Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"The Impersonator"

Mary Miley is the winner of the 2012 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Novel Competition. She grew up in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and France, and worked her way through the College of William and Mary in Virginia as a costumed tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg. After completing her masters in history, she worked at the museum and taught American history at Virginia Commonwealth University. As Mary Miley Theobald, she has published numerous nonfiction books and articles on history, travel, and business topics.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Impersonator, her first novel, and reported the following:
All right, I cheated. It starts on 69 and falls into 70. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have made any sense. Even then, it needs explaining ... The main character is talking to her phony uncle Oliver, the unscrupulous man who has hired her to play his long-lost niece so he can get hold of her inheritance. She’s asking him about the original search for the missing girl, seven years earlier. It’s a significant passage because it shows Oliver’s ruthlessness for the first time—he’s been relatively nice up until now. The actress portraying Jessie realizes she could be in danger from Oliver as well as from whoever has killed the heiress—if, indeed, the heiress is really dead. She may have run away seven years ago and be planning to return on her 21st birthday, which falls in just a couple weeks.
“A few days ago, I walked along the cliff south of the house. When Jessie went missing, did they search all those crevices along the edge?”

“Naturally. They even lowered lanterns to the bottom of the deeper ones. Why do you ask?”

“I think Jessie’s dead.”

“I told you that in Omaha.”

“I think she was killed.”

“A distinct possibility,” he said carelessly. I hated him.

“I think she stumbled into something criminal and was murdered, like the Indian girl.”

“Are you going ga-ga on me? That dead squaw has nothing to do with Jessie. It was some tribal feud.”

“That’s just what the lazy sheriff said to avoid an investigation.”

“And how do you know that?”

“I talked to some of her people on the reservation a few days ago. I rode over with the stable boy.”

His eyes narrowed as he contemplated that. “You’ve been snooping?”

“A Chinese girl was also strangled a few years ago along Dexter’s waterfront. Her father believes she was involved in something illegal. I talked to him this afternoon. I’m sure these two murders are related, and I think Jessie’s disappearance is too. Dexter is a pretty small town to have three young women killed in a seven-year span. It can’t be coincidence.”

Oliver hoisted his bulk from behind the desk and transported himself to my side. His face grew mottled with the effort of controlling his rage, and his breathing became uneven. “You unspeakable little tramp. How dare you traipse around playing detective? Your job is to impersonate my niece, not to stir up trouble all over town.”

Without warning, he slapped me. Twice. Hard.

“I don’t give a tinker’s damn about who’s dead and who’s not, but I know someone who is going to be dead very soon if she doesn’t play the part she was hired to play.”

And when I’d finished playing that part, when Oliver’s pudgy fingers were securely wrapped around a large chunk of Carr money, would he decide that a dead accomplice was safer than a live one?
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Miley's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Mary Miley.

--Marshal Zeringue