Monday, March 30, 2009

"Made to be Broken"

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

She applied “Page 69 Test” to Made to be Broken, her second Nadia Stafford thriller, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Made to be Broken is a decent sample of the novel. My ex-cop-turned-hitwoman narrator, Nadia, is investigating the disappearance of her wilderness lodge’s teen mother housekeeper. Kids out camping on the night Sammi vanished reported hearing a cougar scream in the area, so Nadia and her mentor, Jack, have stopped at the local roadside zoo.

The page is a good mix of dialogue, action, description and introspection, not too heavy on any. It’s more descriptive than most of my writing but, in general, someone reading only this page will get a good sample of my work.

They’ll also get a good idea what the story is about, which doesn’t always happen in these tests! They can tell that the narrator is looking for an escaped cougar responsible for the death of a teenager. What they won’t get is any hint that the narrator is a woman or a professional killer, but if they’ve read the jacket copy, that’s clear.

There’s also a nice bit of character revelation here, in Nadia’s reaction to the zoo and, more subtly, with Jack, watching the aging caged cougar pace.

In sum, if someone did open Made to be Broken to page 69, I’d feel confident that it would give them a good idea whether or not it’s a book they might enjoy.

Page 69 – Made to be Broken:

Jack continued, his faint brogue swallowed as he affected what I called his “national newscaster” voice, no trace of any regional accent. “I need to talk to you about your big cats.”

“I didn’t lose no cougars.” She opened the gate and ushered us through. “Look around all you want. Tex and Mex are right where they should be. In their cage back here.” She started walking, then turned and gestured to Jack’s cast. “Watch your step. It’s the mud season. Damned slippery.”

We passed cages of monkeys, foxes and one lynx who lay draped over a branch like he’d died there. Judging by the smell, he had. All the other animals moved to the edge of their cages and stared out at us with the hardened bitterness of lifers.

People paid to come in here. In summer, kids raced along these rows, parents scurrying after them, and they had a good time. What kept them from taking one look, one sniff, and running to the nearest exit?

“Here they are,” Roberta said. “Tex and Mex. My cougars.”

One of the tawny big cats lay in the lone beam of sunlight that filtered past the heavy bars. The other paced the shadows at the back. Both were old, with rotting teeth and mangy fur, just as Meredith had said. I couldn’t imagine either having the strength to cover the twenty kilometers between here and the Potter place, let alone kill a healthy teenager.

I glanced at Jack, but he was watching the cat pace in its dirty cage. It turned to look at him, a haunted, half-mad emptiness in its eyes.

I checked the cage. No broken door bound shut with rope. No recent welds on the bars. No signs of any recent repairs. The pacing cat slumped into an exhausted heap and fell asleep almost as soon as it hit the floor.

Read the first three chapters of Made to be Broken, and learn more about the author and her work at Kelley Armstrong's website.

Read the My Book, The Movie entry for Exit Strategy, the first Nadia Stafford novel.

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

--Marshal Zeringue