Friday, December 26, 2008

"Living with the Dead"

Kelley Armstrong is the author of the internationally bestselling The Otherworld series and other works.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the latest novel in the series, Living with the Dead, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Living with the Dead shows a minor character trying to break into an apartment and being stopped by a cop. While the writing and content are a decent enough sample of the book, there are elements that could mislead a casual reader.

The scene moves along nicely. It raises a bunch of questions. There’s conflict and tension. Overall it sets the genre as a crime thriller and it is…except…

The book is paranormal suspense. What’s missing here is the paranormal part. That’s not unusual. If you open my books at a random point, you could go a whole scene and not hit anything unusual. There is a mention of “remotely watching” someone, but it’s a weak reference, easily missed or misinterpreted. I’d be happier with a clear paranormal reference on any page that might be used to evaluate the book. That’s not something I like to surprise readers with!

Another problem is the main character in this scene. It’s clear he’s a teenage boy, which could make a reader presume either it’s a young adult novel or that teens play a major role in it. Neither is true.

Overall, not a bad choice, but not one I’d recommend.

Page 69—Living with the Dead:

A uniformed officer started toward him, shoulders squaring. Colm closed his fingers over the pick and pushed it up his sleeve.

“I was looking for Miss Peltier. She bought some chocolate almonds from me for band.”

The officer stopped in front of him. “Band?”

“A band trip. I go to LACHSA.” When the officer looked confused, he said, “Los Angeles County School of the Arts.” A school he could claim, no matter what part of the city he was in. “I was going to tell her the almonds will be late.”

“You live in the building?”

Colm nodded. “With my mom. 304.”

The lies came effortlessly. More lessons taught from birth. No matter how innocent the question, lie.

The officer seemed to consider taking him down to 304 and Colm was mentally preparing his excuse and escape plan, but after a moment, he asked, “When’s the last time you saw Ms. Peltier?”

“Last Tues—no, Wednesday. I was waiting out front for my cab to school.”

The officer reached into his pocket and handed Colm a card. “If you see her again, give me a call.”

“Is something wrong?”

“We just need to talk to her.”

Colm read the card slowly, hoping the officer would walk away. But he just stood there, waiting for Colm to leave. After a moment, he did.

Once again, Colm stood in the first floor stairwell. He’d tried to remotely watch the officer, so he could sneak back up, but he was so nervous, he couldn’t concentrate. Even clutching the officer’s card didn’t help.

There was no way he was getting into that apartment now. He couldn’t talk his way out of being caught up there a second time.

He wished he could call Adele, but she’d been summoned into a conference with the phuri and couldn’t be disturbed. With Portia Kane dead, they’d waste no time assigning her a new subject. They always had several on backup. Everyone needed to pull their weight.

In the meantime, he’d come up with a version of events that put him in a better light. No mysterious couple. Certainly no walking into their trap. And there’d been two—no, maybe four—cops searching the apartment. He’d waited for hours, but they hadn’t left. Adele couldn’t blame him for that ... he hoped.
Read an excerpt from Living with the Dead, and learn more about the author and her work at Kelley Armstrong's website.

The Page 69 Test: No Humans Involved.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue