Thursday, September 6, 2007

"The Tunnels"

Michelle Gagnon's first novel is The Tunnels.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the book and reported the following:
“She followed Jerome down a staircase, sliding her hand along the banister as a flood of memories returned…”

I’m amazed at how well the page 69 test suits my debut thriller The Tunnels. On this page my heroine, F.B.I. Special Agent Kelly Jones, is on the verge of entering the abandoned tunnel system where two girls were found murdered. As she descends into the maze beneath a prestigious college campus, the reader observes the details of the crime scenes through her eyes. We follow her into the darkness, experiencing the ritualized nature of the murders firsthand, witnessing the puddles of candle wax dotting the floor and the dark images scrawled in blood on the tunnel walls.

This page also establishes Kelly’s link to the university where the crimes took place, a school that she once attended: “She’d been to a party here herself, her freshman year. A keg was packed in an ice-filled trash can and set in a shower stall in the boys’ bathroom. She’d worn her new Levis. Kelly turned to Morrow, ‘Check with [the victim’s] roommates , find out if there was a party in this dorm around when she disappeared.’” Here the reader sees how her past as a student at the university informs her role as an investigator more than a decade later.

Also detailed here is the increasingly antagonistic attitude of the university administrators, who are desperate to avoid the negative attention and panic that will ensue once news of the crimes reach the world at large. The aura of tension in this closed environment is palpable, as Kelly notes, “They passed sleepy-looking students on their way to class, bags slung from one shoulder, who turned and stared after them ... despite the fact that it was Tuesday and classes were in session, the halls were oddly hushed.”

So in a lot of ways page 69 perfectly illustrates the tension in the book, from the fear and suspicion that results when heinous crimes are committed in a closed environment, to the internal struggle of my heroine, a woman trying to reconcile her past with her present role tracking down some of the worst of humanity. As Kelly descends into the tunnels for the first time, we enter the darkness with her, and don’t see light again until the final chapter.
Read an excerpt from The Tunnels, and learn more about the book and author at Michelle Gagnon's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue