Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Disturbing the Dead"

Sandra Parshall is the author of The Heat of the Moon and the just-released Disturbing the Dead.

She applied the "page 69 test" to Disturbing the Dead and reported the following:
Because I know the story, and know what comes before page 69, I can see all the information conveyed in these paragraphs – but I’m not sure how much a browser will pick up from a quick glance. I’m happy to see that the conflict between the characters is obvious, even if the whole meaning of the exchange isn’t.

Tom Bridger is a deputy sheriff and detective. Shackleford is a suspect in the 10-year-old murder of Pauline McClure, whose bones have turned up at last on a mountaintop.

We learn that Tom comes from a family of cops:

“Look at the three of you. Father and sons, no mistakin’ it.” Shackleford tapped a picture of Tom in his Richmond PD uniform and his brother, Chris, and their father in deputies’ uniforms.

Tom’s mother had taken that picture seven years before, when he’d been a cop for a few months. He remembered the warm April day, the fallen blossoms of dogwoods and cherries dotting his parents’ lawn. It seemed a lifetime ago.

We learn that Tom lost his family in auto accident – and that he was driving:

Without looking around, Shackleford added, “I was real sorry to hear about your tragedy.”

Yeah, I’ll bet. Probably thought you were home free when Dad died. Tom said nothing. The sound of rain pelting the windows filled the silence.

Shackleford threw a glance over his shoulder. “Must be hard to live with, you comin’ through okay and that little boy losin’ his mama and daddy both. Especially since you happened to be behind the wheel.”

Tom seethes inwardly but is strong enough not to let Shackleford’s jabs deter him:

Cheap shot, and an obvious attempt to get under Tom’s skin. He was beginning to think he would come up against a lot of that in this investigation. His voice cool, Tom said, “My father always thought you had some reason to want Mrs. McClure dead.”

Shackleford sauntered to his chair, avoiding Billy Bob. Instead of sitting, he gripped the back of the chair. “I was a suspect because I was around her. And your father couldn’t find any evidence against nobody else. But I didn’t have no reason to hurt her. Hell, after she went missin’, I lost work. I had to relocate to make a livin’.”

Tom looked down at the legal pad and darkened the dot on each i in Miami. “I’ll need to talk to you again. Probably more than once. So stick around.”

Shackleford throws out a bit of new information – a surprise to Tom – at the end:

“Sure. I’m stayin’ at my mother’s house.” Shackleford paused, then added, “Say, can I ask you a favor? You won’t drag my daughter into all this, will you? She was just a little kid when it happened, no point gettin’ her upset.”

“Your daughter?” Tom said.

I hope that a casual reader of page 69 will form an image of Tom as strong, determined and professional, but troubled and possibly feeling some guilt over the accident that killed his family.
Visit Sandra Parshall's official website and read an excerpt from Disturbing the Dead.

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

--Marshal Zeringue