Saturday, April 7, 2007

"Final Sins"

Final Sins is the third and probably last installment in Michael Prescott's series of books featuring Abby Sinclair and Tess McCallum.

The author applied the "page 69 test" to Final Sins and reported the following:
I admit I was skeptical about the value of the page 69 test, but in fact this particular page of my newest novel, Final Sins, does seem pretty representative of the main characters and themes of the book.

On page 69, my heroine, Abby Sinclair, is talking on the phone with her latest client, Peter Faust. Abby is a freelance security operative who specializes in neutralizing stalkers. Faust is a German expatriate who served a few years in a mental hospital after committing a gruesome murder. He has since become a fringe celebrity, writing a bestselling memoir about his crime. Plagued by a stalker, he has hired Abby, who took him on with extreme reluctance because of his ugly past.

The relationship between the two is central to the story, and to the conversation on page 69. Abby is repelled by Faust, yet irresistibly curious about the workings of his mind. The first paragraph captures this motif:

Abby hesitated. "Where'd you get the branding iron?"

The branding iron was used in the commission of his homicide. Faust burned a runic symbol, the wolfsangel, into his victim's hand. The wolfsangel was worn by SS officers in Nazi Germany. "It has been prohibited in Germany, you know," Faust tells her, "along with the swastika and other insignias of the National Socialists." Faust's connection to Hitler and to Nazi occultism is another theme of the book, which plays out at the climax when he is tracked to a forested area in Germany where Himmler's SS officers used to gather for mystic rituals.

Faust asks:

"Are there any further questions?"

"Did you brand her before or after she was dead?"

"Before. It was the penultimate act. I seared my totem onto the back of her hand, and then I brought out the strap and with it I encircled her slender neck. Your neck, also, is most slender and well-shaped."

"That's not what I'd call a compliment. More like grounds for a restraining order."

"You, of all people, must know how useless a restraining order can be."

This exchange establishes the other element of the Abby-Faust dynamic - an undercurrent of menace, which will become more explicit as the story develops.

The bottom line is that page 69 offers a good preview of the overall story. I glanced at a few other pages at random, just to see how easy it was to find a representative page. None of the others seemed nearly as relevant as page 69. This includes page 99, which can be the subject of its own test. My page 99 is only a half page, and contains nothing special.

One more thing. In recounting how he found the branding iron in an antique store, Faust (still on page 69) says:

"It was most - what is the term? - serendipitous."

Page 69 turned out to be most serendipitous, too!
Visit Michael Prescott's website and his blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue