Sunday, June 29, 2014

"Black Current"

Karen Keskinen was born in Salinas, California. She has also lived in California’s San Joaquin Valley and in Wellington, New Zealand. She now resides in Santa Barbara where she is a full-time writer. She is the author of Blood Orange and Black Current.

Keskinen applied the Page 69 Test to Black Current and reported the following:
From Page 69:
The single sheet of paper was cream-colored. Thick and textured, it was of better quality than the envelope. I unfolded it. And for several seconds, I couldn’t breathe.

Your brother did not kill himself.

What are you going to do about it?
Since at least as early as 1862, we readers have adored a detective mystery. You see, 1862 was the year “The Notting Hill Mystery” was first published in Once A Week magazine.

But if we love a good mystery, we often love a good mystery series even more. In a series, we readers come to know the detective, her sidekick, and their fellow characters over time. We relish meeting up with our people again and again, preferably under hair-raising circumstances. Mystery readers haven’t changed much since 1862.

We haven’t changed much, but the zeitgeist has. After “The Notting Hill Mystery” was published, Freud strode through our collective unconscious, laying down his huge footprints. Popular psychology, our new religion, came hard on Freud’s heels, leaving a trail of angst and tears. Never would we view transgression in the same way again. And now we possess a robust appetite for knowledge about the characters’ off-page struggles, failures, losses, and sins.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wasn’t charged with the task of detailing the biography of Sherlock Holmes. His readers didn’t care to know about the detective’s infancy, his parents’ misbehaviors, or his childhood traumas. Modern readers, on the other hand, are hungry for all that. It’s not enough for us to know our detective has a wound. We want to know all about that injury, how it occurred, and how the healing is progressing - or not.

Of course, there are murders to be solved in the meantime, and the detective’s personal story can take a back seat. We are happy to meander through the chapters of the P.I.’s past life, exploring his or her psyche book by book, at a leisurely pace. But be assured, explore it we will.

In Black Current, page 69 takes up that underground story. Jaymie Zarlin has been struggling to come to terms with her brother’s death for three years, but till now she hasn’t questioned the facts surrounding it. The coroner’s judgment was unequivocal, after all: Brodie Zarlin hanged himself in the downtown jail.

For three years, Jaymie has had plenty of guilt to reckon with: why didn’t she step in sooner - or do more - or understand the severity of Brodie’s illness? But until page 69, she’d never questioned the verdict of suicide.

Now, the world wobbles on its axis. Brodie did not hang himself. And his death was no accident, either: you don’t accidentally place your neck in a noose. Jaymie’s world wobbles on its axis, and from page 69 onwards, it will not be put right.

Brodie Zarlin was murdered. Somebody out there knows all about it - and is ready to sing.
Visit Karen Keskinen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue