Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"The Curse of Jacob Tracy"

Holly Messinger enjoys books, silk dresses, molten chocolate cake and well-balanced edged weapons. She lives on a Liberal reservation in Kansas with her Sparring Partner and a cat who knows more than he's telling.

Messinger applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Curse of Jacob Tracy, and reported the following:
My mom used to tease me about starting a book in the middle, but by the time I was a teenager I knew that the first couple chapters of a book were usually throat-clearing. If I could open halfway in, and be hooked, then I’d read on. Usually it was not necessary to read the first few chapters, though I would if I liked the characters.

If a reader opened to page 69 of The Curse of Jacob Tracy I imagine she’d be confused, but intrigued. Jacob “Trace” Tracy has just been handed a clue about the murder he’s investigating, by a sleazy reporter named Reynolds, and is planning to take the information to Miss Fairweather, who hired him to do the investigation for her own purposes. Trace knows Miss Fairweather isn’t telling him everything, but he’s content for now to play her game because he believes she can help him control his burgeoning psychic power.

Trace’s partner Boz, on the other hand, has no reason to dangle from Miss Fairweather’s strings and can’t quite understand why Trace is going along. He makes a snide remark about Trace’s complaisance that makes Trace mad, then guilty.
He hadn’t forgotten how she’d thrown them into that hornet’s nest in Sikeston, but at the moment it seemed more important to find the Herschels’ killer than to nurse a grudge.

But it made him uneasy, in the next breath, to realize he was looking forward to meeting with her again, to pour this latest news into her willing ear and hear what she had to say.

To hear her approval, more like. Just like a damned bird-dog.
So Trace is juggling about four different problems on page 69—which is unfortunately becoming a typical day for him at this point—and then on top of things he has an eerie and alarming vision:
At the mouth of the alley he skirted a small pack of children gathered around a makeshift puppet stage […] A red-faced male puppet was beating on two flaxen-haired girl puppets with a stick—no, it was an ax, with a realistic-looking blade that glinted in the sun. The puppeteer was clever; he voiced the high-pitched shrieks of both girls […] and little shots of red fluid squirted from the curtains to flick the children and make them squeal.

Appalled by this show of poor taste, Trace raised his gaze above the backdrop to the puppeteer, and it was Reynolds, wearing that shit-eating grin, but the flesh was worn away from the bones and the sack suit hung loose over a skeleton[…]
Trace has just witnessed a supernatural re-creation of the murders he is investigating, a vision that implies he’s being manipulated by the source feeding him clues.

So there’s a lot going on, on page 69, but that’s Trace’s life these days: his everyday concerns of keeping himself and Boz fed and housed are being increasingly disrupted by the spirits and the machinations of those who would use Trace’s powers for their own purposes.

I would hope that any casual browser would be intrigued enough by the goings-on that they’d go back to page one and start at the beginning; I made very sure that the first few chapters of The Curse of Jacob Tracy were not mere throat-clearing.
Visit Holly Messinger's website.

--Marshal Zeringue