Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Forever Dead"

Suzanne Kingsmill is the author of four non-fiction books and a new novel, Forever Dead.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the new book and reported the following:
Forever Dead’s page 69 actually starts at the beginning of a sentence and ends at the end of a sentence. How lucky is that? Is it representative? Not sure. It could go either way. It begins by raising lots of hurdles and questions and ends in a mini climax, which is representative of the book. It doesn’t have any physical action though and my book is a murder mystery with lots of action.

It begins with the discovery of a bear-ravaged body abandoned in the wilderness, some killer rapids, a fumigated lab, stolen research disks and a stalled career. All this coalesces into the ripening madness that hauls zoology professor, Cordi O’Callaghan, into some very wild, very dangerous places. While the police label the wilderness mauling an accidental death Cordi realizes that the theft of her disks is somehow related to the body in the woods. She must unsnarl the mess to salvage her career. Cordi’s athletically ingenious and hair-straightening solutions to deadly encounters keep her one stumble ahead of a murderer, as she follows a path littered with motives. But nothing can prepare Cordi for the final shocking twist that leaves her with a wrenching dilemma that no one with a conscience should have to face.

Along the way Cordi has the help of 3 sidekicks in her lab: technician Martha Bathgate, her pathologist friend Duncan McPherson and her brother Ryan, not to mention her guarded love interest, Patrick Whyte.

One of the tricky things about murder mysteries is that they are full of clues, or at least they should be. Which could make page 69 problematic; if there is a clue on page 69 that refers back to something earlier it could give the game away. It’s the reason why I tend to read the first chapter if I’m asked to do a reading – that way there’s no tripping over clues. But my page 69 doesn’t give anything away. It just invites a whole lot of questions. Here is page 69 – my sleuth, Cordi O’Callaghan, is narrating from her office at the university zoology building shortly after finding the body in the wilderness:

I looked at the mail piled high on the desk, sorted through it quickly — nothing from the NSERC grants people yet. God, how they kept me waiting and hoping, second guessing myself and my competence ten times a day. I was almost out of funds and without the grant I wouldn’t be able to fund a graduate student next fall, and without a graduate student, the department might not be interested in granting me another year. Jesus, life could be a bitch. I stashed all the mail in a big box for some future free moment, and then I returned a dozen calls, put off the lecture planning people another two weeks — how could I give them the synopsis of my course when I had no material? I’d have to fudge it and hope the Dean didn’t call me in and grill me.

I gazed out the window, wondering how to pick up my career, feeling the dark cobwebby entrails of depression reaching out for me. My heart lurched at the horrible feeling and I struggled to rid the thoughts from my head. I’d never get tenure if I couldn’t control my periodic depressions.

There was a quick step and heavy breathing and I was thankful for an interruption until the round, wrecked face of Martha reappeared in the room. I read disaster in every nuance of the wobbling, shivering flesh on her face.

“Jesus, Martha, what happened to you? You look like a squashed spider.”

It was true. Every ounce of flesh on her face seemed to be sagging into a puddle and her skin was as white as milk. Martha took in a great deep breath and grew rounder, like a balloon. “It’s your lab, Cordi.” It came out in a screech that set my nerves to grinding.

“What is it? What’s happened?” I asked, moving quickly around my desk, the pit of my stomach lurching like a tug in a jar full of hurricanes.

Page 69? Representative? Not bad. Although I’d rather it was page ___ whoa! Can’t tell you which page or it will give the entire climax and ending away!
Listen to the Prologue from Forever Dead and learn more about the book at Suzanne Kingsmill's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue