Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Plot Boiler"

Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Stuckart a/k/a Brandon now lives in South Florida.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Plot Boiler, Book 5 in the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series, and reported the following:
Fortuitously, Page 69 of Plot Boiler starts off a new chapter. Chapter 6, to be exact. We begin our test neatly at the beginning of a scene, with our protagonist/amateur sleuth, Darla Pettistone. The owner of Pettistone’s Fine Books is confabbing with her barista, Robert, in the bookstore’s new coffee bar. Of course, Hamlet the cat is also hanging out there.
“Robert, you ready to play corporate spy and try to figure out what’s so special about this coffee?”

Smiling, Darla shook the bag of roasted beans that she’d bought from Perky’s a couple of days earlier for an outrageous price. It was about thirty minutes to opening time on Thursday morning, meaning it was just Darla, Robert, and Hamlet upstairs in the coffee bar—and, once again, Hamlet seemed overly interested in the special blend. He had leaped onto the bar top and was moving cautiously toward the bag she held. Ignoring Darla, he put out a large, furry paw so that he was almost—but not quite—touching the sack.

Like her sister used to do on road trips when they were kids, just to start a fight, Darla thought with a shake of her head.
On Page 69, we’re learning that Darla and Robert are in some sort of competition with a local coffee shop, and that the always-clever Hamlet has suspicions of his own about Perky’s top-secret blend of beans. No one is dead yet; in fact, we’re not going to see the actual murder in this book until quite a few more pages from this point. For now, we’re aware of conflict brewing (pardon the coffee pun!), but a killer has not yet reared his diabolical head.

Is this bad? Only if the reader is an adrenaline junkie. Hopefully, he or she is intrigued enough by the potential corporate battle-in-the-making on Page 69 to start at the beginning, secure in the knowledge that someone eventually is going to pay the ultimate price in this retail war (can’t have a murder mystery without a victim, right?).

That said, a question I often hear asked is if the slower, character-driven road to murder that is often found in cozies trivializes that crime? Isn’t murder scarier, more real, when it slaps you with a bloody hand right from the start of the story?

I’ve talked about this before, and I still say, no. Rather, the deliberate pace such as found in my stories allows the reader a chance to learn about the future corpse and to begin to care about him. By the time the victim is discovered, both the fictional sleuth and the reader are saddened, and both have similar vested interests now in solving the crime.

And thus, murder has become very personal, and very real, indeed.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ali Brandon--AKA Diane A.S. Stuckart--website.

Coffee with a Canine: Diane Stuckart & Ranger, Delta, Oliver and Paprika.

My Book, The Movie: Double Booked for Death.

The Page 69 Test: Words with Fiends.

--Marshal Zeringue