Monday, April 13, 2009

"A Visible Darkness"

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. They live in Spoleto, Italy, and were awarded the Umbria del Cuore prize in 2007.

They applied “Page 69 Test” to their new novel, A Visible Darkness, and reported the following:
The page 69 test is an eye-opener.

We wrote A Visible Darkness last year, and we are busily working on the fourth book of the Hanno Stiffeniis series, so we really had no idea what to expect. Our page 69 turned out to be refreshingly crisp. Better still, all the major themes of the tale are somehow present in that single page, which was a relief!

The investigation is set in the year 1808 on the Baltic coast, where the girls who collect amber along the shoreline are being murdered for reasons as yet undiscovered by an unidentified killer. Amber – also known as Baltic gold – was the source of Prussian wealth, and the French were quick to lay their hands on the trade after they invaded Prussia in 1806. Magistrate Stiffeniis goes to the village of Nordbarn to interrogate a witness on page 69. As he approaches the settlement, he hears what sounds like the droning of bees. This noise is produced by the machines that the workers use as they clean and polish the precious amber. There is a brief description of Nordbarn (a village lost in the sand dunes), a defensive cluster of primitive thatched huts built so close together that the inhabitants “can hear their neighbours rutting.”

Hanno has been whisked away from his home town, Lotingen, by the French authorities, and sent to catch the killer who is terrorising the “amber coast” and disrupting the lucrative trade. He knows that the local Prussians will resent the fact that he is working for the enemy, but the French leave him no choice. Unwashed, unshaven, “having slept all night in the rumpled, sweaty clothes” that he was wearing the day before, Hanno wonders whether he will look the part of a “Prussian magistrate who has the power to conduct such an important criminal investigation.”

His fears are answered when the droning stops, and “a shutter closed with a bang.”

In this page all the strengths and weaknesses of Hanno Stiffeniis emerge: his lack of confidence in his own investigative abilities (though he was once a student of the Prussian philosopher, Immanuel Kant), his resentment at being forced to work for the foreign power which has occupied his country, and the fact that his own countrymen see him as a threat, a man who cannot be trusted.

We got so drawn into the story that we read on to page 80, which is the end of the ninth chapter!
Read Chapter 1 of A Visible Darkness, and learn more about the authors and their work at Michael Gregorio's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue