Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"The Missing"

Chris Mooney's latest book is The Missing.

He applied the "page 69 test" to the novel and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Missing beings with a doctor talking to the main character of my book, Darby McCormick, a criminalist for the Boston Crime Lab, about a patient brought into the hospital: “The nurse was checking the IV line and was stabbed repeatedly with a pen. She’s in surgery right now. Hopefully, they’ll save her eye.”

My first thought is what any normal person would think: “What sort of sick bastard wrote that?” The writer in me smiles. The person lying in the hospital bed, Rachel Swanson, not only saved the book, she gave me what writers like to call “happy accidents” – those unexpected, joyous moments that take you completely by surprise.

When The Missing opens up, Darby is called to a crime scene at a house where Carol Cranmore, a teenager, was kidnapped. Walking with Darby, I saw the house through her eyes – the blood on the hallway wall, the dead boyfriend, the panicked mother wanting answers.

For weeks I followed Darby as she circled the crime scene, feeling her frustration at finding so little evidence. There was something in there. Darby just had to find it.

But she didn’t want to look in the house anymore, so I reluctantly followed her outside, into the pounding rain. Darby, using her flashlight, examines the driveway and back stairs. No evidence. I made her check the cars and surrounding homes. Nothing. I wanted her to go back in the house. Darby wanted to return to the driveway.

Using her flashlight, she examined an area underneath the back porch, a small, lattice-enclosed space holding garbage cans. Together we saw a pair of eyes, the two of us thinking it was a raccoon. When Darby opened the tiny door, I jumped when she discovered a woman:

“During a college history course, Darby had seen grainy black-and-white footage taken of prisoners inside Hitler’s concentration camps. The woman underneath the porch had clearly been starved. Most of her hair had fallen out; what little remained was thin and stringy. Her face was incredibly gaunt, the cheeks sunken, the skin waxy and white. The only color came from the blood around her lips.”

I didn’t know who this woman was or why she was there. But she seemed to know Darby, and she wanted to talk to her. Darby wanted to crawl underneath the porch. I let her go, as you must all of your characters, and eagerly followed her inside the dark space, wondering what surprises I would encounter along the way.
Visit Chris Mooney's website and read an excerpt from The Missing.

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

--Marshal Zeringue