Friday, June 3, 2011

"Secret of the White Rose"

Stefanie Pintoff is the Edgar® award-winning author of three novels, most recently Secret of the White Rose. Her work has also won the Washington Irving Book Prize and earned nominations for the Anthony, Macavity, and Agatha awards. A former attorney and academic, she now writes full-time and lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side with her husband, daughter, and their family dog.

Pintoff applied the Page 69 Test to Secret of the White Rose and reported the following:
From page 69:
The General’s blue eyes were alert behind his wire-rimmed spectacles, and though his words continued to be abrupt, there was now genuine curiosity behind them. “I understand your point. But no one has a more compelling motive than Drayson. Good God, man – his very life is at stake.”

“Yes,” I replied calmly, “but the problem is: Drayson doesn’t value his own life.”

“What do you mean?”

“I interviewed him this morning, sir. I admit, it’s hard for rational men to understand – but I believe he’s prepared to die for his cause. In fact, he wants to become a martyr – as he puts it.”

“The city is happy to oblige him,” the General groused. “That doesn’t mean his followers don’t want to save him.”
In the exchange above, Detective Simon Ziele is speaking with “The General” – as New York City Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham was usually called. The year is 1906. And they are discussing the anarchist Alexander Drayson.

Drayson has been the defendant in a sensationalist murder trial, charged with killing five innocents when a dynamite bomb intended for Andrew Carnegie exploded prematurely. Outraged citizens believed that Drayson’s trial could have only one result: conviction followed swiftly by death in the electric chair. So when the presiding judge is killed on the eve of jury deliberations, Drayson is the obvious suspect, accused of orchestrating the murder from his jail cell.

The police brass have tapped Ziele to help with the case, hoping to take advantage of his connections to his old immigrant neighborhood, which is now a breeding ground for anarchists. And early criminal profiler Alistair Sinclair is also involved: the murdered judge is a long-time friend, and Alistair is soon consumed by the rare opportunity to analyze how the terrorist mind is formed. (The early anarchists were often called terrorists, and there are some marked similarities between their tactics and those used by terrorists today).

The conversation above highlights the conflict between Ziele and the General (who refuses to consider other theories or alternative suspects) as well as the need to understand the anarchist mindset if this case is to be solved. Both issues are only going to complicate Ziele’s investigation further – as more violence unnerves the city and the body count continues to rise.

So yes, page 69 is a fair representation of the novel as a whole – and I’d like to think readers would continue on.
Learn more about the book and author at Stefanie Pintoff's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue