Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Sticky Fingers"

Nancy Martin, winner of the Lifetime Achievement award for mystery writing from RT Book Reviews, is the author of Foxy Roxy (originally published as Our Lady of Immaculate Deception) and the bestselling Blackbird Sisters mysteries. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Martin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Sticky Fingers, and reported the following:
On page 69 of my new Roxy Abruzzo mystery, I took some time to illustrate a necessary character in all mystery novels—the sidekick. Ever since Dr. Watson knocked on the door of that famous Baker Street address, detectives have needed a listening ear—a character who hears the clever reasoning and interprets the actions of the protagonist. He’s a sounding board who helps the reader understand the mystery as it unfolds, but he’s also a mirror held up to reflect qualities and themes back on the main character.

Roxy Abruzzo, a tough Pittsburgh girl “with a heart of black and gold,” spends her days with Nooch, a simple sort of man who’s been her friend since high school. She protected him from bullies then, and now that he’s her employee, she protects him from bigger threats. But, an innocent soul, Nooch also keeps Roxy on the straight and narrow when her natural inclination is to break rules. Although they’d never say so, they love each other. Yet their days are full of conflict, bickering and long-running jokes.

This relationship is one that keeps Roxy grounded. But it also illustrates the bond between longtime friends in a tight-knit, ethnic neighborhood. Pittsburgh is a patchwork of such neighborhoods—it’s perhaps my favorite thing about the city--and writing about Nooch and Roxy gives me a chance to explore that world. The themes of friendship and caretaking and loyalty are best illustrated by the way these two characters interact.

Page 69 of Sticky Fingers:
But it was Nooch who pushed through the Crabtree gate.

I expelled a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. “Where have you been?”

Nooch halted in his tracks in the act of muffling a yawn with one hand. “In the truck, like you said.”

“Didn’t Clarice Crabtree tell you I wanted you downstairs?”


“The lady who came out of the house a few minutes ago.”

“Nobody told me nothing.”

I glanced over at the driveway. Clarice’s car was still parked where she’d left it. The interior lights were on. Nobody sitting inside. I could hear the bing-bing-bing of a key in the ignition, though. I headed over to the car.

“What’s going on?” Nooch ambled after me.

I reached the station wagon and peered inside. No Clarice. But the keys dangled from the ignition, and the car kept binging. I leaned in the open door to get a better look and saw her purse half hidden under the seat. Careful not to touch anything else, I snagged it off the floor.

“What are you doing?” Nooch asked. “Jeez, you’re not purse-snatching, are you?”

“I’m checking her stuff. You fell asleep, didn’t you?”

“Aw, Rox, don’t yell at me. I started visualizing a nice plate of gnocchi, but I must have dozed off for a couple of minutes, that’s all, and—What are you doing?”

I had already pulled my cell phone from the hip pocket of my jeans. “I’m calling the cops.”

Nooch’s eyes bulged. “All I did was fall asleep!”

The first squad car arrived in less than three minutes. In half an hour, the street was crowded with cops and their vehicles. I guess it was a slow night for crime fighting. After the initial rush, Bug Duffy finally showed up.
Read an excerpt from Sticky Fingers, and learn more about the book and author at Nancy Martin's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Our Lady of Immaculate Deception.

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

--Marshal Zeringue