Friday, April 29, 2011

"Among the Departed"

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most popular crime writers. The fifth book in her critically acclaimed Constable Molly Smith series set in the mountains of British Columbia is Among the Departed from Poisoned Pen Press.

Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Delany is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she grows vegetables, eats tomatoes, shovels snow, and rarely wears a watch.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Among the Departed and reported the following:
Page 69 of Among the Departed is half a page as it’s the end of a chapter. This page tells the reader a lot about Nicky Nowak (aka Nicole Nolte) one of the point-of- view characters in the book.

Among the Departed is about how events of the past can have never-ending repercussions. It’s the fifth in the Constable Molly Smith series set in the small mountain town of Trafalgar British Columbia. Smith is a young and green and a new police officer in the town where she was born and raised. Her parents were hippies and she was christened Moonlight. Not a good name for a cop, so she now calls herself Molly.

Fifteen years ago, Molly was in grade 8. Her best friend was a girl named Nicky Nowak. Moonlight went to Nicky’s house for a sleep- over where they watched Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman on TV and listened to Alanis Morissette CDs. The next morning Nicky’s father, Brian, had breakfast with his family. Molly’s mother picked her up before the family went to church. A few hours later Brian went to the store for cigarettes.

He was never seen again.

Autumn in Trafalgar, British Columbia. A little boy leaves his family campsite in a brave hunt for bears. A police dog finds him, and something else as well. Human remains.

As the investigation into the life, and death, of Brian Nowak grows, Constable Molly Smith discovers that the years since the disappearance of Nicky’s father have not been good to her childhood friend.
“Mr. MacDonald sent me to pick up his order,” she [Nicky Nowak/Nicole Nolte] said to the clerk.

The young woman smiled. “I’ll see if it’s ready.” She went into the back and came out with a large, bulging envelope. “Here you go. I think it’s all there.” She put the envelope into a shopping bag.

Nicole thanked her, paid, and left. Outside, she peeked into the envelope. A stack of useless blank paper and a couple of baggies at the bottom each of which contained a few grams of white powder. She didn’t usually buy her own drugs - let Joey take those chances. But she wasn’t going to Trafalgar without a couple of days’ supply.

As she came out of the print shop, a car crawled past. She watched as it stopped in front of the pizza shop. The woman in the purple dress stepped out of the doorway and went up to the car. She leaned over, her flat butt sticking out, said a few words, opened the door, and climbed in. A large blue and black bruise covered most of her inside left thigh. The car pulled away with a burst of speed.

It was a black Lexus, sleek, clean, polished to a blinding shine. A child’s safety seat was mounted in the back. The hooker stared into Nicole’s eyes as they drove past.

Nicole’s whole body shuddered.

Was this what it would come to, in the end?

She went to her car and headed home. To Trafalgar.
Nicky’s life went off the rails the day her father disappeared. And now she comes home, to Trafalgar, unwittingly trailing in her wake a terrifying threat to another innocent family.
Read an excerpt from Among the Departed, and learn more about the book and author at Vicki Delany's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Jeremy Robinson is the author of ten novels available in eight languages, including the highly acclaimed Jack Sigler thrillers, Pulse, Instinct, and Threshold.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Threshold and reported the following:
Threshold is the third book in the Jack Sigler thriller series following King (Jack) and his Delta team against a mystery villain who is systematically exterminating the last speakers of ancient languages. Page 69 of Threshold is the final page of chapter sixteen and takes place during the aftermath of a brutal attack on Fort Bragg, where King and team call home. The base is devastated. Hundreds are dead and wounded. And King’s foster daughter has been kidnapped. It’s a pivotal moment in the book as the team first comes into contact with the horrible creatures wreaking havoc around the world. The final paragraph of this chapter captures the urgency of things to come:
King walked away as the swarm of marines and general overtook Duncan and moved him to a more secure location. With the team due to arrive a Pope Air Force Base in an hour, he would meet them there, put the pieces together, and then turn them loose. But first he needed Aleman for information, his parents for good-byes, an ass-load of weapons for the obvious, and a few friends to level the playing field.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeremy Robinson's website.

My Book, the Movie: Instinct.

The Page 69 Test: Instinct.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Night on Fire"

Douglas Corleone is a former New York City defense attorney and winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition for One Man's Paradise. He now lives in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and son.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Night on Fire, and reported the following:
“You gonna be okay with all this?” Jake says, leaning against a wall-length bookshelf. “I mean the media and all. Been a slow summer on the twenty-four-hour cable news networks. No presidential election, the economy’s getting old. Betcha Gretchen Hurst and Marcy Faith are licking their chops already about this Hawaii hotel fire.”

On page 69 of Night on Fire, Kevin Corvelli’s law partner Jake Harper asks him whether he’s ready to take on another high-profile case. This is representative of the story as a whole. Of course, intellectually, Kevin Corvelli is ready to take on any case the state or federal government can throw at him. But emotionally, Kevin is still reeling from events in his past, including the death of an innocent client back in New York. In order to represent his newest client – a stunning but troubled young bride named Erin Simms – Kevin must again face his inner demons while dealing with extraordinary external forces that include an ambitious young prosecutor, a beautiful but manipulative client, and a national news media hellbent on seeing Kevin destroyed.
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas Corleone's website.

The Page 69 Test: One Man's Paradise.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"The Four Ms. Bradwells"

Meg Waite Clayton is the author of the national bestseller The Wednesday Sisters and The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Four Ms. Bradwells is narrated by Betts, one of the four University of Michigan graduates whose friendship centers the novel. They are just settling in at the Chesapeake Bay island summer home at which most of the story’s events take place. They’ve retreated to Chawterley in the wake of a skeleton they buried during their school years falling from their collective closet thirty years later – a result of investigations as Betts is being considered for the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is one of the few pages in the book on which every one of the main characters in the front story is referenced. The three generations of women in the novel are all there: the Ms. Bradwells (Mia, Laney, Ginger, and Betts); Ginger’s recently deceased mother, Faith, who served as mentor to the other three; and Annie and Iz, a.k.a. “the Baby Bradwells” – two daughters now in college and graduate school. Max, who plays a role in the novel’s present love story, is also referenced, as is Beau, the love interest in the school-year-period love story, and his brother Frank.

The four Ms. Bradwells are simply making dinner together and pulling out a Scrabble board in this scene. The reader is given a glimpse of the extravagant summer home in which most of the events of the story take place:
[Ginger] leads us through the Music Room, the Tea Parlor, the Ballroom Salon. We’re headed the back way to that funky hidden doorway from the Ballroom into the Captain’s Library. A door hidden behind a bookshelf on the library side and behind a large painting on the Ballroom side.
The four friends banter in the way they do throughout the novel, an interaction that is one part competitiveness and one part deep and long-lasting affection:
“Who’d’ve guessed I’d be as able to wallow in my own feelings at fifty-one as I was at twenty?”

“Fifty-two, Ginge,” I say. I don’t know why I know this will make her laugh, but it does.

Ginger pitches the head of lettuce good-naturedly at Mia, saying, “Still, I’ll always be younger than all of you!”
Laney asks about a line of poetry Ginger quoted earlier:
“Those lines you were saying at the front door, Ginge, about the folded sunset, did you write them?”
The scene is in some ways an eddy in the stream of story that rushes the reader through the opening scenes. Readers of page 69 will get a sense of the setting and a feel for the characters, but will get little sense that there is a long-buried secret the Ms. Bradwells have kept that affects them all – a secret long-established by this page, with the first revelation of the details occuring just a few pages later. Nor will the reader have any idea why the choices each generation makes are so important for the next – something that comes, I hope, from reading The Four Ms. Bradwells in its entirety. It’s a novel meant to be a fun read as well as a thought-provoking one.
Read an excerpt from The Four Ms. Bradwells, and learn more about the book and author at Meg Waite Clayton's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Mothers and Daughters"

Rae Meadows is the author of Calling Out, which received the 2006 Utah Book Award for fiction, and No One Tells Everything, a Poets & Writers Notable Novel. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Mothers and Daughters, and reported the following:
Mothers and Daughters follows three generations of women: Sam, Sam’s mother, Iris, and Sam’s grandmother, Violet. Violet’s story is at the heart of the novel. It takes place in 1900, when she is 11 and living in the urban cesspool of New York City’s 4th Ward. Page 69 meets up with Violet after she has escaped from the Home for Destitute Children, has found her mother at an opium den, and has reunited with her friend Nino. Violet, Nino, and other wayward boys sit behind the Water Street Tavern.
“Mikey left on the train,” Nino said, chucking oyster shells.

Violet took a look at him to see if he was serious. “How do you know?” she asked. “He’ll show up.”
This is the first time Violet has heard about someone she knows being put on an orphan train. (The purpose of these trains was to send orphaned, delinquent, and needy children from the city to new Christian homes in rural America. People could just show up at a destination and take a child, no questions asked.) As the group of kids gets drunk on rum, teases each other, and kills time, Violet continues to question the boys about the trains, her curiosity piqued.

The page ends with: She could not leave her mother, not that her mother would ever let her go anyway. This thought of Violet’s seeds what will become the moral dilemma of her story, whether her mother will/should put Violet on an orphan train, and thus sets the whole novel in motion.
Read an excerpt from Mothers and Daughters, and learn more about the book and author at Rae Meadows's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"The Road to Rome"

Ben Kane is the author of The Forgotten Legion and The Silver Eagle. He lives in North Somerset, England.

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Road to Rome, the final book in The Forgotten Legion trilogy, and reported the following:
‘You know what happens. The village is being put to the torch.’ Brennus closed his eyes. Liath. Their newborn baby. What had he been thinking to leave his family at such a time?

‘Why have we stopped?’ Brac pushed past roughly, feet sure on the narrow path.

They ran for a long time, guilt and rage giving them strength. Neither spoke, and they stopped to rest only occasionally. A short distance from the settlement, Brennus at last slowed down and came to a halt. Even the dogs seemed glad of an opportunity to rest. But his cousin kept running.

‘Brac, stop!’

‘Why? They might still be fighting!’

‘And arrive completely winded? What damn use would that be?’ Brennus breathed deeply, calming himself. ‘Always go into combat prepared.’

Reluctantly Brac walked back to where the big man was standing, feeling the edge on a spear tip.

‘This is good enough for a boar,’ said Brennus, baring his teeth savagely. ‘Should kill a bastard Roman or two.’

Brac spat on the ground in agreement, checking every arrow tip was well attached. Then he looked up. ‘Ready, cousin?’

Brennus nodded proudly. It was at times like this that a warrior knew who would stand by him. But a knot of fear was forming in his stomach. Terrified for his family’s safety, Brennus also wanted to protect Brac from danger. As Conall had done for him.

They moved off at a slow trot, concentrating on their surroundings, wary of possible ambush. Following paths familiar to both, they soon reached the edge of the trees. Already it was obvious something was wrong. Summer was a busy time of the year, yet there was nobody out hunting or picking fallen wood, no children playing in the shade.

The sight that greeted Brennus would haunt him forever. Past strips of cultivated land running up to the forest, his village was in...
In this scene, one of the main heroes, Brennus the Gaul, is returning from a hunting trip with Brac, his young cousin. It becomes clear that the Romans have attacked their village. It’s an important part of the book, because Brennus’ life is to change utterly in the hour that follows. Thereafter, his path takes him to Rome, and to the gladiator school where he will meet Romulus, the boy slave, who becomes his protégé and friend. However, the scars of what happen to his family haunt Brennus forever. They also help to take him on a great journey, one that has never been taken before by one of his tribe, or indeed by anyone in Rome. Together with Romulus, Brennus travels to Parthia under the Roman general Crassus. After a heavy defeat at Carrhae in 53 BC, he and his comrades become the Forgotten Legion, and are sent to Margiana (modern day Turkmenistan/Afghanistan). This story has its basis in real fact. Until The Forgotten Legion, few have ever dared to write about what might have happened to the soldiers who were sent further than perhaps any others in the history of the Roman Empire.
Learn more about the book and author at Ben Kane's website and blog.

Writers Read: Ben Kane.

My Book, The Movie: The Forgotten Legion trilogy.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Where She Went"

Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist.  Her YA novels include If I Stay, on which she tried out the Page 69 Test back in 2009.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Where She Went, which is the sequel to If I Stay, and reported the following:
Wow, this test is uncanny!

Page 69 takes place on the street outside of Carnegie Hall. Mia and Adam have not seen each other for more than three years. Adam is a rock star now, a miserable, anxiety-ridden, self-loathing rock star, and Mia is just beginning her professional cello career. She has just given her first solo performance at Zankel Hall, in Carnegie Hall, and Adam, who is in New York for one night before leaving on a European tour, has slipped in to watch her—anonymously, he thinks. But Adam Wilde can do nothing anonymously anymore. Word gets to Mia that he’s in the audience and she calls him backstage after the recital. This leads to a very awkward reunion as the former lovers attempt polite chitchat. But Adam is unable to ask the questions that have haunted him for three years—the new book is from Adam’s point of view—and after a few unbearable minutes, he excuses himself from Mia’s dressing room. Page 69 finds Adam on the street, full or rage and regret, having missed this one opportunity. He’s about to have a panic attack, out of anxiety pills, lighting up a cigarette. And then there’s that familiar voice:

“You should quit,” Mia tells him

This time, they don’t blow their chance. This moment begins Adam and Mia’s all-night traipse through New York City—and through their past.
Learn more about the book and author at Gayle Forman's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: If I Stay.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"The School of Night"

With his three most recent novels, The Black Tower, The Pale Blue Eye, and Mr. Timothy, Louis Bayard, in the words of the Washington Post, has ascended to "the upper reaches of the historical-thriller league." A New York Times Notable author, he has been nominated for both the Edgar and Dagger awards and has been named one of People magazine's top authors of the year.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The School of Night, and reported the following:
The last time I did this test, the 69th page wasn’t too representative, at least not plotwise. This time around, I was impressed by how neatly it encapsulates the whole novel.

To begin with, page 69 gives us the book’s true hero: a real-life Elizabethan scientist named Thomas Harriot, who is living “in quiet and seclusion, with Welsh mountain ewes for company.” We meet two of Harriot’s boon companions: Christopher Marlowe (“murdered at the height of spring’s glory”) and Walter Ralegh. And we hear tell of a “School of Atheism,” of which Harriot himself is the reputed master.

We get a healthy dose of political context, too. Queen Elizabeth “has done something no one was quite sure she would: She has died.” In short, the year is 1603, and from Scotland, Elizabeth’s successor James is sweeping down … and making life harder for Sir Walter. “James favors peace, Ralegh lives for war. James loathes tobacco, Ralegh trades in it. James is pious, a theologian. And Ralegh….” Well, that School of Atheism is a tough thing to live down.

And yet some part of Ralegh still pines for it. “In parlous times,” he writes Harriot, “it is great joy to think upon that homely School, where we were glad to gather.” This fragment of letter will travel down through time, launching an international treasure hunt that draws modern-day seekers deeper and deeper into Ralegh’s and Harriot’s world.

And further into peril. The page’s first line alludes to Socrates’ cup of hemlock; the last line cites the ever-present threat of “intelligencers,” Elizabethan for “spies.” The stakes, very clearly, are high.

Well done, page 69.

And, by the way, I now use this test myself whenever I’m browsing at bookstores. Works every time. Almost.
Learn more about the book and author at Louis Bayard's website.

The Page 69 Test: Louis Bayard's The Black Tower.

The Page 69 Test: Louis Bayard's The Pale Blue Eye.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Little Girl Gone"

Brett Battles lives in Los Angeles and is the author of the acclaimed Jonathan Quinn series: The Cleaner, which was nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel, The Deceived, which won the Barry Award for Best Thriller, Shadow of Betrayal, and the recently released The Silenced.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Little Girl Gone, and reported the following:
Little Girl Gone is the first book in a new series. It features Logan Harper, a man not looking for redemption, just some peace and a chance to forget his troubled past. But one morning his quiet life is upended when he interrupts the attempted murder of his father’s best friend Tooney. The next thing Logan knows, he’s on his way to Los Angeles, searching for Tooney’s missing granddaughter and uncovering a sinister plot connected not only to Tooney’s Burmese past, but also to the boardrooms of corporate America. As the odds stack up against him, Logan must fall back on old skills from the life he'd rather forget. He’s made a promise, and the only way to fulfill it is to bring the girl home alive.

Since LGG is an ebook, and page numbers are different for each reader depending on font size, device, etc, I chose page 69 from my finished manuscript. That page 69 finds Logan in Los Angeles, where he comes across the man who had tried to kill Tooney, and takes off in foot pursuit after him. Only things don’t quite go the way he planned. It’s a good example of Logan trying to do the right thing despite the obstacles he keeps having to hurdle, something he comes up against several times in the story. You don’t necessarily get a lot of character stuff here, more action, so on that front it’s only semi-representative of the novel, but all-in-all a good look into the book.

Excerpt from Page 69:
The man had gone to the right, so Logan did the same. Unlike the roads they’d run on to this point, there were others around now—joggers and walkers and people with dogs. Logan weaved in and out, anticipating those in front of him, and trying not to get tangled up in any leashes.

To Logan’s left, the grassy strip that separated the path from the sand gave way to a mostly empty parking lot. Ahead, he could see the road that led into the lot, and thought there was at least a fifty percent chance the man would turn down it and head away from the beach. But when the guy got there, he kept going straight.

That was fine by Logan. The fewer turns they took, the quicker he would catch him.

As he swung around a middle-aged man walking a border collie, intending to cross the street and continue down the concrete boardwalk, a police car pulled across his path, and slammed on its brakes.

Logan cut to the right to run behind it as the doors flew opened on both sides, and two officers jumped out.

“Stop right there!” one of them yelled.

Logan continued around the back of the car, not interested in whoever they were after.

“You! Stop now!”

Just as he realized the words seemed to be meant for him, the officer from the passenger side rushed forward and tackled him to the ground.

“Don’t know how to listen, do you?” he said in Logan’s ear.

Logan had to fight the instinct to struggle to get free. As much as he wanted to catch the guy who’d hurt Tooney, he knew enough not to mess with the cops.
Learn more about the book and author at Brett Battles' website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"The Mozart Conspiracy"

Scott Mariani grew up in St. Andrews, Scotland. He studied Modern Languages at Oxford and went on to work as a translator, a professional musician, a pistol shooting instructor and a freelance journalist before becoming a full-time writer. After spending several years in Italy and France, Mariani discovered his secluded writer's haven in the wilds of west Wales, an 1830s country house complete with rambling woodland and a secret passage. When he isn't writing, Mariani enjoys jazz, movies, classic motorcycles and astronomy.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Mozart Conspiracy, and reported the following:
As it happens, page 69 of the US edition of The Mozart Conspiracy finds us reaching an extremely important moment in the story, deepening the reader’s insights into the background and psychology of the main character, Ben Hope.

At this point in the plot, Ben has just found out the shocking truth of what his old friend and former army comrade, Oliver Llewellyn, witnessed shortly before his death – making Ben certain that Oliver’s untimely drowning in a frozen lake in Austria was no accident. It’s on page 69, during a brief lull in the action, that Ben is able to sit for a moment and reflect on a key incident in his past that makes him all the more determined to hunt down his friend’s killers.
...And he remembered the day, all those years ago, when Oliver had saved his life.

It had been the coldest winter he could remember. After three years of army service, Lance Corporal Benedict Hope had travelled to Hereford in the Welsh borders, along with 138 other hopefuls from other regiments for what he knew was going to be the toughest endurance test of his life: selection for 22 Special Air Service, the most elite fighting force in the British Army...
Would the reader want to read on to page 70? I hope so! If I’ve done my job well, the reader’s mind should be bursting with questions as the intrigue is now deepened: how did Oliver save Ben’s life? Is there a connection between the incident during SAS selection and what later happened to Oliver? How did Oliver come to make the jump from British army soldier to music scholar, and become caught up in a historical mystery involving the death of the composer Mozart? Will Ben be able to solve the mystery and track his friend’s killers; and exactly how will his military expertise, already seen at the start of the book when he rescues two kidnapped children from a paedophile ring, come into play to enable him to avenge Oliver?
Learn more about the book and author at the official The Mozart Conspiracy website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Finding Emilie"

Laurel Corona's books include The Four Seasons: A Novel Of Vivaldi’s Venice and Penelope’s Daughter.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Finding Emilie, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my new historical novel Finding Emilie is the opening of chapter 5, just after one of the vignettes from the life of Emilie du Chatelet that appear between all the chapters. In that scene, a young Emilie, now a wife and mother, waits outside a cafe for Pierre-Louis de Maupertuis, the greatest mathematician in France, whom the wealthy aristocrat and science-loving Emilie pays to give her private lessons in calculus. She is not inside the cafe because women are forbidden entry.

What are they permitted to do? Page 69 gives a good example. The opening words:
The mallet connected with an off-center thunk, and the ball dribbled less than a meter across the grass. “Oh, dear,” Delphine said, looking up with a pretty smile at the cluster of guests playing a game of paille-maille on one of the lawns of the chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Frivolous, flirtatious, decorative Delphine is in training to become charming, and she is learning these lessons well.
What a contrast between a woman who burns with passion to learn everything there is to know and to formulate ideas of her own! Emilie du Chatelet used funds from her dowry to buy math and science books, and as in the case of Maupertuis, when she needed a tutor, she hired the best.
“You must hit the ball with more force,” Jacques-Mars Courville said. “May I?” He came up behind and slipped his hands alongside hers. “Like this.” He followed through with a firm whack and the ball rolled cleanly across a meter of short grass through the metal arch at which he had been aiming.

The crowd clapped, as sixteen-year-old Delphine turned her face up toward him and gave him an admiring smile. “Perhaps it is my good fortune to be so bad at this that I require the help of someone so charming,” she said in a deliberately lilting voice.
Emilie knew how to milk a crowd and charm the stockings off a man--sometimes literally, as with Maupertuis, who was briefly her lover and became a lifelong friend. She had all the qualities Delphine strives to master, but for Delphine they are ends and for Emilie they are only means. “Be like Delphine,” the culture told young women, useless for everything except the roles of wife, mother, and entertaining social creature. Some fought back, and others like Delphine settled for learning to play the game.

Finding Emilie is the story of the daughter of real-life physicist and mathematician Emilie du Chatelet, whose wild and reckless lifestyle led to a pregnancy at age 43, which took her life just after childbirth. The daughter she bore, Lili, raised as sisters with Delphine, is told little about her scandalous mother, but as she reaches marriageable age, she realizes that to avoid being swallowed up by the superficialities and limitations of her society, she must track down the facts about the mother who so bravely resisted such a fate. The novel alternates between short sketches about real-life Emilie and fictional Lili’s story, as she navigates her way through croquet, debuts, and lessons in how to curtsey and use a fan. It’s easy to root for them both, and to appreciate the many things women today don’t have to endure!
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

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"The Silenced"

Brett Battles lives in Los Angeles and is the author of the acclaimed Jonathan Quinn series: The Cleaner, which was nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel, The Deceived, which won the Barry Award for Best Thriller, and Shadow of Betrayal.

He applied the Page 69 Test to the new Jonathan Quinn novel, The Silenced, and reported the following:
Page 69 finds Quinn and his apprentice Nate waiting in position for a job that’s about to take place. It’s mostly a quiet page, but things just start to heat up near the end.

I love this page for a couple of different reasons. The first is that it’s part of a chapter where Quinn is on standby to do his normal job of getting rid of a body. I think it’s always interesting seeing him work, or, in this case, just waiting for the “go” signal to do his job. I also like how it shows the growing relationship between him and Nate, and how he has come to treat Nate almost as an equal. Granted, there are portions of The Silenced that have a lot more action, but there is tension here, and character revelations. Not a page to be skipped in my mind.

Quinn checked his watch. Seven minutes until show time.

“How long do you think it’ll take them?” Nate whispered.

Quinn kept his eyes on the dark house. “We’ll get the call at ten-oh-five.”

“My money’s on ten-oh-seven,” Nate said.

“Hundred bucks?” Quinn asked.

“Works for me.”

Quinn flexed his feet to keep his muscles warm as he wondered for the millionth time in the last hour how he could work a ‘minimum temperature’ clause into his job requirements.

“Car on slow approach,” a voice said over the radio. Not Donovan, one of his men.

“Which direction?” Donovan asked.

“From the east. Same car passed by a few minutes ago…still slowing…okay, stopping at the end of the driveway.”

“Everyone hold position,” Donovan said.

“Turning onto the driveway,” the voice said.

“Do you have a visual on who’s inside?” Donovan asked tersely, unable to keep the growing annoyance from his voice.

“Man up front, man and woman in the back.”

“We’re moving,” Quinn whispered to Nate.

His apprentice nodded, then stepped back so Quinn could take the lead. They headed twenty feet deeper into the woods, then west toward the corner of the property. There, they hunched down again, this time in a spot with a view of the front yard and the entrance to the house.
Learn more about the book and author at Brett Battles' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Cleaner.

The Page 69 Test: The Deceived.

The Page 69 Test: Shadow of Betrayal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"WWW: Wonder"

Robert J. Sawyer has been called “the dean of Canadian science fiction” by The Ottawa Citizen.

He is one of only seven writers in history—and the only Canadian—to win all three of the world’s top awards for best science-fiction novel of the year: the Hugo (which he won in 2003 for Hominids), the Nebula (which he won in 1995 for The Terminal Experiment), and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which he won in 2005 for Mindscan). In 2008, Sawyer received his tenth Hugo Award nomination for his novel Rollback.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, WWW: Wonder, and reported the following:
WWW: Wonder is the third book in my WWW trilogy -- although, really, in a lot of ways, the trilogy is one big book published in three volumes, in the manner of Lord of the Rings.

The first volume, WWW: Wake, had 354 pages and the second, WWW: Watch, had 350. So one could say page 69 of WWW: Wonder is page 773 of a 1,040-page giant novel -- about three-quarters of the way to the end.

Although the series is intended to be a fast-paced, exciting science-fiction thriller about the emergence of a consciousness in the background of the World Wide Web, I always try to pay careful attention to my human characters. Caitlin Decter is a sixteen-year-old math genius who recently gained sight following an operation, and just acquired her first boyfriend, a shy, gentle geek named Matt. Caitlin is learning to see the world in all sorts of new ways, as the quiet action on page 69 attests:
After saying good-bye to her mom, who came downstairs to see Matt, they headed out into the brisk autumn morning. There'd already been a little snow in Waterloo, but it had all melted. The leaves on the trees were wonderful colors that Caitlin wasn't sure what to call: she was good now with basic color names but not yet proficient at intermediate shades.

She suddenly realized that she was having a feeling she'd never had before. Without looking back, as she and Matt walked down the street, she was sure her mother was watching them from the open front door, arms probably crossed in front of her chest.

Perhaps Matt had the same sense -- or perhaps he'd looked back at some point and confirmed it -- but it wasn't until after they'd turned the corner and were out of sight of the house that he reached over and touched Caitlin's hand.

Caitlin found herself smiling at the tentativeness of the gesture. Matt was presuming nothing: all the affection down in the basement yesterday entitled him to no privileges today. She squeezed his hand firmly, stopped walking, and kissed him on the lips. When they pulled away, she saw he was smiling. They picked up their pace and hurried toward the donut shop.

As soon as they came in the door, Caitlin was surprised to catch sight of a flash of platinum-blonde hair. It took her a moment to recognize Sunshine Bowen out of context -- but here she was, working behind the counter. Another woman was at the cash register; Sunshine was -- ah, she was making a sandwich for a customer.

"Hi, Sunshine!" Caitlin called out.

Sunshine looked up, startled, but then she smiled. "Caitlin, hi!"

Matt didn't say anything, and so Caitlin whispered to him, "Say hi, Matt."

He looked astonished, and after a second, Caitlin got it. There were a million social rules at any school, and apparently one of the ones she'd been oblivious to was that guys who looked like Matt didn't speak to girls as beautiful as Sunshine, even if they were in half their classes together.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert J. Sawyer's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: WWW: Wake.

The Page 69 Test: WWW: Watch.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Zero Day"

Mark Russinovich works at Microsoft in the Windows Azure product team as a Technical Fellow, Microsoft’s senior-most technical position. He earned a Ph.D. in computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and he joined Microsoft when it acquired Winternals Software, which he co-founded in 1996. He is also author of the popular Sysinternals Windows administration and diagnostic tools. He is coauthor of the Microsoft Press Windows Internals book series, a contributing editor for TechNet Magazine, and a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro Magazine.

Russinovich applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Zero Day, and reported the following:
Page 69 is just a few pages after the two protagonists of the book, Jeff Aiken and Daryl Haugen, meet for the first time in many years. Jeff arrived in New York a few days before to investigate a malware attack on a law firm’s computers that wiped out the firm’s records and rendered their systems unusable. Daryl is in town investigating malfunctions in the computers at several area hospitals. They are at a deli in New York City sharing information on their respective investigations and discussing other cyber incidents that have occurred around the world and that may or may not be related.

The page starts with Daryl and Jeff talking about Daryl’s job in the Department of Homeland Security, with Daryl complaining about the bureaucracy, lack of funding for cyber security, and the way that the periodic cyber warfare simulations are basically rigged so that they yield no useful information. Lack of preparedness for a scenario like the one suggested in Zero Day is a key theme of the book.

The conversation switches in the second paragraph to the reason for Daryl’s visit to New York. She feels the hospital problems might be connected with the computer malfunction of a 787 Dreamliner that opens the book. That malfunction nearly caused the plane to crash and Jeff is amazed by the composure of the flight crew, who rebooted the computer to regain control. Jeff and Daryl finish the page by discussing clues they’ve each found in the malware they’ve analyzed, one of which almost certainly links the hospital attack with the one at the law firm.

Page 69 therefore turns out to be a pretty pivotal one in the book. The main characters interact for the first time, they touch on the book’s main message, and it’s a key plot point where the protagonists become convinced that they’re seeing evidence of a much broader attack and decide to join forces.
Read an excerpt from the novel, and learn more about the book and author at the Zero Day website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"The Enterprise of Death"

Jesse Bullington spent the bulk of his formative years in rural Pennsylvania, the Netherlands, and Tallahassee, Florida. He is a folklore enthusiast who holds a bachelor's degree in History and English Literature from Florida State University. His novel The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart was one of Amazon's top ten Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2009.

Bullington applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Enterprise of Death, and reported the following:
Dusting herself off and ignoring the necromancer’s guffaws, Awa peered down at the bones. She remembered well what he had taught her but hated the notion of ordering any spirit to do her will, even, were the necromancer to be believed , a piece of a spirit. She would do as she always did and ask instead of order, much as it might displease him, and with a bit of concentration she saw the shard of the skeleton’s spirit crouching like a little gray mouse in the skull’s eye socket. Yet when she asked it to pull itself together in exchange for a proper burial once she disposed of the necromancer she received no answer, nor any sign it understood.

“What have I told you?” the necromancer sneered, cottoning on to the delay. “This parlaying with spirits you do is pure sheepshit, it’s just what you tell yourself you’re doing to justify to little Awa what she’s about. Now stop talking to walls and raise the fucking thing already!”

The bones came off the floor in a cloud, passing over the table like a swarm of bees and reforming atop the necromancer. He yelped and spilled his tea, falling back as the skeleton dug its fingers into his throat. Then the necromancer jabbed his finger and it passed through the skeleton’s skull as though it were soft clay, the heap of bones rolling off of him onto the floor. He clapped a shaking hand to his bloody neck, Awa staring open-mouthed at her injured tutor. She had only thought it for an instant but—

The door burst open behind her and the bonemen snatched her up and threw her on the table. The necromancer reared and struck like a riled serpent, something sharp and metal in his hand, but Awa did not scream even as the knife bit into her stomach, the blade breaking its point on the granite table as it passed through flesh and skin, shards of metal splintering off inside her, and then the night took her.
This pretty intense encounter my protagonist Awa has with her tutor is, I think, representative of the novel as a whole—one of the central dichotomies in the book is the difference between how Awa approaches necromancy, as opposed to how her master goes about it. This exchange also showcases the abuse Awa undergoes in the first act of the novel; hers is not a happy or voluntary education. Those concerned for Awa’s safety following this scene should be forewarned that things do get worse before they get better…but they do, decidedly, get better, as she finds agency and empowerment through necromancy.
Read an excerpt from The Enterprise of Death, and learn more about the book and author at Jesse Bullington's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Stones for My Father"

Trilby Kent studied History at Oxford University and Social Anthropology at the LSE. She has written for the Canadian and British national press and in 2010 was shortlisted in the Guardian's International Development Journalism Competition. She is the author of two novels for children (published in Canada and the U.S.) and one for adults (published in the U.K.) and is working on a PhD. She lives in London, England.

Her novel Stones for My Father follows 12-year-old Coraline Roux through the darkest days of the Anglo-Boer War: from the sacking of her family’s farm, to a trek across the battle-scarred Transvaal, to internment in a British concentration camp. Scattered throughout are moments of quiet beauty, including a figure of hope who emerges in the form of a Canadian soldier.

Kent applied the Page 69 Test to Stones for My Father and reported the following:
Page 69 falls just short of the halfway mark in Corlie’s story: the events described here occur while she is still living in the bush as part of a laager of Boer families fleeing the British. In the first part of the scene, she has discovered one of the elders viciously beating her friend, Sipho, with an ox whip. Just as she’s trying to decide what to do, Sipho’s mother (the family’s housemaid) appears out of nowhere to defend the boy.
“Let go of my son!” she yelled. Her throat muscles constricted as she hurled herself at him, outlining the taut tendon and sinews of her neck like the roots of a tree. “Let go of him – he has done nothing wrong!”

But Smous Petrus only had to drop the whip and extend his one hand to knock her to the ground, and Lindiwe landed with a thud, like a sack of flour. Immediately, Nosipho and Nelisiwe began to scream, tearing at their mother’s skirts. This was when I scrambled out from beneath the wagon and found myself confronting the red-faced man.

“Stop!” I shouted. “She’s one of ours. The boy, too. They’re not yours to beat.”

For a fleeting moment Smous Petrus looked as if he might strike out, and I braced myself.

“I’d mind my lip if I were you, meisie,” he growled, glowering at me with poached eyes. Then, as if he knew what would hurt me more than any physical blow, he added, “If your Pa were here, perhaps I wouldn’t have to do his dirty work for him.”

He turned on his heel before I could muster a reply, hitching his breeches up around his belly as he strode off into the tea tree bushes.
I suppose it is a fairly representative extract, because it touches on the tensions that frame much of Corlie’s experience: grief for her dead father, confusion and anger at prevailing Boer assumptions about the differences between blacks and whites, and frustration with her powerlessness in the rigid social context of wartime culture – both as a child and particularly as a girl.
Read more about Stones for My Father at the publisher's website, and visit Trilby Kent's Red Room Writer Profile.

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

--Marshal Zeringue