Friday, June 29, 2007

"Deadly Appraisal"

Jane K. Cleland is the author of two Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries: Consigned to Death, a finalist for the Agatha for Best First Novel, and Deadly Appraisal, which was published this spring.

She applied the "page 69 test" to Deadly Appraisal and reported the following:
My protagonist, Josie Prescott, is an antiques appraiser, and both antiques lore and the business of antiques play an important role in Deadly Appraisal, the second Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery. In fact, many reviewers have referred to the books as an Antiques Roadshow for mystery fans.

Thus, in order for a page to be representative of the book as a whole, it must include something about antiques — and sure enough, page 69 of Deadly Appraisal does indeed mention antiques.

It also showcases my use of dialog in characterization. Readers won’t know the people who are mentioned by name, of course, yet they’ll learn significant information about individuals and various relationships — information that comes into play regarding solving the murder mystery.

Further, readers will get a sense of the physical space — the cavernous warehouse that opens into an elegant auction hall.

What page 69 doesn’t do is show Josie interacting with her staff or using her knowledge of antiques to solve crimes. Still, I think it gives a flavor of my writing style and pacing.

Here’s page 69:

“Gretchen, when Britt arrives, bring him back, okay?”

“Okay. It was nice talking with you, Dora,” she said.

“Oh, you, too! We’ll catch up more another time.” Dora gave an airy wave as we passed into the bone-cold warehouse.

Our footsteps reverberated off the concrete walls. When we were about half way across the expanse, Dora asked, “Did you know them well? Maisy and Walter, I mean...”

I shook my head. “I never met Walter until the Gala. And Maisy, well, I got to know her a little since we’ve been working together. But nothing personal, you know? How about you?”

“I only met Walter once before the Gala. It was at a cocktail reception over the summer, one of those ‘we’re all working together on the Gala, so bring your significant others and let’s bond,’ things” she said, casting her eyes heavenwards, a non-verbal commentary about what she thought of that idea. “I took Hank. You met him, right?”

“The trombone player,” I said, remembering a tall guy with a blond ponytail. He’d been one of the brass quartet that had played soft music during the cocktail hour. He was maybe ten years younger than Dora, and cute as all get-out.

“Right. He’s my honey.”

“I didn’t know,” I said.

“He’s a sweetie.”

“That’s great,” I answered, unsure how to respond.

“Anyway,” she said, “Hank is the most patient creature on earth, but after two minutes talking to Walter, he’s tugging on my shawl whispering in my ear, ‘Get me away from this jerk before I pound him into the ground.’”

“Really? Wow, that’s amazing. I mean, I got the impression that Walter was upset about something, you know? But I had no idea he’d inspire a patient man to violence.” As I spoke, I opened the door that led into the auction hall and switched on the overhead lights. “Well,” I said, “here we are.”

Eddie was long gone, along with everything that wasn’t nailed down or on display. It was a little creepy. Whereas an hour earlier there had been tables and chairs, linens, dishes, and candles, now there was nothing except the antiques we were there to discuss.
Visit Jane Cleland's website and her blog, and read an excerpt from Deadly Appraisal.

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

--Marshal Zeringue