Friday, June 20, 2014

"All Day and a Night"

Alafair Burke's novels include the thriller Long Gone and the Ellie Hatcher series: 212, Angel's Tip, Dead Connection, Never Tell, and the newly released All Day and a Night. A former prosecutor, she now teaches criminal law and lives in Manhattan.

Burke applied the Page 69 Test to All Day and a Night and reported the following:
Excerpt from page 69:
Carrie’s list of documents to request was seven pages long by the time her cell phone buzzed against the table. It was Melanie.

“Hey, Melanie.”

“Are you all right?”

No “Hello.” No “Hey, it’s Melanie.” Just: “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine. Why?”

“I sent you an e-mail this morning. It bounced back—”

“About what?”

“What do you mean?”

“The e-mail. What was it about?”

“Oh, it was—it’s this dog. On a couch. He jumps up there but the owner has it booby-trapped.”

Carrie remembered how much Melanie had wanted to be a pediatrician. Now she seemed to spend her days forwarding YouTube videos.

“You’ve got to see it. Trust me, it’s hilarious. Anyway, I sent it to you, and then it bounced back with an automated message saying to contact the firm for details. Then I called your office and your secretary picked up and said you weren’t working there anymore. Is everything all right?”

That was the world Melanie knew, because it was the world they had grown up in. If you had a job and then you didn’t have that job, then something must have gone terribly wrong. People lost jobs; jobs didn’t lose people.
I swear I didn’t plan for this scene to land on page 69, but I’m glad it did.

Though All Day and a Night is the fifth book in the Ellie Hatcher series, I think readers will find that it reads like a standalone. It centers around convicted serial killer Anthony Amaro’s claim that he was wrongfully convicted and that the real killer is still at large.

Much of the book is told from the perspective of NYPD Ellie Hatcher who, along with her partner JJ Rogan, is tapped as the “fresh look” team to reinvestigate the Amaro case and scrutinize the integrity of the evidence used to convict him.

But an equal narrator in the novel is Carrie Blank, who opens Chapter 11 on page 69. Carrie is a young defense attorney who leaves an elite New York City law firm to represent Amaro on his wrongful conviction claim. Carrie comes to the case with an agenda of her own. Her half-sister Donna was one of Amaro’s alleged victims, so for her, this case is about finding her sister’s true killer.

Carrie is a favorite for me among the characters I’ve created. On page 69, you get a little taste of the world Carrie came from. She grew up in Red View, a fictionalized version of neighborhoods we know too well, defined by generations of poverty, crime, underemployment, lack of education, and general hopelessness. While Carrie was raised by a mother who constantly told her that if she studied hard in school and went to college, her half-sister Donna succumbed to the patterns of the neighborhood, falling into sex work and drug addiction.

But Carrie’s backstory isn’t a tale about good-sister-makes-good and bad-sister-gets-killed. Through Carrie, All Day and a Night explores how difficult it can be to find a path for upward mobility. While Carrie was able to make it out of Red View, most of her friends did not, including her childhood best friend, Melanie. Despite having a raw intellect that Carrie believes surpasses her own, Melanie never made it to college, in part because of a teenage pregnancy and an on-and-off marriage to a shady older boy who impregnated her. A part of Carrie always feels guilty for leaving her friend behind.

On a less serious note, page 69 also happens to contain a nice little Easter egg for readers who keep in touch with my online antics. That YouTube video of the dog on the sofa? Yes, it’s real. The dog is my French bulldog, Double. And the booby-trapped sofa is probably covered with his white hair as I write this.

Carrie may think that YouTube videos are a waste of time, but this particular one isn’t. Trust me.
Learn more about the book and author at Alafair Burke's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Connection.

The Page 69 Test: Angel’s Tip.

The Page 69 Test: 212.

--Marshal Zeringue