...

“That depends.” Mayana involuntarily leaned away from the princess of Pahtia. She could barely handle pricking her own finger to bring forth blood. A sudden image of Yemania driving a spear through her stomach and then healing her to great applause popped into her head.

“It won’t be much. If you go before me, just let me heal your hand. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I just need to show that I am a descendant of Ixtlilton.”

Mayana’s instinct to avoid pain warred with her instinct to help. Yemania’s eyes opened wide to implore her.

“As long as you promise to heal it as fast as you possibly can.” Mayana gave a great, exaggerated sigh.

Yemania beamed.
I am surprised by how well page 69 does in fact represent The Seventh Sun. This scene takes place before the princesses are to be presented to Prince Ahkin as possible brides. Each daughter is descended from a different god or goddess and must display that ability as part of the opening ceremony for the selection ritual. I love that this scene captures the idea of the overall plot, but that it also shows Mayana’s internal struggle. She very much despises the rituals that she’s told protect them from another apocalypse because her compassionate heart tells her they aren’t necessary. Ultimately, even though she hates spilling her own blood for the sake of rituals she doesn’t agree with, she is willing to do it to help her friend. I think it is an excellent foreshadow to the ultimate theme the novel wrestles with, which is how sacrifice is the ultimate form of love.
Visit Lani Fobes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

"A Witch in Time"

Constance Sayers received her MA in English from George Mason University and her BA in writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a media executive at Atlantic Media. She has been twice named to Folio’s list of “Top 100 Media People in America” and was included in their list of “Top Women in Media.” She is the co-founder of the Thoughtful Dog literary magazine and lives in Kensington, Maryland.

Sayers applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Witch in Time, and reported the following:
At first glance, page 69 looks like one of those pages where characters get moved from one scene to another—like blocking on a stage. But, a closer look at this page, there are many clues to the ultimate conclusion of the book. I’ll avoid any spoilers.

On this page, the LaComptes are leaving their neighbors, the Bussons’ house after a dinner to celebrate the upcoming engagement of Juliet to Michel Busson. When they are alone, Michel Busson cruelly injures Juliet—giving her an ominous look into their future together. Juliet’s father scoops her into his arms and carries her home. As they walk back to their house, her mother is furious with what she perceives is her daughter’s lack of respect for the much more prosperous Bussons. She scolds her, reminding Juliet that they need the marriage. She then utters the cryptic line to her husband, “You know very well why she needs to marry the boy.” Juliet’s father responds, “I do, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

This scene is like the swell before a big wave. It sets many things in motion. Juliet’s family is desperate. It seems to be all economic—they need the marriage between their daughter and the wealthy Busson boy—but that might not be the entire reason for the marriage. This page hints at everything that will burst from the pages immediately after. At the end of the page, Juliet has decided she will not marry Michel Busson and she will go to her lover, painter Auguste Marchant and ask for his help. The events that get set into motion on this page, set the tone for the rest of the book—and Juliet’s many lifetimes.
Visit Constance Sayers's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Witch in Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 10, 2020

"Don't Look Down"

Hilary Davidson is the bestselling author of One Small Sacrifice. Toronto-born but based in New York, she’s also the author of the Lily Moore series, the standalone thriller Blood Always Tells, and the short-story collection The Black Widow Club. Her work has won two Anthony Awards and a Derringer Award.

Davidson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Don’t Look Down, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He slipped out of his shoes, padding down the hallway in sock feet, and glanced at his watch. Four o’clock. He wanted to strip off his suit, but he knew he’d have to head back to work in twenty minutes if he didn’t want to lose his job. He had to move fast. The door to Jo’s office was ajar. He pushed it open and stepped inside.

Jo was an extremely organized person, and her office was spartan. There were boxes filled with makeup samples—an occupational hazard, Jo always joked—but otherwise just a desk, a chair, and a bookcase. Jo had never bothered to decorate her office much beyond adding a series of framed photographs of her icons: Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden, Madam C. J. Walker, Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Lisa Price, Marcia Kilgore. Cal wouldn’t have recognized any of them without the little nameplates attached. There were no pictures of friends or family ... or of him. Cal didn’t let that fact ruffle him. Jo got to see his mug every morning and night.

He woke the desktop computer and entered Jo’s password. The screen shook as it rejected it. He tried again, wondering if he’d screwed it up. He hadn’t; Jo had already changed it.

It was a small detail, but it felt ominous. Jo kept a plastic figurine of a crow on her desk, and its eyes seemed to gleam knowingly. She changed it because of the video, Cal realized. Whatever the hell that was on her screen, she didn’t want me to be able to find it.
I think I’ve taken the Page 69 Test for each of my books, so I shouldn’t be surprised anymore by how one page can capture the essence of a book! Don’t Look Down has four point-of-view characters, and at first glance, Cal McGarran—the perspective character here—seems the most straightforward. Cal doesn’t know it yet, but his girlfriend, Jo Greaver, is being blackmailed, and the reader has already seen her shoot a man. Cal has been living with Jo for months, but she hasn’t let him in on her secrets. The truth is she doesn’t trust him… which isn’t a comment on Cal’s character so much as a comment of Jo’s reluctance to trust anyone at all.

What’s interesting about Cal is that he’s upset enough about something he saw on Jo’s computer screen that he’s still obsessing about it. Cal comes across as happy-go-lucky—he’s an attractive guy born into a well-off family—but as we see here, Cal is also a man who will sneak home when he knows his girlfriend isn’t there to spy on her. He’s got a dark side, too, even if it’s not fully in view yet.
Learn more about the book and the author at the official Hilary Davidson site.

The Page 69 Test: One Small Sacrifice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 8, 2020

"A Cold Trail"

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series, the Charles Jenkins Series and the David Sloane series. Since 2013, Dugoni has sold more than 5,000,000 books, and My Sister’s Grave and The Eighth Sister have been optioned for television series development. He is also the author of the best-selling standalone novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell and The 7th Canon, a 2017 finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best novel. His expose, The Cyanide Canary, became a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction, and the Friends of Mystery, Spotted Owl Award for the best novel in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two time finalist for the International Thriller Writers award and the Mystery Writers of America Award for best novel. His David Sloane novels have twice been nominated for the Harper Lee Award for legal fiction.

Dugoni applied the Page 69 Test to his new Tracy Crosswhite novel, A Cold Trail, and reported the following:
On page 69, Tracy is with Cedar Grove Police Chief Roy Calloway, and they are following a lead to determine if a murder could somehow be related to two others in Cedar Grove, though years apart. As the copy on the back cover deftly summarizes, this is the crux of the novel. Three murders in a small northwest town, decades apart, but with some seemingly tenuous connections. Can they be related? Can Tracy put the threads together? Chief Calloway represents the old school of law in Cedar Grove, back when things seemed bucolic and the town a great place to raise children. Tracy, however, knows better. She experienced evil in this small town when her sister disappeared, never to be seen or heard from until twenty years later. Now she’s back in Cedar Grove and she doesn’t remember everything as being bright and beautiful. She sees the town for what it is, a place where a murder, perhaps two, maybe three, could all be related, and indicative that the town’s dark past is not in the past.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: A Cold Trail.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 6, 2020

"Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes"

Kathleen West is a writer, teacher, reader, and semi-professional minivan driver. A life-long Minnesotan, she holds degrees from Macalester College and the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, their two sporty sons, and an ill-behaved goldendoodle.

West applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, and reported the following:
From page 69:
On his way home, [Henry] replayed Martin Young’s call in his head. “Bruising to the abdomen,” Martin had said. “Shock,” “stress,” and Melissa’s “lingering feeling” after Witches Over Willow Street that Julia didn’t like her. Something about the wrong look for the part? Her feet far too big? It all seemed trivial. He glided his BMW into the three-car garage and sighed.

As he opened the back door, Henry recognized the familiar smell of warm butter and melted cheese, béchamel sauce for one of Julia’s famous baked pastas. “It’s me!” he called.

“Hi, honey!” Julia said without turning around. “I’m doing mac and cheese for dinner. I know it’s heavy, but it’s Andrew’s favorite. We have to celebrate!” Tracy raised her eyebrows at her father from the kitchen table. Her wet hair dripped on her gray sweatshirt.

“Dad,” she whispered as he approached, “didn’t you get my texts?”

“I did, sweetheart.” He avoided her eyes. He wasn’t entirely comfortable in his new complicity with their teenagers when it came to managing Julia. He could see their adoration of their mother waning each year, their eyes rolling harder when she offered advice. Their texts imploring him to forbid her from calling their teachers made him faintly queasy. Parenting had been more fun when he ran alongside their bikes and took them for ice cream.

“Julia” –he stood next to her at the stove—“we really need to talk.”

“I know.” She set her spoon down to the right of the burner. “I got the most insane call from Wayne Wallace. You know, the principal? He wants to meet with me tomorrow morning at seven thirty. There’s been a crazy misunderstanding.”
I’m happy to discover that Page 69 is indeed indicative of Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes as a whole. In this section, Henry Abbott is primarily concerned with managing his wife, Julia, the consummate helicopter parent. In her latest transgression, rather than waiting at home (like all of the other theater moms) for news of the high school musical auditions, she goes to school to see the cast list for herself. In a crowd of kids, and in the midst her overzealous celebration dance—her son, Andrew, has scored a sizable role—she inadvertently injures the female lead of the play. Once again, Henry is stuck smoothing things over. Things become immediately worse for them all when video of the incident surfaces on social media, and Julia’s notoriety reaches a new scale.

As a teacher for 20 years, I enjoyed building a fictional high school in Minor Dramas. I populated it with familiar characters (including a devoted English teacher who shares some of my physical traits and lesson plans), amped up the workplace politics, and delved into the ideas that have always fascinated me as a teacher and a writer: competition, ambition, parenthood, and redemption. Teachers are generally firm believers in second and third chances, and all of the characters here benefit.
Visit Kathleen West's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

"All the Best Lies"

Joanna Schaffhausen wields a mean scalpel, sharp skills she developed in her years studying neuroscience. She has a doctorate in psychology, which reflects her long-standing interest in the brain―how it develops and the many ways it can go wrong. Previously, she worked as a scientific editor in the field of drug development. Prior to that, she was an editorial producer for ABC News, writing for programs such as World News Tonight, Good Morning America, and 20/20. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter.

Schaffhausen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, All the Best Lies, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Camilla sat on the cement steps with a baby boy in her arms, his expression blank and bewildered. She squinted in the sun her hair held back in a bandana, but her thousand-watt smile shone back through the ages. Reed’s chest tightened as he turned over the photo. Me and Joey, it said, and she’d drawn a little heart next to his name, rather like Tula liked to do when she fashioned Reed a homemade card. His throat thickened and he swallowed painfully as he righted the picture once more so he could see Camilla’s beaming pride. Love. He’d been loved at the start. This precious knowledge burst joy in his heart that quickly flared into an old, familiar shame, like this longing was a betrayal of his second family. He hurried to tuck the picture away.
This page 69 passage is a nice capture of some of the major themes of All the Best Lies. It shows FBI agent Reed Markham examining some faded photos in the cold case file of his mother’s murder. Camilla was stabbed to death when Reed was only a few months old, so he never got a chance to know her. The story is about Reed’s search to find his mother’s killer, but it’s also about Reed’s search for himself. He wants to understand his origins and know more about what his life might have been if he’d been raised by his biological mom. His adoptive family is not entirely comfortable with his quest for a variety of reasons, not least that they may know more about his mother’s murder than they ever revealed.

What is also fun is that these overlooked photos eventually provide Reed the answer to his mother’s fate. It is only after he learns more about Camilla and the people who surrounded her at the time of her death that he is able to see the truth in the pictures.
Visit Joanna Schaffhausen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 2, 2020

"Buzz Kill"

David Sosnowski has worked as a gag writer, fireworks salesman, telephone pollster, university writing instructor, and environmental protection specialist, while living in cities as varied as Washington, DC; Detroit, Michigan; and Fairbanks, Alaska. He is the author of three previous critically acclaimed novels, Rapture, Vamped, and Happy Doomsday.

Sosnowski applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Buzz Kill, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The only problem: Rupert Jr. wasn’t online to be cheered by the good news of the proletariat. He’d been hoping to find misery to cheer him out of his own. … But instead of feeling better by comparison, what he found was this: average Americans trying to make other average Americans jealous. While that’s frequently what people got in their news feeds even without manipulation, what Rupert Jr. got was as relentlessly upbeat as a motivational speaker in an ice cream truck playing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” This amplification was achieved by stripping out the political rants, fake news, proselytizing, and click bait that clogged most news feeds, leaving behind a highly curated glimpse into the lives of others as they portrayed themselves online. The results, unsurprisingly, skewed toward the full spectrum of bragging, including but not limited to: the humble brag; the brag brag; the proxy brag (“Look at my kids, my parents, my lovely spouse...”); the brag with parsley (“Look at my breakfast, lunch, dinner...”); the anthropomorphic brag (“Look at how much my dog, cat, pony, goldfish, et al. loves me...”); the geo-tag brag (“Will you look at that view...”); and the holier-than-bragging brag (“Click here to donate to a cause you never heard of, you heartless bastard...”). All in all, it was too much vicarious self-adulation for a celebrity-by-proxy to handle, suggesting not only that money couldn’t buy happiness but perhaps it bought the very depression he’d been grappling with.
The above passage portrays the lead up to a triggering event that propels several plotlines in Buzz Kill: the online suicide of a celebrity’s son that goes viral. While a bit more overtly satirical than most of the novel, the passage was nevertheless inspired by the real-world abuses of certain social media companies that shall remain nameless (and faceless) that have conducted social engineering experiments on their unsuspecting users by manipulating news feed content. The purpose of these experiments was to determine if altering a user’s mood would change their responses to paid-for content in the form of clicks, likes, and ultimate purchases.

My goal in satirizing this behavior was to counterpoint the self-serving, happy-happy Kumbaya propaganda these companies tend to roll out whenever they’ve been caught once again doing real harm in the real world by facilitating everything from cyber bullying to election fraud to genocide. That being said, I didn’t want to let the users off the hook for their complicity in reality distortion made possible by these media, hence the taxonomy of bragging that takes place so often in cyberspace. Ultimately, my message is the same as Mary Shelley’s when she wrote Frankenstein over two hundred years ago to warn us about how technology can seduce us into ignoring its downside, often at our peril. The difference is that while Shelley used horror to deliver that message, I’ve opted for the more tongue-in-cheek vehicle of satire.
Visit David Sosnowski's website.

My Book, The Movie: Happy Doomsday.

The Page 69 Test: Happy Doomsday.

Writers Read: David Sosnowski.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 31, 2020

"The Gravity of Us"

Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. He has a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt. He works for a major book publisher in New York City and lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog.

Stamper applied the Page 69 Test to his debut novel, The Gravity of Us, and reported the following:
The Gravity of Us has a lot of themes within it—space exploration, politics, mental health, first love, traditional and social media, family dynamics, etc.—so it would be hard to find one page that fully encapsulates all of these themes. But page 69 actually does a good job of this!

Page 69 is shortly after Cal moves to Houston. Cal has just met the cute boy (and fellow Astrokid) he’s heard so much about, Leon, who takes him on a path behind their houses to escape the press that’s gathered outside Cal's new house. They sit on the swings in a neighborhood park and get to chat for the first time, but they're both a bit hesitant.
“I pause, because even though I’m having a good time, I want to ask him if he really does buy into all this.”
Cal’s not sure who to trust in his new life, and he’s already pretty uncomfortable with how the media’s been treating this mission and his family. He doesn’t know whether Leon buys in, but through this conversation, he realizes he might have found his first ally in Houston…
Visit Phil Stamper's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"A Beautiful Crime"

Christopher Bollen is the author of The Destroyers, Orient, which was an NPR Best Book of the Year, and the critically acclaimed Lightning People. He is the editor at large of Interview magazine. His work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, New York magazine, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York City.

Bollen applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Beautiful Crime, and reported the following:
All of my novels suffer from a case of split personality—a literary character study pulling delicately at one end of the rope and a suspense thriller tugging aggressively at the other (or is it the literary part that is pulling aggressively and suspense more delicately?—I’m never sure). I can remember clearly writing the section that appears on page 69 because I have my two amateur con artists, Clay and Nick, who also happen to be boyfriends, on the ground in Venice after a time apart, and I’ve just been describing the beauties of spring in the city. Right at page 69 I’m thinking, okay, you have to stop with the travelogue and get the plot rolling. So, here we have Clay reaching into his pocket which holds a photograph of the man they’re targeting. Nick’s going to need to be able to identity the man later so he can strike up an “accidental” conversation with him. This scene gives the reader the first tangible clue of the plan that’s already in motion. But Clay also wants Nick to love Venice, so he doesn’t pull the photo out. He lets his boyfriend be a tourist for a little bit longer as he walks him to his lodgings. So page 69 really touches the heart of the novel: if they were smooth, professional con men, they’d get down to the business of identifying their dupe right away. But they aren’t. They’re bad con men with good hearts.
Visit Christopher Bollen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 27, 2020

"The Empty Bed"

A New York City native, Nina R. Sadowsky is an entertainment lawyer (in recovery) who has worked as a film and television producer and writer for most of her career.

Her debut thriller, Just Fall, was published by Ballantine in March 2016. Her second novel, The Burial Society, was published in 2018, and is the first of The Burial Society Series. Sadowsky's new novel, The Empty Bed, is the second book in the series.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Empty Bed and reported the following:
From page 69:
Her palm is slick with blood. She sets her belongings down and winds her scarf around her hand, applying pressure to stop the flow.

Shit. Now what?

Twenty minutes later, Eva’s sipping a steaming cup of green tea and nibbling on a custard bun in a dimly lit tea shop. What was he after?

Propelled by instinct, she scrolls backward through the photographs stored on the digital card of her Leica. The shot she took of the view from their hotel room. A couple of snaps in the Hong Kong airport. That bitch with the Pomeranian at the Sly Fox.

And, fuck. There he is. In the background of the shot of the woman and her dog is the man Eva just left bleeding in Hong Kong Park.

Heart pounding, Eva zooms in on him and his companion, both in gray suits, rep ties. The camera has captured their shared look of outraged surprise, as if her taking the pictures was a personal affront to them as well as to the angry blonde and her dandelion of a dog.

Maybe it was an affront. Maybe these are two men who shouldn’t be seen together. Is that why he tried to grab her camera? Frowning, Eva zooms in closer on the second guy’s face. It’s vaguely familiar to her; not like someone she knows, but like someone she ought to know. His identification dances tantalizingly on the edges of her consciousness. Still, she can’t quite place him.

But the other man in the picture has been following her; of that much she’s certain. She adds up the pieces: He trailed her to her home after she inadvertently took his photograph at the Sly Fox. Possibly tried to break into their house later that night. Followed her to Hong Kong. Attacked her with a knife. Why?

And is Pete involved? Why did he deny knowing her attacker, especially since she saw them interact twice? Is this why he was so condescending and dismissive?
This page is perfect for this exercise because the revelations that strike my character, Eva Lombard, during the course of the page are at the heart of one of the novel's intertwining story threads. Eva is swept away from London to Hong Kong by her husband Peter for a surprise anniversary trip, but just before their departure, Eva becomes convinced someone is following her and there is an attempted break-in at their home. When she confesses her fears to her husband, Peter belittles her, driving a further wedge between the couple who are already on shaky ground. In this scene, Eva has been the victim of an attempted mugging, her ever-present Leica camera the apparent target, and while she is determined to solve the mystery presented, she's becoming increasingly alarmed that Peter himself might be involved. When Eva disappears, Peter becomes a prime suspect. What really happened? Can this young couple overcome distrust and come together again? You'll have to read the book to find out!
Visit Nina Sadowsky's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Burial Society.

My Book, The Movie: The Burial Society.

--Marshal Zeringue