Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Too Many Clients"

David J. Walker's books include the Wild Onion series.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Too Many Clients, the latest mystery in the series, and reported the following:
I was a Catholic priest once, and somehow priests turn up in my novels now and then, whether I’ve invited them in or not. Take my new book, Too Many Clients. My tenth mystery, it stars private eye Kirsten and her lawyer husband Dugan. Things seem simple enough. A cop named O’Hern is murdered, the police view Dugan as the prime suspect, and it’s up to Kirsten to find the real killer. Before long, though, she has not one, but three, clients. Definitely too many. She finds lots of suspects, too: crooked real estate developers, mob guys, bad cops, even the victim’s family members.

But turn to page 69 of the book and you find Kirsten in a huge church during evening choir practice, interviewing…of all people…a priest. Don’t blame me. I just write the stuff down. The priest is the one who poked his nose in, offering to help, wanting to do the right thing. Now, though, he’s not so sure. Here’s how page 69 starts:
‘Two murders,’ she said. ‘A police officer and a priest. A year apart. And they’re connected?’

Several long seconds passed, filled only with the choir’s repetitive practice, and then the priest held his hands out in front of him... He clenched them into fists, then opened them again, several times…as if doing exercises. ‘I ought to have given it more thought,’ he said…‘Making that call was a mistake.’
Having her own husband for a client might be a mistake, too, but Kirsten won’t trust Dugan’s freedom, or his life, to anyone else. She presses the priest to tell what he knows.
‘What I mean is I don’t know very much, and the little I do know I can’t talk about. People could be hurt…I mean lots of people.’

‘Still, you called. And you left that message.’
The cops are clearly under pressure from somewhere…is it the feds? get the O’Hern case closed. And Dugan’s so handy. Should Kirsten waste time on a year-old murder?
‘No, you did the right thing. And anyway, there’s no going back. So what’s the connection between Johnny O’Hern’s murder and the murder of Father Landrew?’

‘I said I think there might be a connection. I don’t know for sure. Dear God, I don’t know what I know for sure.’ He rested one arm on the back of the pew and leaned toward her. ‘OK, here’s why I called you. …I had this sudden idea that maybe I could help, by steering you in a certain direction.’ He stopped. ‘I suppose I’m not making much sense.’

‘You’ll get there, though. Keep going.’ She smiled encouragingly. As a cop she’d learned that it took time for frightened people to spill things they’d held in for a long time. ‘I’m a fast learner.’
Yes, everything has to be looked at. And yes, there might be some connection between the cop’s murder and the priest’s murder, and between the priest’s murder and a possible CIA agent, and between the possible agent and the dead cop’s family, and between the dead cop’s family and whoever shot the cop dead. But then again…maybe not so much.

So what’s on page 69? Only a dogged, fast-learning, ex-cop, female private eye, faced with the archetypal private eye problem…a witness who won’t talk about what he knows.
Read an excerpt from Too Many Clients, and learn more about the book and author at David J. Walker's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Blue Lightning"

Ann Cleeves' Raven Black, the first volume in the Shetland Island Quartet, received crime fiction’s highest monetary honor, the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award. Booklist called White Nights, the second installment in the series, “[g]ripping from start to finish.” Red Bones, the third volume, was a Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week.

Cleeves applied the Page 69 Test to Blue Lightning, the fourth volume of the series, ann reported the following:
Blue Lightning is set on Fair Isle, the most remote island in the Shetland group. Fair Isle was my introduction to Shetland – I arrived there as a nineteen-year-old university drop-out to be assistant cook in the bird observatory. The novel is based around the work of a fictitious field centre in the old North Lighthouse buildings. It was an easy book to write because the place is so familiar. There’s a background story about the obsessive nature of bird watching, though that doesn’t appear in the selected page.

Page 69 features an encounter between Jimmy Perez, my series detective, and Jane the field centre cook. Perez is a Fair Islander who has taken his English fiancee to meet his family. A huge storm blows up and the island is cut off from the outside world. Then the field centre warden, an attractive media-savvy naturalist called Angela, is murdered. Jane is one of the suspects, but part of the story, including p.69, is told from her point of view.

Living communally in the lighthouse, Jane is determined to maintain an element of privacy. So the page starts when Perez asks if he might speak to her and she answers:
‘We could use my room, I suppose. It’s a bit cramped but nobody will disturb us.’ She never invited anyone into her room and was shocked that she’d been the one to suggest it.
Later Jane asks if Angela’s body is still in the Bird Room:
‘Is Angela still in there?’ Where had such a ghoulish question come from? Jane thought it was as if someone else had stepped inside her skin and was talking through her mouth.

He looked at her as if he was considering how much he should tell her. He must have reached the same conclusion as she had earlier: there could be no secrets in this place. ‘I thought I’d go in when the rest of you are having lunch. I’ll move Angela this afternoon. I’ll take it to Springfield. There’s a shed we can padlock. She’ll be cool in there. Then hope the wind drops tomorrow, at least enough to get a helicopter in.’
In this exchange we see the device of the plot – this is a variation on the Golden Age theme of the enclosed group cut off from outside help and expertise. It also reflects the theme of the novel: that secrets grow and become poisonous in the small community.
Learn more about the novel and author at Ann Cleeves's website and online diary.

The Page 99 Test: Raven Black.

The Page 99 Test: White Nights.

The Page 99 Test: Red Bones.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"The Killing Storm"

Kathryn Casey is a former magazine reporter and the author of five true crime books.

In Singularity, the first novel in Casey's Sarah Armstrong mystery series, Texas Ranger/profiler Sarah tracks a delusional serial killer. In Blood Lines, the second novel in the series, she investigates two cases: a questionable suicide and the stalking of a teen pop star.

Casey applied the Page 69 Test to The Killing Storm, the third Sarah Armstrong mystery, and reported the following:
A hurricane threatens Houston, and a young boy vanishes from a park, a four-year-old named Joey Warner. FBI agent David Garrity asks Texas Ranger/profiler Sarah Armstrong to the scene. The clues aren’t coming together, and he needs her help. Nothing makes sense. Joey’s mother, Crystal, isn’t acting as one would expect, and the boy’s father has warned that his estranged wife is always interested in only one thing: money.

Shadowing the following passage from p.69 of the book is the knowledge that if Joey isn’t found before the hurricane strikes, it will be too late.
Spying David, I walked up behind him, then tapped him on the shoulder. He looked terrible. The kid had been missing for going on eighteen hours, and I didn’t doubt that David had suffered every minute of it.

“Sarah,” he said, and despite his fatigue, he managed a smile. “Thanks. More than I can say, this is appreciated.”

“Dive team searching?”

“Yeah, but they’re running into problems,” he said. “The bottom’s muddy and the water’s murky, nearly opaque. We’re talking about dredging, bringing in the hooks.”

That made sense, of course. If the kid was in the pond, he wasn’t alive. “I hope you don’t find him, not here, not dead,” I said, feeling a rush of incredible sadness. “I hope this isn’t the way it ends.”
As she and David talk, Sarah learns that he has little more information than when they met the night before. The outlook is bleak. Further complicating the situation, Joey’s mother is stirring up publicity, publicly blaming police for not recovering her son.

Sarah’s frustrated. She wants to help David, but she’s only on loan for a few hours. She has a high-profile case of her own to solve, one galvanizing the Texas ranching world; someone is slaughtering prizewinning longhorns and drawing cryptic symbols on their hides, signs that point back to a time of sugar plantations and slavery.

How does Page 69 reflect The Killing Storm?

These passages lay the groundwork for much of what is to come by revealing the frustrations both David and Sarah experience tackling a highly emotional case. It also gives insight into their relationship; Sarah is in love with David, but what are his feelings toward her?

In the end, Sarah will piece together evidence leading to an eerie connection between the slaughtered bulls and the boy’s disappearance, but only as the hurricane bears down on Houston. Will the clues form a complete picture quickly enough for Sarah to save the child? That will take the rest of the book to discover.
Read the first three chapters of The Killing Storm, and learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Casey's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Singularity.

The Page 99 Test: Blood Lines.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Mary Anna Evans is the author of the award-winning Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries: Artifacts, Relics, Effigies, Findings, and Floodgates.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Strangers, the sixth novel in the series, and reported the following:
Ahhhh...the Page 69 Test. I was asked me to do this once before, and I defy any writer in my position to say that it isn't terrifying to open your book and turn to page 69. What if every word on the page is insipid and inane? What if you've devoted half the page to ruminating on your viewpoint character's bedtime snack?

Um...well...that's what I did. But I actually had a good reason for doing so. Let's look at Faye and that bedtime snack.
[Faye] was curled up in bed in front of the TV, her head on Joe's shoulder and a chunk of blueberry coffeecake on a plate in her lap. More accurately, the plate was sort of balanced on her belly, because she couldn't actually see her lap any more. Even more accurately, the blueberry coffeecake was crowned with a dollop of ice cream, thanks to Suzanne's amply stocked kitchen.

The coffeecake was so good that she wanted to grab it with both hands and shove it into her mouth all at once.
So why would I risk enticing my readers to put down the book and go get some blueberry coffeecake? (And if you're doing that right now, don't forget the ice cream.) Because Faye has had a harrowing day that included the kidnapping of a young woman named Glynis, who is in one of life's most vulnerable conditions--pregnancy.

Constant intensity doesn't work for me, plot-wise. It leaves me numb. It diminishes the drama of things that are to come, and this is only page 69. I felt that the story needed a quiet moment to punctuate the action. Before Faye finishes that coffeecake, she and her husband are going to argue over her willingness to work too hard and to put herself at risk while she herself is pregnant. By the time she's ready for another before-bed snack, she will have looked into the face of a man whose throat was slashed before he was dumped into the Matanzas River.

It is no accident that I showed you the way Faye balanced that plate on her big belly. Any woman who has ever been eight months pregnant will read that scene and remember how it feels to feel bloated and heavy and ravenous and exhausted. By the end of the book, even my male readers will know how it feels, too, if I've done my job right. And anyone with a heart will be deeply concerned for Faye and Glynis, as they struggle to protect themselves and their unborn children.

But the blueberry coffeecake incident only occupies the second half of page 69. What else did I do with that page? ancient and probably homeless old man named Victor gives Faye a dime. Why? Well, I had my reasons.
She glanced down at the coin on her palm. It was a dime, but the gleam of the sun on its worn surface was all wrong.

Looking more closely, she saw why the light reflected strangely from the dime. It was silver.

Minted in 1941, Faye's gift coin was a Mercury dime, adorned with the head of Liberty, wearing a winged cap. Looking over Joe's shoulder, she saw that he'd gotten a modern Roosevelt dime, while Levon held an older Roosevelt dime, also with the unmistakable sheen of silver.

"He does away dimes, I mean," Suzanne said. "The cook grew up here, and she says he's done that for as long as she remembers."
So what was I doing here? Well, Victor and his dimes serve the story in some important ways. Victor is old and mysterious and child-like, but his inappropriate outbursts carry important information. It's just too bad that the highly competent and far younger people who hear those outbursts don't understand what he's telling them.

There's a reason Victor gives away dimes, and there's a reason the dates on Victor's dimes span the twentieth century. There's a reason he hangs around the mansion where Faye is excavating, Dunkirk Manor, telling tales about the glittering people who lived there. Victor has seen a lot of things in his 90-plus years, and he's trying to find someone who will listen to a old and destitute man who's apparently unbalanced, When Faye finally figures out what Victor is saying, she'll learn a lot about the people who lived and died at Dunkirk Manor. Until then, she'll have to content herself with admiring the play of sunlight on her dime's burnished face, loving its worn beauty as only an archaeologist can.

I could tell you the things that Victor knows, but then I'd have to kill you. Far better for you to follow along with Faye as she unravels his hints and clues and ravings, looking for the truth about a haunted beauty and a murdered silent movie starlet and the man who loved them both.
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Rogue Island"

Rogue Island, the new crime novel by former Associated Press writing coach Bruce DeSilva, is getting rave reviews. Publishers Weekly, for example, called it "a masterpiece of irreverence and street savvy," and Booklist declared it "definitely one of the year's best." It has also been praised by 14 A-list crime novelists including Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben. DeSilva just completed the second book in the series, tentatively titled Cliff Walk.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Rogue Island and reported the following:
Rogue Island, the title of my new literary crime novel, is a play on "Rhode Island," a claustrophobic little state with a big reputation for corruption. Liam Mulligan, my main character, is an investigative reporter for a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper, and he is as old school as a newspaperman gets. He knows every street and alley. He knows the priests and prostitutes, the cops and street thugs. He knows the mobsters and politicians--who are pretty much one and the same. Someone is systematically burning down the working-class neighborhood Mulligan grew up in, and people he knows and loves are perishing in the flames. With the police looking for the arsonist in all the wrong places, and with the public on the verge of panic, it's up to Mulligan to find the hand that strikes the match.

As page 69 begins, Mulligan's battered old Ford Bronco, which he has ironically named Secretariat, is in the shop again, foiling his plan to spend the night cruising around the arson plagued neighborhood. So he calls the newspaper's young court reporter, Veronica Tang -- who he has a romantic interest in -- to see if she'll drive him around. The only other things you need to know are that Mulligan has a nagging ulcer, that he is on the run from Dorcas, his banshee of an ex-wife, and that Veronica will later figure significantly in the plot.

From page 68:
"Secretariat in the shop again?"


"Pick you up at seven."

And she did, driving her slate-gray Mitsubishi Eclipse straight to Camille's on Bradford Street, where we shared a bottle of wine and ate mounds of spaghetti. Veronica treated, tapping into the five-hundred-dollar monthly allowance from her Daddy that supplemented her meager paycheck. Good thing, or I'd have had to do some business with the loan shark eating with his aged mother at a table by the windows. Then it was off to the Cineplex in East Providence for the new Jackie Chan movie, he and his comic-relief sidekick doing a better job of catching the bad guys than I was.

This wasn't the romantic evening of street prowling and rat watching I had in mind, but I was having a pretty good time, especially whenever she leaned over to kiss me. Besides, she had the car keys, so there wasn't much I could do about it.

Afterward, she came up. We sat together on my bed and watched Craig Ferguson on my sixteen-inch Emerson. She sipped Russian River, her favorite kind of chardonnay, straight from the bottle, and I did the same with Maalox. The police radio, turned down low, chirped benignly in the background. Veronica thought Ferguson was the funniest man on television I didn't watch enough TV to know if she had a point.

"Mulligan?" Veronica said, sleep lurking at the edges of her voice. "Are you seeing anybody else?"

I flashed on Dorcas asking, "How many bitches are you fucking now?" Same Mulligan, different woman, better vocabulary.
Read an excerpt from Rogue Island, and learn more about the book and author at Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"The Sleepwalkers"

Paul Grossman has been a freelance journalist for many years with published articles in major magazines such as Vanity Fair and Details. He had a highly successful Actor’s Equity reading of his first stage play, The Pariah, at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan—a drama about Hannah Arendt and the Adolf Eichmann war-crimes trial, which is currently in the hands of the Perry Street Theater Company for production development. Grossman is also a long time teacher of writing and literature at Hunter College.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Sleepwalkers, and reported the following:
Page 69 of this edition of The Sleepwalkers happens to be a steamy sex scene. There aren’t many in the book, but this is a key moment for the protagonist. He’s been a widower for over two years and hasn’t had any intimate relations, until now. His choice of partners comes as a total surprise. Paula, a beautiful young woman who happens to be a street hooker, has initiated this encounter free of charge. He’s touched by the unexpected passion they share, but wary of the black lace gloves she refuses to remove even during love making.
Visit Paul Grossman's website.

Writers Read: Paul Grossman.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Mourn the Living"

Henry Perez is the author of the critically acclaimed thrillers Killing Red and Mourn the Living, a number one Amazon Kindle bestseller about which Publishers Weekly said, “Keeps the adrenaline pumping right through to the ending.” He lives in the Chicago area where he is at work on his next two books.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Mourn the Living and reported the following:
I’m always fascinated by these sorts of “tests.” Even more so because there seems to be some validity to them. Anyone who has studied film or screenwriting knows about the 20 minute rule—the idea that something must happen around the 20 minute mark that represents a major turning point in the narrative.

A similar structure applies to novels, though it’s a bit more fluid than in film. In books, the catalyst event usually needs to happen before page 69. Still, it’s an intriguing and useful marker within each novel, a point at which several key story elements should be coming together. And that is exactly what I found when I considered where the events on page 69 of Mourn the Living fit into the overall plot.

In Mourn the Living, Chicago area newspaper reporter Alex Chapa discovers that a killer has worked his way into the business and political power structure of his home town. As Chapa gets closer to the truth some very powerful and dangerous people begin to invade and threaten his life and the lives of everyone he cares about.

All the while, Chapa is trying to rebuild a relationship with his young daughter. This is a thread that began in my first thriller, Killing Red. Page 69 of Mourn the Living is where chapter 18 begins, in which Chapa is starting to come to terms with how his life is far from ideal for a nine-year-old child. It’s not an action chapter, and unlike most of my chapters it does not end with any sort of cliffhanger. In fact, it’s not very long (three pages). But it is significant in the sense that it sets up a key bit of tension that runs throughout the book.

So I guess in that sense it does support the concept of the Page 69 Test.

Just for fun, I went back took a look at page 69 of Killing Red. It works there as well, but in a very different way. In that case, it’s the middle of a chase scene, one that represents a significant turning point for Alex Chapa.
Learn more about the book and author at Henry Perez's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Killing Red.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Death Notice"

Todd Ritter was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania. An editor and journalist for more than 15 years, Todd began his career as a film critic while attending Penn State University. Currently, he works for The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest daily newspaper.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Death Notice, his debut mystery, and reported the following:
Considering that a lot of Death Notice deals with the rituals of deaths — obituaries, embalming, graveyards — it’s incredibly fitting that the action on Page 69 takes place in a funeral home. Earlier that day, Kat Campbell, police chief of Perry Hollow, Pa., found a resident stuffed into a homemade coffin on the side of the road. Whoever killed him also tried to embalm the body. Making the case trickier, the killer faxed a death notice of his victim to the local newspaper — before he died.

Page 69 is told from the point of view of Henry Goll, the obituary writer who found the death notice. Henry is reclusive and ornery, mostly because of a disfiguring accident that occurred years earlier. Dragged unwillingly into the case, he stops by Perry Hollow’s only funeral home to talk with the receptionist, Deana Swann, the woman who usually faxes obituary information to his office.

Henry and Deana make up a key relationship in the book, and this scene is when they first meet face to face. Deana is friendly and open, even inviting Henry to lunch. Henry, because of the scars and burn marks that mar his face, is distrustful.
Henry became convinced her motives were suspect. She wasn’t interested in him. Just like the patrons of a freak show, she was interested in his face. Its lines and scars and deformities.
But the most important part of Page 69 comes when Henry prepares to leave the funeral home. As he exits, Kat Campbell enters with Nick Donnelly, the state police investigator brought in to help with the case.
He turned and reached for the door, surprised to see it was already halfway open. Someone was on the other side, pushing the door so forcefully Henry had to hop backward to avoid being struck by it. That’s when Kat Campbell burst inside, riding a gust of frigid air.

With her was a man Henry had never seen before. Although he was dressed in civilian clothes, Henry assumed he was a cop of some sort. He and the chief shared identical scowls as they passed, barely noticing his presence.
Kat, Nick and Henry have already been introduced to readers, but this is the first time they’re together in the same place at the same time. And although Henry says nothing to them in the funeral home, he returns to them the next day after getting more involved in the case. For the rest of the book, they form a trio who pursue the killer over the course of a year. So Page 69 is the introduction of a group of people who will later become a team — a very important development.
Learn more about Death Notice and its author at Todd Ritters' website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Unholy Awakening"

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. She teaches philosophy; he teaches English. They live in Spoleto, Italy. Michael Gregorio was awarded the Umbria del Cuore prize in 2007.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, Unholy Awakening, and reported the following:
We are going to cheat a tiny bit by starting at the bottom of page 68.

Procurator Hanno Stiffeniis has been called to a country house where the corpse of a local seamstress has been recovered from a well. “Angela Enke lay on the table, naked except for a ragged pair of culottes the colour of mud which covered her sex. Her breasts sagged heavily upon her ribs. Her skin was so pasty and pale, it might have been rubbed with powdered chalk. Blood had flowed out in a torrent from the punctures in the left side of her neck...”

Why is Stiffeniis searching so diligently for the cause of death when the evidence is laid out starkly before him?

Well, the story is set in Prussia in 1810. This is the Prussia of the Brothers Grimm on one hand, and Napoleon Bonaparte on the other. The country has been invaded, and it is under French jurisdiction, but the woods and the towns are full of Prussian rebels. Any excuse for mayhem is a good one, and what better excuse could there be than an outbreak of vampire fever? Terror can be turned to patriotic ends with great ease, as we know too well.

Hanno Stiffeniis is a rationalist – a student of the philosopher of reason, Immanuel Kant, as we described him in the first novel in the series, Critique of Criminal Reason – and he explains his dilemma on page 69: “I prayed silently that I would find some other injury which might explain her death, and put an end to the superstitious speculation which had spread like a raging fire through Krupeken, and which threatened now to engulf Lotingen, as well.”

His examination of the corpse reveals other wounds, but as he concludes: “There was nothing fatal in those injuries.”

Our page 69 is a gruesome post mortem, starting from “the tip of her nose was ragged and bloody, broken perhaps,” and ending in disappointment. Hanno Stiffeniis is stumped. Like any investigating magistrate, he had gone to the scene of the crime in the company of other officers. Gudjøn Knutzen, his secretary, had climbed down the well with Hanno, and he has drawn his own conclusions about what he has seen. As Knutzen asserts on page 22. “You know who killed her, sir.” Knutzen and his neighbours believe that they have the right to defend themselves as the hunt for a vampire erupts in Lotingen.

If Prussia is to be spared a bloodbath, Hanno Stiffeniis must find the killer – he is convinced that the killer is no supernatural being – before it is too late.
Visit Michael Gregorio's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 18, 2010


F. Paul Wilson, Jeff Strand, Jack Kilborn, and Blake Crouch are the co-authors of Draculas.

Strand applied the Page 69 Test to the novel and reported the following:
I didn't write page 69. Draculas is a collaborative novel between myself, Blake Crouch, F. Paul Wilson, and Jack Kilborn, and page 69 came from the mind of Jack Kilborn, which means that, like much fine literature, it was written by a drunken author.

Starting here would be a somewhat jarring experience for a reader, since it begins right in the middle of an action sequence that involves powdered dairy creamer used as a weapon. The previous couple of pages set that up quite nicely, and though page 69 gets the point across, I personally know that when I read about makeshift dairy creamer flamethrowers, I want to be properly eased into the concept.

But, oh, the Page 69 Test certainly provides an accurate barometer of the book's tone:
Snarling, Dr. Lanz rushed at Jenny, far too quick for her to prep another creamer bottle, his hideous mouth unhinging at the jaw and a look of smug satisfaction in his predatory eyes.

Jenny threw herself backward, Lanz's claw swiping the air a few inches in front of her face. A cloud of sweet-smelling vanilla non-dairy creamer floated above his head and shoulders, and a ropey line of drool escaped his cage of teeth, dripping down his neck.
Yeah, there is no lack of drooling monsters in this book. We've been promoting it as the anti-Twilight, and fortunately the Page 69 Test doesn't feature any weepy dialogue scenes. It would've been embarrassing to write this and discover that Page 69 involved Jenny asking Lanz to bite her so their love could last forever. But, no, most of this page involves stuff like this:
Jenny turned her attention toward the broken window as another dracula climbed through. She charged it with the cannula, pulling it free from the oxygen tank, and spearing the creature through its left eye. The monster hissed, blood and bits of brain matter spraying out of the hollow end, arcing across the playroom, and landing directly in the mouth of the catatonic woman who'd been watching the entire scene unfold with her jaw hanging open.

Children screamed. Flesh sizzled and popped. Jenny cast a frantic look around, seeking a weapon as the dracula flopped through the window, crashing at her feet where he squirmed and undulated like a landed swordfish. Jenny looked up as another dracula snaked into the opening. But rather than attack her, it pounced on the other creature, positioning its mouth over the fountain of blood and tissue pumping through the cannula, and locking its lips around it like a drinking straw.
Yeah! Go Jack Kilborn! Child endangerment, tasteless humor, brain matter being removed from its proper storage unit, sizzling/popping flesh...and that's only on page 69! Oh, there's characterization and stuff in the book, and of course these over-the-top action sequences are a lot more effective when you have a reason to care about the people involved, so though page 69 is certainly a representative sample, we'd hope that readers would start from the beginning.

But if you want to read about people doing battle with ferocious vampires, believe me, we're not ripping you off.
Read an excerpt from Draculas, and visit the official Draculas website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Mister X"

John Lutz is the author of two private eye series, the Nudger series, set in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Carver series, set in Florida, as well as many non-series novels.

His SWF Seeks Same was made into the hit movie Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and his novel The Ex was made into the HBO original movie of the same title, for which he co-authored the screenplay.

Lutz applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Mister X, and reported the following:
The serial killer the media called Mister X mutilated his victims and then cut their throats. The killer also carved the letter X on them.

Then suddenly the murders stopped. The police got nowhere in their investigation, and Mister X went into the Cold Case file.

It’s five years later, and the case has heated up. It draws media attention. And the murders begin again.

Page 69 underscores the serial killer’s compulsion to control, as well as his gigantic ego. He considers himself invulnerable. He will succeed simply because he refuses to fail. Luck has nothing to do with it. That’s simply another word for fate. And fate is on his side because he is fate – the fate of his victims. He proves it with every death. With every example of his control.

On p.69 he’s been foiled in an effort to torture and murder his latest chosen victim, but he instantly seizes upon a rationale that turns failure to success.
Maybe he’d pay Mary Bakehouse another visit, and maybe he wouldn’t. She knew that he might, and that made the night a triumph.
Though the killer was unsuccessful in his attempt, he can regard it simply as step one in Mary’s murder. She lives a little longer, but only as his puppet.
Whether she lived or died depended entirely upon his whim. He remembered her complete loss of control, the warm urine escaping her body. They both recognized at that moment her fetid, trickling surrender.
“Complete loss of control” is an important phrase here. In a sense, the killer has already achieved his objective. He (and the reader) knows that it isn’t so much death his victims fear as loss; once they’ve been completely broken by terror, their lives in a sense have already been taken. The inevitable pain will come, and then the physical death, but their free will and independent existence are already gone.
She belonged to him. She understood that in the very depths of her soul, in the dark recesses of her brain where the demons played.

That was enough for now.
Read an excerpt from Mister X, and learn more about the book and author at John Lutz's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Murder on the Bride’s Side"

Tracy Kiely graduated from Trinity College with a B.A. in English. She lives with her husband and three children in Severna Park, Maryland.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Murder on the Bride's Side, and reported the following:
Page 69:
emblazoned with the logo “Elegant Events,” they appeared to be everywhere at once. One group was transforming the normally lush green lawn into a sea of circular tables to seat tonight’s three hundred guests. To my right and left, another group was raising crisp white tents that would serve as the food-and-drink stations. At the base of the terrace, still more were hammering down an enormous parquet dance floor. A canopy of tiny white lights hovered above. In the midst of the organized chaos, Chloe patrolled the grounds. A dark tailored business suit clung to her lithe form and her white blonde ponytail snaked down her back in a long shiny coil. As she surveyed the crew’s progress, she methodically checked off items on her clipboard and barked orders into a walkie-talkie.

I spotted Graham and Peter huddled over by one of the tents. Graham gestured animatedly while Peter nodded thoughtfully. Spotting Chloe, Graham called her over. I watched as she briskly strode in their direction and then, strangely, faltered. Over the last few months, I’d never seen Chloe do anything that wasn’t deliberate and organized. She seemed more machine than human. After the misstep, Chloe righted herself, and made her way to Graham and Peter. She quickly spoke to Graham and then she laid her hand on Peter’s arm. She kept it there a good eight seconds longer than necessary (by my count, anyway). My stomach tilted. Chloe was an inhuman tyrant, but she was also exceedingly pretty. Sophisticated, chic, and worst of all, thin, she had an air about her that made me feel as if my ancestors had only recently started walking upright. Graham said something and Chloe was forced to remove her talons from Peter’s arm so she could take notes. Graham’s gestures intensified
Before I jump to my page 69 test for Murder on the Bride’s Side, I should explain that as with my first book, Murder at Longbourn, I tried to create a humorous modern-day version of the classic English cozy mystery with parallels to a specific Jane Austen novel. (That’s a mouthful, eh? Just rolls right off the tongue that does.) With Murder at Longbourn, I incorporated elements of Pride and Prejudice while with Murder on the Bride’s Side I focused on Sense and Sensibility. Unfortunately, my first page 69 test was an utter failure at conveying anything remotely mysterious, humorous or Austen(ous). Page 71? Brilliant! Page 168? Amazing! But page 69? – not so much.

Therefore, I was very excited to be asked back for Murder on the Bride’s Side so I could finally pass the test.

So much for that idea.

Murder on the Bride’s Side finds our plucky heroine, Elizabeth Parker, in Richmond, Virginia preparing for the wedding of her best friend, Bridget. Elizabeth had feared that serving as Bridget’s maid-of-honor would be murder and she was right for no sooner is the last grain of rice thrown when Bridget’s nasty aunt Roni is found stabbed to death. When Bridget’s cousin, Harry, is suspected of the crime, Elizabeth steps in to clear his name.

I paralleled Elizabeth and Bridget’s relationship on Elinor and Marianne’s and also brought in a woman from Peter’s past ala Miss Lucy Steele. I also had lots of fun sprinkling Sense and Sensibility quotes throughout – like on page 20, 44 or even 59. Just not apparently on page 69.

Oh, well, there’s always next time!
Read an excerpt from Murder on the Bride’s Side, and learn more about the book and author at Tracy Kiely's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at Longbourn.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Innocent Monster"

Called a “hard-boiled poet” by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the Huffington Post, Reed Farrel Coleman has published eleven novels—two under his pen name Tony Spinosa—in three series and Tower, co-authored by award-winning Irish writer Ken Bruen. Coleman is a three-time Shamus Award winner for Best Novel of the Year. He has also won the Barry and Anthony Awards and has been twice nominated for the Edgar Award. He is the co-editor of the poetry journal The Lineup and the edited the anthology Hard Boiled Brooklyn.

Coleman applied the Page 69 Test to Innocent Monster, the 6th installment of the acclaimed Moe Prager series, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Innocent Monster is the first page of Chapter Nine and the setting for the action—a New York City art gallery—in this chapter is a microcosm of the milieu in which Moe operates during the novel. At the urging of his estranged daughter Sarah, Moe joins the search for 11 year-old art prodigy Sashi Bluntstone, who has been abducted from her Long Island home. It’s three weeks after Sashi has gone missing and Moe isn’t very hopeful, but it isn’t in his nature to give up, especially when the life of a little girl and reconciliation with his daughter are at stake. However, life at the fringes of the New York art scene isn’t exactly the kind of territory Moe, now in his early sixties, is accustomed to. On p. 69, he comes to the Brill Gallery in Chelsea in order to find out about Nathan Martyr, a once-hot-now-fading artist who has made no secret of his hatred for Sashi Bluntstone and his utter disdain for her work.
The Brill Gallery was less impressive than a brown paper bag and the art inside less interesting. Basically, it was a rectangle of four white walls, a white ceiling with tiny halogen spotlights, a blond hardwood floor, and a few white pedestals for sculpture.

There was a small white table in one corner for brochures and a white desk in the opposite corner. A curveless woman of thirty with heavy-framed black glasses, cropped black hair, and lip, nose, and eyebrow piercings sat at the desk. The best and most colorful art in the place were the tattoos that covered her exposed flesh. Unfortunately, she was as interested in me as I was in the art…

“Excuse me.”

“Yes,” she said, not gazing up.

“Are you the owner of the gallery?”

Still not looking up. “Do I look like the owner?”

“I don’t know. What does the owner look like?”

She raised her eyes, unamused. “Not like me.”
Through the course of the novel, Moe is forced to ask the big questions about the true nature of art and has to deal with the unsavory parasites who don’t make art themselves, but feed off the people who do. This is no place, Moe determines, for a sensitive little girl. By the conclusion of the novel, Moe is left wondering where to draw the line between the innocents and the monsters.
Learn more about Reed Farrel Coleman and his work.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"A Curable Romantic"

Joseph Skibell is the author of the novels A Blessing on the Moon, The English Disease, and the newly published A Curable Romantic. He has received a Halls Fiction Fellowship, a Michener Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, among other awards. He teaches at Emory University and is the director of the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature.

He applied the Page 69 Test to A Curable Romantic and reported the following:
It pained me that my marriage would be so different from my parents’, whose courtship, by all accounts, had been a storybook affair.
Usually I concentrate so intently on my work that I have no memory of actually doing it. This isn’t true for page 69 of my novel A Curable Romantic. I remember exactly where I was when I wrote it. I was living in Talpiot, a neighborhood in Jerusalem, in a sun-washed apartment on Shalom Yehuda Street, not far from S.Y. Agnon’s old house.

I’d run away from home basically, though not really. I was teaching a short semester at Bar-Ilan with my wife’s blessing. Our daughter was in school, and we couldn’t afford to uproot the entire family – we needed my wife’s salary – and so I’d come alone. This was in the fall of 2003, and I probably hadn’t lived alone in over 20 years. It felt good to be on my own halfway across the world. It’s an experience I’d recommend to every middle-aged man.
Everyone knew that Father had been a sickly youth, so sickly, in fact, that no one had expected him to live. … Forbidden by his doctors to attend school, he’d developed an invalid’s propensity for study and dedicated the long hours in bed to the Talmud. Eventually his enormous learning entitled him, as was customary at that time and in that society, to the most covetable of rewards: a bride of his choice.
Page 69 is part of my protagonist Dr. Y.Y. Sammelsohn’s childhood recollections of his family’s history. Maybe it was the happiness I felt living in Jerusalem – despite the fact that I was there during the second intifada – but the work just seemed to open up. All three of my novels are written in the first person, but, here, something is different; here, though he has a personal stake in the events he’s describing, Dr. Sammelsohn hasn’t experienced those events personally.
By seventeen, despite his ill health, Father had conceived a burning desire to marry. None of the local girls would have him, of course… Partly to protect his pride and partly out of a fear of girls natural to an innocent young man, he was scrupulously forthright when it came to his courting, and naturally enough, the long line of maidens that paraded through my grandparents’ parlor took one look at this scrofulous hairball of a boy, coughed up, it seemed, by an ailing cat, and remembered more pressing engagements elsewhere.

Many, I’m told, ran from the room without a word.
Though intimate and familiar with his characters, Dr. Sammelsohn hasn’t even been born yet. With the narrator both present and absent, somehow the language of the section – I recall it happening – took on a playful, luscious, almost Agnon-like sense of freedom.
Father endeavored to remain philosophical – God must have His reasons for visiting this plague of horrified girls upon him – but the rejection took its toll, and his parents despaired. Grandmother Sammelsohn cried, wringing her hands and pulling at her marriage wig. This bride-hunting was too much for her baby’s delicate constitution. The family physician and the family rabbi concurred. “The strain on his heart might prove mortal,” Dr. Kirschbaum announced. “Though a
I’d like to write my next novel entirely from this perspective, I think. I’d like to write it in Jerusalem, that troubled city, in a sun-washed apartment, in Talpiot perhaps, breathing in the air that S. Y. Agnon breathed out.
Read more about A Curable Romantic and visit Joseph Skibell's website.

Writers Read: Joseph Skibell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 11, 2010

"And Then There Was One"

Patricia Gussin is the author of And Then There Was One, The Test, Twisted Justice, and Shadow of Death.

She applied the Page 69 Test to And Then There Was One and reported the following:
Page 69 of the super-psychological thriller, And Then There Was One, strikes at the heart of the story, dead on. To sum the story up in a sentence: Three nine year old triplets go into a movie theater and only one comes out.

Page 69 dives into the professional life of the Monroe triplets’ mother. She’s a forensic pediatric psychiatrist, who helped convict many child abusers during her career. Could taking her children be retribution? The Monroes are a biracial family, could racial bigotry play a role in the abduction?

Page 69 describes the interaction of Jackie, the ‘safe’ triplet with the daughter of a child abuser that her mother had helped put in prison. This chance encounter takes place at FBI headquarters as the Monroes work with the FBI to explore the dearth of leads as to who has taken Sammie and Alex. When Dr. Monroe realizes that the recently released ex-con may be the kidnapper of her daughters, raw emotions explode in front of the two confused young girls.

As the story goes on, the emotional scale ratchets up as the array of possibilities expand and contract as to who took Sammie and Jackie. Are they even alive? But in the background as the tension and fear and terror escalate, what is happening to Jackie, the safe triplet? Based on Page 69, the emotional of little Jackie is starting to disintegrate.

Here is Page 69 in its entirety:
too often among her small patients—multiple circles the size of a cigarette on the girl’s left arm.

“Tina?” she asked.

“Tina Watkins, ma’am,” Tina said, looking up with sad brown eyes.

Could this be the toddler she’d protected in court? The pitiful child, scalded, broken bones, cigarette burns on all four extremities.

Katie stepped forward to look closer at the scars. She had seen to it that this child had been placed in foster care.Months later, she’d concurred with the guardian ad litem that Tina be returned to her mother once the mother successfully completed rehab. And that was the last she heard until today.

“Mom, why are you staring?” Jackie asked. She’d gotten up to stand next to Scott. “Is something wrong, Dad?”

“We’re happy to meet you, Tina,” Scott said. “I’m Mr. Monroe, Jackie’s dad and this is her mom.”

Tina’s eyes got very big. “I saw you on television.” She pointed to Jackie. “You must be the triplet that didn’t get kidnapped.”

That’s why we’re here,” Jackie said. “To help the FBI find my sisters.”

“I hope they find them soon,” Tina said. “Me and my mom and my aunt said prayers for them.”

Katie was about to ask Tina where her mother was when a woman was buzzed though the security gate into the lobby.

“Here’s my mom,” Tina announced. “Mom, this is Jackie, the triplet that didn’t get kidnapped. And her mom and dad.”

Katie and Connie Watkins stared at each other.

“Dr. Monroe,” Connie spoke first, one hand on her chest, the other tightly clutching her tote bag.

Agent Camry moved to a position between these two women who had such a bizarre history.

“Where are my children?” Katie felt Scott’s hand press down on her shoulder.

“How would I know,” Connie said, shrinking back. “And neither does my husband. He’s in the hospital, for God’s sake. Why are you trying to destroy my family?”
On to Page 70.
Visit Patricia Gussin's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Penelope's Daughter"

Laurel Corona has combined her love of writing and teaching for more than three decades. She has taught at San Diego State University, UCSD, and now at San Diego City College, where she is a humanities professor. She began her career as an author in 1999 with a book on Kenya for Lucent Books. From there, she wrote 17 young adult titles for the same company, and went on to award-winning debuts in fiction and non-fiction books for adults in 2008. The Four Seasons: A Novel Of Vivaldi’s Venice won the 2009 Theodor Geisel Award for Book of the Year from the San Diego Book Awards and has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story Of Love And Partisan Resistance won a San Diego Book Award as well as a Christopher Medal.

Corona applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Penelope’s Daughter, and reported the following:
Whenever I think of the flowers blooming in such profusion that day, I see more than how beautiful they were in the fields. I see them in garlands on the heads of the servant girls, and one garland in particular, crowning a scene that is permanently embedded in my mind.

Shortly before we reached the stream, we skirted the edge of a field that had not yet been ploughed. The air was full of the songs of birds and the buzz of insects on the wing. A light breeze sent puffs of air across the grass, shaking it out like a veil of green silk. Melantho and the other young servants picked wild flowers to weave into wreaths for their hair and chains around their necks.

At the stream, we stomped on each piece of fabric in the shallow water and rubbed it against the rocks with such vigor that if cloth were alive we would surely have killed it all. When all the dirt had been dislodged and washed away, each piece was laid out on rocks above the stream to dry. We moved quickly, since the rest of the afternoon was for leisure. One of the carts had carried a meal for us and enough wine to make a celebration. After we had eaten, the only task that remained was to wash what we had been wearing. Except for Eurycleia, who went off on her own for privacy, everyone stripped naked and ran into the water waving our clothes above us.
I’ve done a couple of these tests, Page 69 for The Four Seasons and Page 99 for Until Our Last Breath. For both, honestly, the page wasn’t one I would have chosen, so I opened Penelope's Daughter with trepidation. “Ahh!” I said. “It’s a good one!

This passage captures the sensual qualities I tried to make a standout element in this book. I want readers to imagine the colors, sounds, textures, smells, and every possible sensation that must have been part of the vibrant world of ancient Homeric legends. The scene is upbeat here, but on the next two pages, the story darkens as Xanthe, the heroine, is pained by the growing isolation between herself as a princess and the servants who are her only age mates on the island of Ithaca. Out of loneliness and curiosity, she follows Melantho, one of the servants, into the woods and witnesses a scene she will never forget. Overwhelmed now by a secret she cannot share, she makes her way home with the old servant Eurycleia. When they stop to look out to sea for signs of returning ships, they are stunned to see a Greek warship in the harbor below. The Trojan War is over, but, as readers of the Odyssey know, that will not end the trials for Penelope and her daughter. It will be ten more years before Odysseus washes up on shore and clams his home and family again.

Penelope's Daughter tells the story of the women left behind when the Greeks go off to war. Through the eyes of a daughter born after Odysseus left, one he does not know he has, the reader watches his young bride, Penelope, grow into a magnificent and strong woman, a wily match for the ruthless men who wish to destroy his family and steal his crown. Helen of Sparta (formerly of Troy), Penelope’s cousin, takes in the vulnerable teenage Xanthe to keep her safe from the suitors, and the reader is introduced to the fabulous and sensual world of a woman once renowned for her beauty but now facing middle age with both wisdom and vulnerability. There are 333 pages to Penelope's Daughter. I hope you enjoy them all!
Learn more about the book and author at Laurel Corona's website and diary.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Dream Queen"

Betsy Thornton is the author of the Chloe Newcombe Mystery series.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dream Queen, and reported the following:
In Dream Queen, Chloe Newcombe travels from New York City to see her ex-con brother Danny who, uncharacteristically, is living in Dudley, a small town in Arizona-—staying in a house that belongs to their dead brother’s lover Hal, a saint-like individual who Chloe worships. Danny meets her at the airport accompanied by his gorgeous but spacey girlfriend Kristi. They stop for dinner at a small town halfway there and Danny vanishes. Kristi and Chloe search for him but finally give up and continue on to Dudley. When Chloe wakes up the next morning Kristi too has vanished.

Hal appears—he works in Tucson and stops by from time to time. They try to figure out what has happened to Danny and to Kristi.

Chloe begins a search for her brother that takes her to Tucson, to L.A. and back again. The more she learns, it seems the less she knows-—what she has thought was reality is only an illusion.

Page sixty nine is a chapter beginning-—Chloe has spent the day before traveling back to the little town where Danny vanished, asking around about him there and in Dudley. She wonders where Kristi is. The next morning she gets up late and questions Wally, a man who is renovating Hal’s house. Most of page 69 involves talking to Wally, who is a bit character. It’s interesting, however in connection with the theme of the book that Wally appears to her initially on the page as a white man, literally, rather than who he really is. See below:

I slept till sun filled the bedroom, then I woke with a start, saw from my watch it was nearly eleven and felt full of guilt that I’d slept late instead of looking for Danny. But at least Hal was coming, coming soon, this very afternoon. From the thumps and bumps coming from the other room, I gathered Wally had already arrived.

I got up, dressed and went out into the main room.

“Wally?” I called.

A white man appeared from the office, literally white like a mime: his face and glasses and bandanna were white and only his nose seemed to have escaped powdering. He took off the bandanna and wiped off some of the dust and there was Wally. ”Hi there, Chloe. What’s up?”

”I guess Danny didn’t call or anything?” I asked without hope.

Wally shook his head.

“And Kristi? Is she here?”

“No. ma’am.”

“Where the hell is she?” I said.

I was annoyed with him, with this apparent inability to notice
Read an excerpt from Dream Queen, and learn more about the author and her work at Betsy Thornton's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Song for You.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"The Nesting Dolls"

Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn mysteries have made her one of Canada’s most popular crime writers. The first book in the series, Deadly Appearances (1990), was nominated for the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada award for best first novel. Bowen has also written five plays that have been produced across Canada, and several of her mysteries have been made into TV movies starring Wendy Crewson as Joanne.

Bowen applied the Page 69 Test to The Nesting Dolls, the 12th Joanne Kilbourn mystery, and reported the following:
Two significant themes are introduced on page 69. One is the love between Joanne Kilbourn and her husband, Zack Shreve, a brilliant hard-hitting paraplegic trial lawyer who has, in the words of his doctor, lived like an 18-year-old with a death wish until his marriage to Joanne, two years earlier. Zack has a great lust for life, but he is fifty-one years old, and Joanne is aware that the average time between a trial lawyer’s first court appearance and his or her first coronary is 20 years.

Joanne notes that “During the early months of our marriage our most serious quarrels had centred on Zack’s determination to shut me out when his body betrayed him and my determination not to be shut out… I convinced him that caring for one another’s bodies could be a sensual pleasure…but despite his promises to cut back, his hours were long and there were mornings when after his customary five hours of sleep, he awoke grey and drawn. This morning was one of them, but I had long since learned not to comment.”

The second theme centres on the identity of the woman who walks into a Christmas concert, hands her 6-month-old son over to teenaged Isobel Wainberg, daughter of one of Zack’s law partners, and disappears into a blizzard. Zack is at the event snapping pictures of his stepdaughter and her friends and he unwittingly photographs the tableau.

On page 69, the Shreves are looking at the morning paper. The picture of Abby Michaels on the front page is one Zack took at the concert Saturday afternoon. The headline beneath it is stark: “MOTHER MISSING”.

Joanne characterizes the story about the missing woman as “standard journalism…the five W’s and one H with no answers to why and how and a deliberate obfuscation of who. The search for the answer to these questions drives the plot of The Nesting Dolls.

In Talking About Detective Fiction, P.D. James discusses the mystery author’s challenge to pick a victim that readers will care about who is “powerfully alive” to readers and for whom there is a good reason to be murdered. As readers learn about Abby Michaels, the term “Mother Missing” gains a powerful resonance. There is hurt in her violent death and in the dark secret that brought about her death.
Read an excerpt from The Nesting Dolls, and learn more about the book and author at Gail Bowen's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"The Mistaken Wife"

Rose Melikan was born in Detroit, but since 1993 she has been a Fellow at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where she teaches English legal history and British constitutional history. Her three “Mary Finch” novels are set during the French Revolutionary wars (1792-1802), and draw the heroine inexorably into the murky world of military espionage.

Melikan applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, The Mistaken Wife, and reported the following:
The Mistaken Wife takes place in the autumn of 1797. Great Britain has lost her remaining military ally and is desperate to prevent France from gaining a further strategic advantage. The imminent Franco-American negotiations, therefore, must be disrupted. With government agents in short supply, Mary Finch undertakes the assignment, and she travels to France as the wife of an American artist.

Page 69 records a conversation between Mary and her “husband”, Samuel Vangenzen, in which Vangenzen reveals that he is actually married to Minta, a woman of mixed race who had been enslaved in America. Mary is sympathetic to the couple’s plight and indignant that Vangenzen’s father should have used the Bible to justify slavery and segregation, but this kind of oppression is far less real to her than the consequences of a so-called “bad” marriage generally.
“The queen of Sheba was an African, was she not?” [asked Mary] “And a very worthy person.”

“As I daresay King David would have thought, so long as Solomon did not marry her!”

“Of course,” Mary acknowledged, “that was the root of the problem. Marriage is really a terrible business.”

“Indeed!” laughed Vangenzen, “I have not found it so.”

“But people have such different ideas of whom one ought to marry, and it is so easy to make a mistake.”
Mary’s attitude is not surprising in a young Englishwoman whose knowledge of slavery is limited to abolitionist pamphlets. Intellectually she knows that slavery is wrong, and later she will even investigate Minta’s legal status in France, partly with the aim of helping the Vangenzens and partly for her own purposes. Because her own view of Minta is colorblind, however, she does not really understand the emotional and psychological effect that slavery has had upon her. In consequence, Mary will find it difficult to determine whether the other woman is a friend or a foe, and this will prove crucial when Minta gains the power to send her friend to the guillotine.
Learn more about the book and author at Rose Melikan's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Trish J. MacGregor was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She has always been interested in the hidden, the mysterious, the unseen, and in her latest novel, Esperanza, was able to combine this interest with her love of Ecuador.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Esperanza and reported the following:
A little background first. Tess and Ian know from the start that there is something mysterious and not quite right about Esperanza and about how they got to the city. The residents are edgy, terrified of the thick fog that often rolls through the city. When they tell the hotel manager about how they were pursued by a group of men who seemed to materialize from the fog, he laughs nervously and says they’re just “crazies.” But on page 69, when they’re under attack by something unseen, they begin to realize they are up against the legendary brujos, the ghosts that not only haunt Esperanza, but seize its people so that they can experience all the sensory pleasures of physical life.
A great clanking and clattering erupted in the bedroom and spread quickly to the rest of the cottage, echoing, vibrating against the walls. Then this, too, stopped, and a silence so profound and strange gripped the building that he and Tess strained to hear anything at all.

They finally tore away the tape, Ian picked up the poker, opened the door slightly. He didn’t hear or sense anything and opened the door all the way. As he and Tess stepped into the bedroom, she flicked the wall switch to her left, turning on a floor lamp.
The room was empty, but something now covered the window – and it wasn’t fog. It seemed to be some kind of metal shutter. “It’s like an aluminum hurricane shutter,” Tess said, coming up behind him. “Electrically controlled. And since it probably didn’t shut on its own, it must be remotely controlled.”

“So Granger or someone else knew the cottage was under attack.”

“It looks that way. This is what they do in prisons. At night. Or when someone has escaped. Lockdown. Fuck this. They can’t lock us in here.”

She made a beeline for the bedroom door. Ian turned the lock, raised the window, ran his hand along the bottom edge. Air tight. No sign of fog. He couldn’t even feel the chill of the night air. Impressive. And undoubtedly expensive. Was every building on the grounds equipped with shutters like this?

When he emerged from the bedroom, the kitchen and living room blazed with lights, and Tess was pounding her fists against the shutter across the front door. “Hey, we’re trapped in here, I didn’t sign up for this shit!”

Ian realized these shutters had also closed off the skylights, every window, the rear door to the back porch, even the pet door Whiskers and Nomad used. They apparently were prisoners. He marched over to the fridge, threw open the door and determined, in a quick glance, what might make a good breakfast. Mushroom omelets with cheese. A side dish of sliced mangos. Mugs of rich Ecuadorian coffee. He found celery and tomatoes and chopped with a kind of vengeance. He whipped four eggs with a frantic rhythmic, a drumbeat for war. Slammed the knife through a brick of cheese, chop chop, chop chop. The preparation of food became his weapon, his defense.

Tess ran into the kitchen. “What’re you doing? We need to get the hell out of here.”

“Out of here? Where the hell is here? We don’t have any idea where we are in respect to any other point in this country.”

Then an assault began and it sounded as if the hounds of hell had been turned loose. The rooms echoed with the clamor, a battering storm like hail or rocks pounding the shutters as something fought to get in.
Through this scene and the rest of the chapter, the brujo legend becomes quite personal for Tess and Ian. They decide to leave the city, any way they can. But how do you escape from a city at 13,200 feet above sea level, on a day when no cabs are running, when you aren’t even sure where the closest city and airport are?

Page 69 is where the truth about Esperanza and the protagonists’ plight begins to unfold. But I hope you start on page one!
Visit Trish J. MacGregor's website and blog.

Writers Read: Trish J. MacGregor.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Crystal Death"

Charles Kipps is the author of Hell’s Kitchen Homicide, the first novel in the Conor Bard Mystery series. He also has written two non-fiction books: Out of Focus and Cop Without A Badge.

As a writer/producer of television and film, Kipps has won an Emmy, a Peabody, and an Edgar Award. His television credits include Exiled: A Law & Order Movie, The Cosby Mysteries, Columbo, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. His film credits include Fat Albert, co-written with Bill Cosby.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Crystal Death, the second novel in the Conor Bard Mystery series, and reported the following:
While NYPD Detective Conor Bard is in the process of tracking the killer of a beautiful, Israeli diamond dealer, he is assigned a new partner: Rosita Rubio. On Page 69 of Crystal Death, they start their first day on the job together. Rosita arrives for work with a flower and a vase.
“A flower.” She touched the petals. “I was going to buy a whole arrangement but I didn’t want to freak you out.”
When they head to Trump Tower to interview the victim’s boyfriend, Conor learns that Rosita is just as capable of repartee as his previous male partners.
Conor and Rosita rode the elevator to the thirty-seventh floor of Trump Tower, inner sanctum of the ridiculously rich, and approached the door of Kenneth Madison’s apartment.

“I’m thinking of moving down from a Hundred and Tenth Street,” Rosita said in mock earnest. “I should check out an apartment in this building.”

Conor rang the doorbell. “The way the economy is going, you could probably pick one up for four or five million.”
Page 69 sets the tone of the relationship between Conor and Rosita. As Crystal Death wends its way to a conclusion, these early interactions form the basis of a growing camaraderie.
Watch the video for Crystal Death, and learn more about the book and author at Charles Kipps's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hell’s Kitchen Homicide.

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--Marshal Zeringue