Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Thomas Perry is the author of sixteen novels, including the Jane Whitefield series as well as the bestselling novels Nightlife, Death Benefits, and Pursuit. He is the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for Best Novel, and he won an Edgar Award for The Butcher’s Boy.

He applied the Page 69 Test and the Page 99 Test to his new novel, Fidelity, and reported the following:
I think that the random page test is a fair one. A reader should be able to read one page--whether it's 69 or 99--and make a preliminary guess about the narrative style, the major characters, and the world of the novel, and he should be able to decide whether he wants to spend more time with them.

In my new novel, Fidelity, Emily Kramer, a woman in her forties whose detective husband has been shot to death on a dark street, realizes that her husband's detective agency is not just her only asset, but also her best way of finding out who killed him and why.

On p. 69, Emily is teaching April, the pretty young receptionist, how to do skip-tracing. Emily needs to find ways of keeping the agency solvent, and skip-tracing is something April can--legally and intellectually--do. April is coming to realize that Emily is not the pampered wife she might have assumed. She's someone who has worked, and who knows how to do things. Emily, in turn, is getting a sense of April's naive, sweet nature in her reluctance to help find people who aren't evil, only bad at handling money. What Emily doesn't yet know is that April has a couple of secrets which aren't going to make her happy, but that will dramatically change everything. As the page ends, Emily is acknowledging that a week has passed since her husband's death, and the active police effort is essentially over. If anything is going to break the case, it must come through her own determination.

On p. 99, we begin to see the cost of that determination. A silent male character is sneaking into Emily's back yard at 4:00 a.m. carrying a gun and a ski mask. He's Jerry Hobart, the professional killer who murdered Emily's husband, and who has now been hired to kill her. He knows that the reason his rich employer wanted a private detective killed must have been to hide a guilty secret. The fact that the man now wants the detective's widow killed tells Hobart that the widow must have the secret too. The secret is worth far more than the fee for killing her. As Hobart studies the back of Emily's house, he sees an upstairs window lighted by the wavering glow of a television set. He knows where she is.

I'm satisfied that either of these two pages would give a reader a sense of the way the book is constructed, the natures of some principal characters, and the fundamental contest that unfolds in the book. I can only hope that a browser would find the information intriguing, and become a reader.
Read an excerpt from Fidelity, and learn more about the author and his work at Thomas Perry's website.

--Marshal Zeringue