Sunday, November 30, 2008

"The Frailty of Flesh"

Described as “one of crime fiction's hot new voices” by Rick Mofina, Sandra Ruttan’s short stories have appeared in Out of the Gutter, Crimespree Magazine, Pulp Pusher, Demolition and The Cynic. She is the editor of Spinetingler Magazine.

Earlier this year she applied the Page 69 Test to her novel, What Burns Within.

Now she applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Frailty of Flesh, and reported the following:
I included this quote at the beginning of The Frailty of Flesh:

“Nothing softeneth the arrogance of our nature like a mixture of some frailties; it is by them we are best told that we must not strike too hard upon others, because we ourselves do so often deserve blows.”
* Sir George Savile, Advice to a Daughter

When we talk about the subject of a book we often mention the plot, but The Frailty of Flesh has layers that go beyond the crimes under investigation. As characters are confronted with frailties in others they come face to face with their own vulnerabilities, which can be an uncomfortable or even terrifying process. At its core it’s a book about our fears and doubts, about how our weaknesses can affect our ability to be rational and impartial, and contribute to mistakes that can rip our lives apart.

Page 69 shows Craig Nolan’s internal struggle over how to deal with a reporter who knows more about the case he’s reviewing than he does. Nolan’s afraid he’s being set up, afraid he’s going to learn something about his father that will change how he feels about him, and this begins to affect him personally. It’s a great scene for the Page 69 Test because it emphasizes the questions Nolan is struggling with, and we see how this exchange contributes to tension in other relationships and touches on the themes at the core of this book.

From what he could tell the hair tucked under her beret was a lighter shade of strawberry blonde and she had a few freckles on her cheeks, wide blue eyes, not a lot of make-up. He guessed she wasn’t much more than five feet tall, which added to the overall impression. She didn’t seem threatening.

But she was still a reporter, and Craig had had his share of run-ins in the aftermath of Lori’s death and his own shooting. He heard another vehicle pull up, the engine stop, the doors open. The longer he stood there the more people who would see him talking to a reporter, and the more likely Zidani would hear about it… “What do you want, Ms. Fenton?”

The smile slipped from her face, but she didn’t look angry. Instead, the corners of her eyes dropped just enough for her to look hurt. “Just let me talk. Hear what I have to say. If you still decide you don’t want to comment,” she held up her hands, “no problem. What have you got to lose? Let me buy you dinner.”

That was when he realized the footsteps had stopped. He looked up as Tain reached for Ashlyn’s arm, tilting his head toward the door. Ashlyn stood frozen for a moment, looking from Emma to Craig before letting Tain lead her inside.

“Look, I’ve already told you I didn’t even work this case. And I don’t know how you heard about the break-in, but that’s hardly front page news. A few dozen homes are broken into every day in the GVA.”

“But how many of those homes are owned by a ranking RCMP officer, who just happened to get promoted after closing a high-profile murder investigation, the same murder investigation that is now under review? Word is, Donny Lockridge plans to file a lawsuit against your father over his wrongful conviction-”

“Alleged wrongful conviction. He was put on trial and convicted by a jury. That wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t evidence to support it.”

She smiled. “See? We’re talking and you weren’t struck by lightning. It probably didn’t even hurt.”

Craig blew out a breath and ran his hand over his head, pushing his hair back before pointing at her. “Look, I’m sure you’re a nice person, don’t take it personally. But you’re jumping to conclusions without facts and printing such speculation would be irresponsible and unprofessional.”

“Which is why I’m here, talking to you, trying to find out what did happen. Don’t you want to know? Aren’t you curious?” She looked him in the eye. “Is there any part of you that doubts Donny Lockridge murdered Hope Harrington?”

“How can I answer that? I’ve hardly even had a chance to look at the files.”

Craig almost groaned when she smiled. “So, you admit you’re looking into this?”

He raised his hand to stop her. “I am reviewing the case only because I have been ordered to. It has nothing to do with my father, the break-in, you, Lockridge’s lawyer or anything else.”

Craig started to walk to the building, but she wasn’t deterred from following him. “Is that why you met with Lisa Harrington today?”

He grabbed the door and didn’t even acknowledge her question with a glance as he marched into the building, thankful that she had enough sense not to follow him any further.


“I’ll catch up in a minute.” Ashlyn pushed the door to the ladies room open and disappeared inside.

Tain paused. Should he wait, make sure she was okay? They’d had a long, hard day with little to show for their efforts, but he hadn’t seen her shoulders sag so low since they’d been working almost around the clock on the child abductions and murders. The “angel arsons”, as the press called them.

He continued down the hall, knowing how she’d react if he checked up on her. Still, he wondered about Craig and the woman outside. Ashlyn had never been the jealous type. Then again, as far as he knew, Craig had never given her reason to be.

Read an excerpt from The Frailty of Flesh, and learn more about the book and author at Sandra Ruttan's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue