Tuesday, January 31, 2017


New York Times bestselling author Lisa Black is the author of seven novels in the Theresa MacLean mystery series and two novels written as Elizabeth Becka. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office, she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she is a latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes.

Last year Black introduced a new series featuring Maggie Gardiner, a forensic expert who studies the dead, and Jack Renner, a homicide cop who stalks the living. Black applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Unpunished, the second book in the series, and reported the following:
In Unpunished, Cleveland forensic specialist Maggie Gardiner investigates a series of murders at the city’s newspaper, beginning with a copyeditor hung from the printing press’ roller tower. Maggie functions uncomfortably beside erstwhile serial killer Jack Renner. Jack kills to make the world a safer place, and Maggie can’t expose him without exposing herself. Provided they both focus on the same goal of protecting Herald employees from further homicides, they can continue their awkward truce without bloodshed.

Page 69 opens Chapter 11, in which Jack and his partner Riley (who is unaware of Jack’s extracurricular activities…so far) are questioning a reporter from the paper who had argued vociferously and often with the dead copyeditor. The reporter, Roger Correa, has a passion for his job destined to exasperate co-workers, bosses and the two cops alike. He seems to feel that he, himself, functions as the last bastion of democracy and the First Amendment left in the country. His feelings, as he has explained, are not entirely unreasonable. Newspapers are indeed threatened by declining readership and lowered profits, as well as greedy shareholders and a society with an overwhelming amount of available distractions. But did he kill the copyeditor? He says no. There wouldn’t be much of a point--the paper would still go out, his stories would still be subject to someone trying to shorten them or burying them on page twelve, writing captions he doesn’t care for underneath his photos and announcing them with headlines that he wouldn’t have chosen. That’s what any copyeditor does. That’s their job, and it can be a pretty thankless one.

So while page 69 doesn’t tell us anything about Maggie, it does show us how Jack and Riley work well together. Riley has the patience to let a witness/suspect/informant drone on and on. He may look like a fireplug of a guy, but he knows that listening is the first and most important step to good police work. Jack does his best to keep it to himself, but he doesn’t have his partner’s patience.

Which is why he tends to provide his own, more violent solution to certain problems of law and order.
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: That Darkness.

Writers Read: Lisa Black.

My Book, The Movie: Unpunished.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 30, 2017

"The Fire by Night"

Teresa Messineo spent seven years researching the history behind The Fire by Night, her first novel. She is a graduate of DeSales University, and her varied interests include homeschooling her four children, volunteering with the underprivileged, medicine, swing dancing, and competitive athletics. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Messineo applied the Page 69 Test to The Fire by Night and reported the following:
Page 69 in The Fire by Night is somewhat representative, as it highlights a graphic medical procedure (an appendectomy done under desperate circumstances) and this book is - ostensibly - primarily about medical military personnel and the job they did to win the war. Page 69 falls short as far as describing the book as a whole in that The Fire by Night is more about the relationships in the book. Relationship of nurse to patient. Friend to friend. Commanding officer to subordinate. Allied to Axis. Woman to woman. Man to man. And, of course, individual woman to individual man. I think people are surprised by my novel - they assume it's going to be a straight-out romance and then are shocked by the brutality, the graphic violence and ugliness of war. Some people just have to put it down, they can’t keep reading. Others think it will be more like a textbook, a recounting of ‘this nurse went here and did this and then got transferred here’ - and then they are confused when people have emotions, or cry or break down. This book is so much more because life is so much more. These women were heroes because of what they did while feeling everything that they did. The loss and the pain and the horror around them didn’t stop them from doing the practical, life-saving jobs they did. But we do these veterans, we do all veterans a disservice when we downplay or censor or sanitize war. This is a war novel and, as such, it is horrible. War novels must be horrible, war must be shown as the nightmare it is or we, as a world, are rash enough to jump right back into the next one. But this book is also beautiful. Profoundly so. Because these women, because humanity is inherently beautiful, even if the world surrounding them was hell. And that’s why I wrote this book.
Follow Teresa Messineo on Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: The Fire by Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"The Rising"

Heather Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has written over one hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult and Christmas family fare. Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of thirty-eight novels, including the bestselling series featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. He is also the co-author of the nonfiction bestseller Betrayal. Their new novel is The Rising.

Land applied the Page 69 Test to The Rising and reported the following:
Payne shrugged, the gesture abandoned in mid-effort. “Let’s wait and see what the second scan shows. Try not to worry until then.”
That’s how page 69 of The Rising opens. And since the book was penned by a pair of thriller writers, we don’t have to tell you that “until then” is going to happen soon and there’s going to be plenty to worry about.

Our goal in writing The Rising a book that would hook you no matter what page you read first, this one or any other. Every page would make you want to go back and read the page before and be chomping up the bit to read the page after. Before we know it, later on page 69 Alex goes back into the same CT scan machine that clearly revealed something array the first time.

But what was it?

Well, as the great Alfred Hitchcock would’ve said, it’s the Maguffin. The catalyst that drives the action forward on the part of good guys and bad guys. It’s a secret we hold back until much closer to the end of the book, while planting plenty of clues along the way.
“Stay still, Alex.”

He hadn’t realized he was moving.”
There’s a lot, an awful lot, Alex doesn’t realize. If you turn the page to 70, which we can’t do for this exercise, you’re obviously going to see Alex’s plight worsen. Either the scan is going to reveal something or something else, totally unexpected, is going to happen that further intensifies Alex’s plight.

The very definition of suspense, in other words.
Alex closed his eyes as the machine began its work. He wished he had a happy place to go to in his mind, but he’d never needed one before and the only thing he could think of was the football field, which hadn’t proven to be so happy the night before. Think of that and all he could picture was the bone-crunching impact that had put him here.
See, page 69 moves the story forward by reminding us what happened that landed Alex here in the first place. Notice that the entire scene is written from Alex’s POV. We see what Alex sees, hear what he hears, feel what he feels, almost like we’re lying next to him on that table. So the suspense, the driving force of any story, continues to ratchet up because the experience for the reader is visceral as well as visual.

And here’s the bottom line: I honestly believe that if you picked another page, everything we just said about page 69 applies to every single page of The Rising. Wanna see if we’re right? Well, you’ve only got 397 more to go?
Visit Heather Graham's website and Jon Land's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 27, 2017

"If You Are There"

Susan Sherman is a former Chair of the Art Department of Whittier College, a small liberal arts university. She is also the co-creator of one of the most successful television shows for children in the history of the Disney Channel. Her first novel, The Little Russian, was picked by Publishers Weekly as one of the best books of 2014.

Sherman applied the Page 69 Test to her second novel, If You Are There, and reported the following:
Quite a bit has happened by the time you get to page 69. Lucia Rutkowska, my protagonist, has escaped the textile mills in Warsaw and has come to Paris to make something of her life. She has managed to lose her first situation as a kitchen maid and now finds herself out on the street, unmoored; desperate; looking for a new position. She will soon find it, along with a greater understanding of truth and illusion, science and seances. Page 69 is a gateway, not only to the rest of the story, but to Lucia’s journey into womanhood with all its contradictions and uncertainties.
Visit Susan Sherman's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Susan Sherman & Henry and Bessie.

My Book, The Movie: If You Are There.

Writers Read: Susan Sherman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 26, 2017

"This Is How It Always Is"

Laurie Frankel writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington where she lives on a nearly vertical hill from which she can watch three different bridges while she's staring out her windows between words.

Frankel applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, This Is How It Always Is, and reported the following:
The page 69 test never fails to blow my mind. Page 69 of This Is How It Always Is pretty perfectly encapsulates the issues at the heart of this book.

This Is How It Always Is is about a family of five boys, the youngest of whom becomes a girl. On page 69, the parents first consult a therapist about what gender dysphoria means, especially in a family where the gender binary has already been pretty soundly rejected.
“What does that mean—acting like a girl?”

“Oooh, good question. Well, it means any number of things, doesn’t it? Cultural expectations and proscriptions touch nearly every aspect of our lives but vary, also, for each individual, not to mention the usual social determinates such as—”

“I understand that,” Penn interrupted, “but if it’s so culturally determined and individually experienced, what do you mean when you say ‘dysphoric’? We’ve never said to him that he can’t play with his dolls or bake or wear a dress because only girls do those things. Absent any other influences, it’s obvious to me that any five-year-old faced with the choice of toe-colored toes or rainbow-colored toes would choose the latter. That’s normal. That’s not dysphoric. That doesn’t make him a girl. That makes him a kid.”
In a lot of ways, this is what the book boils down to: Any kid would prefer rainbow-colored toes to toe-colored toes, and yet rainbow-colored toes are only considered normal or indeed permissible for half the population. Why? Answering that question, and figuring out what to do when you don’t and won’t and don’t want to conform, takes the other 334 pages.
Learn more about the book and author at Laurie Frankel's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Laurie Frankel and Calli.

The Page 69 Test: The Atlas of Love.

My Book, The Movie: Goodbye for Now.

The Page 69 Test: Goodbye for Now.

My Book, The Movie: This Is How It Always Is.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"A Word for Love"

Emily Robbins has lived and worked across the Middle East and North Africa. From 2007 to 2008, she was a Fulbright Fellow in Syria, where she studied religion and language with a women’s mosque movement and lived with the family of a leading intellectual. Robbins holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, and and in 2016 she received a second Fulbright, to study in Jordan.

Robbins applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Word for Love, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When I first came to this city, it was all in color. The green points of the mosques at night, the bright seeds of the pomegranates that Nisrine split and peeled like rubies for me to eat. This city seemed to me like Arabic; how many words I learned, those were all the shades of color I could see.
This paragraph at the top of page 69 certainly does feel representative. It talks about both the foreign city that the narrator Bea has come to live in, and also has her making comparisons between her life and Arabic -- something she is quite fond of doing (also, I'm quite fond of doing -- apparently, this is a way I am very much like my narrator!)

The next few paragraphs on this page return to America -- something that rarely happens in this book, which takes place mostly in an unnamed foreign country. I’m going to skip down now to the bottom of the page:
Nisrine had said, It’s good to love, it makes you feel a part of something.

I had wanted to be a part.
This sums up a lot of Bea’s feeling; how to love, how to go from feeling completely foreign, to a part of a new place?

Over the course of the novel, Bea will learn about love, and find it, but not in the way she expects.
Learn more about A Word for Love.

My Book, The Movie: A Word for Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 23, 2017

"Painted Skins"

Matt Hilton quit his career as a police officer to pursue his love of writing tight, cinematic American-style thrillers.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new thriller, Painted Skins, and reported the following:
In Painted Skins we find Tess Grey, now working as a private investigator in Portland, Maine, hired to find Jasmine “Jazz” Reed, who has gone missing. In her troubled youth, while living with various foster families, Jazz was guilty of frequently absconding, and most people have written off her disappearance as another case in point. But Tess and her partner, Nicolas “Po” Villere soon come to realise that there’s a troubling reason for Jazz’s disappearance, made obvious when it becomes apparent that other—dangerous—men are also hunting the girl, and sometimes coming into conflict with each other. Page 69 picks up after such a scene, where it has began to dawn on Po that extra help is needed to find Jazz before it’s too late.
With a Marlboro hanging out the corner of his mouth, Po had rested his hips against his Mustang a few minutes earlier, and took out his cellphone to ring Pinky Leclerc.

The recent incident with the mystery man burning the stolen car and his subsequent assault on John Trojak had got Po worried. He wasn’t normally a man to fret, but that was when he only had his own ass to worry about. Things were different now that he and Tess were a couple. She wouldn’t thank him for his overly protective thoughts, because she wasn’t one to require handholding and would remind him with a stiff reprimand if he ever treated her as the weaker sex. She was tough and brave, both qualities that had attracted him in the first place, but he wasn’t stupid. Strength and bravery didn’t amount to much when you were up against a stronger and more reckless enemy. He wished his earlier notion that he was the target of a hit was true, but the subsequent events had changed his mind, though he should check. The man had been seeking Tess, no doubt about it, and when she’d spotted him he’d reacted in an unexpected fashion. He’d fled, but at no point was he acting like a prey animal running for its life: he had responded more like an apex predator leading its quarry into a trap. Trojak was lucky to be alive. Another more pinpointed hit of the tyre iron and that would have been it.

‘Hey, Pinky,’ he said as his call was picked up.

‘Nicolas!’ Pinky Leclerc’s voice was high with emotion. ‘So you finally got round to calling me back, you!’

‘Been meaning to say hi,’ Po reassured his friend.

‘At least you didn’t wait a dozen years this time.’

‘It’s only been a coupla months!’ While recuperating from his encounter with the deranged knifeman Hector Suarez, Po and Tess had returned to Baton Rouge for a brief stopover on their trip to New Orleans, and had enjoyed Pinky’s hospitality. But since then, Po had been remiss in making contact. Thing was, unless he’d anything specific to say, Po wasn’t one for making small talk.

‘I hope pretty Tess has been an attentive nurse to you? I told you, you want me to come up there and play Florence Nightingale, I’ll be on the next flight, me.’

‘I’m good, Pinky. Tess too.’ Po flicked his cigarette in a drain.
It pleased me when I turned to page 69 of Painted Skins and found that instead of an action scene it was in fact an interaction between Nicolas ‘Po’ Villere and his old cellmate and best friend Pinky Leclerc, and is an ideal introduction to the characters, highlighting their differences but also their deep friendship for each other. It is a brief character study, and a good reintroduction to Pinky whom we first met in Blood Tracks, the previous book in the series. Pinky is a larger than life figure, he is both flamboyant and humorous, and also has a unique speech pattern he is sometimes guilty of playing up for effect. He is also loyal to Po to a fault, and by association to Tess too, and the first person Po would turn to in a pinch.
Visit Matt Hilton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Judgment and Wrath.

My Book, The Movie: Judgment and Wrath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Hope's Peak"

Tony Healey is the bestselling author of the Far From Home series. He has written alongside such award-winning authors as Alan Dean Foster and Harlan Ellison.

Healey is currently working on book two of his Harper & Lane series, of which Hope’s Peak is the first installment. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Sussex, England.

Healey applied the Page 69 Test to Hope's Peak and reported the following:
The character of Ida Lane endures the classic Hero's Journey in Hope's Peak. Page 69 is actually really representative of one aspect of that: the Refusal of the Call. At first, Ida is hesitant to help Jane Harper in finding the killer. This is a classic moment that occurs in most stories, dating back to mythology. The hero knows that there is an adventure looming, and wants no part of it. Then, for one reason or another, they have a change of heart and embark on the adventure anyway. But there is that moment of hesitation, of doubt.

This is Ida's. From page 69:
“Go ahead,” she says, watching Ida slip the cigarette between her lips, strike a match, and light it.

“So what can I do for you, Detective? I don’t get many visitors out here, so there must be some special reason you’ve made the effort.”

Harper clears her throat. “Alma Buford. She was the young woman found murdered two days ago. I’m the lead on the case.”

“Alright,” Ida says flatly, giving nothing away.

Harper licks her top lip. “I’m looking at the historical murders that we believe are the work of the same individual. I happened upon your mother’s case—”

“Look,” Ida interrupts her. “I don’t really want to go into all that.”

“I’m not going to force you to divulge anything you find too traumatic. I just want to see if there’s something about Ruby’s death that hasn’t been explored yet.”

Ida shakes her head with disdain. “There ain’t nothing that ain’t been gone over a thousand times by now. It’s in the past. Best leave it there.”

“I don’t mean to cause offense,” Harper says. “I’m just exploring every avenue. I want to stop this guy before he kills another innocent young woman.”

Ida stands. “Well this particular avenue is well and truly shut. I’m sorry, Detective, but there’s nothing I can tell you. Opening old wounds is no good for anybody, especially the kind I got.”

“Please, Miss Lane. There might be some small detail that helps us catch this man. Isn’t that worth it?”

“Like I said, Detective”—Ida stubs her cigarette out, face tight with tension—“I think you’re wasting your time here.”
Visit Tony Healey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Hope's Peak.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Nine of Stars"

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams. Her latest project is the Wildlands series, a contemporary weird west contemporary fantasy series for Harper Voyager.

Bickle applied the Page 69 Test to her first novel in the Wildlands series, Nine of Stars:
From page 69:
Chapter 5: The Alchemist in His Natural Habitat

The alchemist of Phoenix Village had set up a small lab to explore his art: bits of tin foil, straws, six packets of salt, a stone with a hole in the middle, a book of matches, a mirror, and various pills scavenged from the floor. Only a few of those pills were covered in lint, and he had recently found a roll of copper pennies to add to his collection. He usually kept his laboratory in his bedside drawer, but whenever it was discovered, the night nurses cleaned out the contraband, and he had to all start over again.

Petra had heard all about these great injustices—first, from the staff, and then from him. She listened and made sympathetic noises to both parties but refused to take a side.
I think page 69 of Nine of Stars is very representative of the rest of the book. Nine of Stars takes place in a small town in Wyoming that was founded by an alchemist. Once upon a time, an alchemist conjured gold from rocks, jump-starting an odd economy on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. The alchemist died under mysterious circumstances, but his influence is still felt in the present day. Many of his experiments still populate the backcountry: undead cowboys, basilisks, and even the alchemical Tree of Life.

An assortment of magical types has been drawn to Temperance over many years, including Petra Dee’s father, who is currently working his art at the Phoenix Village Retirement Home. There’s nothing magical at all about Petra. She’s a scientist through and through – think of Dana Scully from The X-Files. Part of her character’s challenges involve struggling to understand the supernatural happenings in her world that her father so fervently believes in.

Is her father caught in daydreams, chasing monsters in his head? Or is he really onto something? Can he provide some clues to a restless spirit that is hunting down the wolves of Yellowstone? Every hero along the Hero’s Journey consults a wizard archetype somewhere along the way. For Petra, her father is that man who can reach into the spirit world…at least, he can when he feels like it.
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Bickle's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Outside.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Alchemy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Ocean of Storms"

Jeremy K. Brown has authored several biographies for young readers, including books on Stevie Wonder and Ursula K. Le Guin. He has also contributed articles to numerous magazines and newspapers, including special issues for TV Guide and the Discovery Channel, and recently edited a collector’s issue on Pink Floyd for Newsweek. Brown published his first novel, Calling Off Christmas, in 2011 and is currently at work on another novel. He lives in New York with his wife and sons.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to Ocean of Storms, his new book with Christopher Mari, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Okay,” he said, cracking his knuckles. “Basically, imaging radar is like a flash camera, right? A camera sends out a flash of light and records the light that’s reflected back through the camera lens. Got it? So, instead of a lens and film, radar uses an antenna and digital computer tapes to record its images. In a radar image, one can see only the light that was reflected back toward the radar antenna. So, what we did was send one of our little birdies up there, ran a few imaging cycles and, whap!” He struck a few keys like a concert pianist finishing a sonata. Instantly an eerie image of the lunar landscape popped up. At its center was a dark-blue mass.

“There she is,” said Egan. “Since the image is so dark, we can safely assume that it’s a flat surface. Buildings or any kind of topography will bounce the signal off each other, what’s called a ‘double bounce.’ They’ll always show up white.”

“She’s big,” Donovan said, letting out a whistle.

“And deep,” Egan said. “About a mile down.”

“So much for digging it up,” Zell said. “We’ll have to descend through the fissure itself, see what we can see from the inside.”

“Couldn’t dig it up anyway, even if we wanted,” Donovan said. “Much of the surface in that area is made up of titanium, zirconium, and beryllium. I remember reading one of my father’s old papers. He remarked that it was strange that these metals were there, as ordinarily they’d require extreme heat, somewhere around forty-five hundred degrees Fahrenheit to fuse with rock.”
So is page 69 the best representation of Ocean of Storms? Well…somewhat. We do get to see our two main characters studying the mysterious object beneath the Moon’s surface, puzzling out what it may be and how they’ll work to uncover it. But what’s lost is the wider scale of the book, the global implications of the impending mission and the cast of characters who will accompany our heroes to the Ocean of Storms. But, all that said, it does provide an excellent tease for the reader. What are they studying? What is waiting for them? What does it all mean? You’ll have to read the book to find out…
Learn more about Ocean of Storms at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: Ocean of Storms.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Critically acclaimed and award-winning author Elizabeth Heiter likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range. Her novels have been published in more than a dozen countries and translated into eight languages; they've also been shortlisted for the Daphne Du Maurier award, the National Readers' Choice award and the Booksellers' Best award and won the RT Reviewers' Choice award.

Heiter applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Stalked, and reported the following:
Stalked is the fourth book in The Profiler series featuring FBI profiler Evelyn Baine. When a teenage girl disappears, leaving a note foretelling her death, FBI profiler Evelyn Baine desperately tries to unravel the girl’s secrets, before one of them claims her own life.

Here’s what happens on page 69, shortly after a new note – supposedly from missing teenager Haley Cooke – arrives at the police station and Evelyn – along with police detectives Sophia Lopez and Quincy Palmer – has to figure out what it means:
“Wait,” the officer who’d told them about the note called, running after them. She was young, probably not long out of high school herself, and bursting with newbie enthusiasm. “It came in with the mail. I took the stack of mail from the carrier myself.”

The young officer took a step back as both Quincy and Sophia stopped in their tracks, spinning toward her. Evelyn hurried to catch up, wishing she had a longer stride.

“I dumped the stack on the desk and was going to leave, but I noticed this letter had no postage. I was going to ask the carrier, but she’d left and -”

“You’re sure she gave it to you?” Sophia asked. “No one dropped it in the pile?”

“I’m sure.”

“Shit,” Sophia said. “Okay, we’ll talk to the carrier. Let’s take a ride.”

Sophia was already racing for the door, but Evelyn snagged her elbow before she could get far. “Hang on. Let’s look at the cameras first.”

“But if -”

“How would a piece of mail with no postage get into a mail stack coming into a police station?”

Sophia frowned back at her, then nodded slowly. “It must have happened nearby.”
At this point in the story, Evelyn and her colleagues at the local police station realize that whoever dropped that note off – whether it was Haley or the person who’d kidnapped her – must be close. It’s a chance to find her – and find out what happened to her. If they don’t, Evelyn knows the teenager’s chances of staying alive dwindle with each hour…
My Book, The Movie: Stalked.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"The Operative"

Gerald Brandt is an international bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy. He is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. His latest book is The Operative – A San Angles Novel. Brandt's first novel, The Courier, also in the San Angeles series, was listed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as one of the 10 Canadian science fiction books you need to read.

Brandt applied the Page 69 Test to The Operative and reported the following:
From page 69:
San Angeles was a big city. Big enough to get lost in. The second was the smell of shuttle fuel with a faint hint of the ocean underneath it. It had been a long time since he had smelled the ocean, and even the faint scent of it brought back memories of the last time he’d landed here. He’d just finished defending his thesis and was coming back from a celebratory holiday. That time, he had been on a stretcher with a straw sticking out of his throat, breathing through the tiny hole. He’d been eating in the mess on a transport coming back from Mars and choked on his food. Bryson was told that a complete stranger had cut into his throat and inserted the straw, saving his life. His only really clear memory had been how it had whistled at each breath. Back then, he had believed he was going to die. Looking back, Bryson realized it sounded pretty stupid. He didn’t even have a scar to show for it.

This arrival scared him more.

Bryson glanced around the door, trying to get a glimpse of what was happening outside. In the distance, a truck with a conveyor belt was driving across the tarmac with some ground crew. They were busy chatting and didn’t look toward him at all. This could be his only window for getting off the shuttle. He looked toward the nose of the shuttle and saw a stairwell leading up to the passenger ramp. Bryson jumped down, running to the door. It opened with no alarms. Maybe all the security was geared to keep people from getting to the tarmac, rather than keeping them away from the passenger areas.

The door opened to a short staircase. He climbed them to the top and exited onto carpeted floor. The shuttle’s passengers walked past him, carrying whatever they’d brought on board, not even giving him a second glance. The stored luggage would be picked up on a carousel on the main floor. He blended in with the moving line and entered the shuttle port. As soon as he merged with the general traffic heading for the moving walkways, he felt more relaxed.
It looks like we've hit a page that builds on the backstory of a secondary character and starts another plotline that feeds into the next novel in the series (The Rebel).

The first half of the page ties Bryson Searls back to the first book in the series (The Courier) where the same scene is described from a different characters point of view. Bryson is the creator of the quantum jump drive, a new technology that allows space craft to cross vast distances in space very quickly.

He has essentially been held captive by a corporation and forced to work on the quantum drive and make it safe for human use. Here, he has managed to escape from the Sat City, and the shuttle has landed in San Angeles. He hid in the luggage/storage area of the shuttle and is getting into the passenger area of the shuttle port.

This page doesn't have the same level of tension that is layered throughout the novel.
Visit Gerald Brandt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"The Abandoned Heart"

Laura Benedict is the author of six novels of dark suspense, including the Bliss House gothic trilogy: The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her work has also appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, PANK, on NPR, and in anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads and St. Louis Noir.

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to The Abandoned Heart and reported the following:
Lucy Searle, a vulnerable twenty-year-old, visits Bliss House against her parents' wishes under the guise of hearing a renowned female preacher. Lucy's deadly infatuation with the house and its owner, Randolph Bliss, began a month earlier, when she attended a scandalous Walpurgisnacht party there.
The brilliance of the day, and the lively air of the small groups of men and women ascending the stairs were a contrast to the Walpurgisnacht ball. Bliss House sat calm and stately in the sunshine, and row after row of luscious white roses bloomed in the garden, soaking the air in perfect fragrance. She and Carrie were climbing up, up toward the clear blue sky as if they were on a staircase to heaven. The joy she felt swept away any disturbing memories she had of her adventures with Josiah in the nursery. Her nerves had been in such a high state, that she supposed that she might even have imagined the animals and dolls flying about the room. Perhaps they had simply fallen from the very old shelves. Randolph had told her that though he knew it might seem odd, he wished to keep the nursery as a sort of memorial to his daughter, Tamora. It seemed right to her, given that she had seen mother and daughter standing right outside its door. Bliss House did not like change. Is that why the ghosts had noticed her? They knew something that she did not. Or at least wasn't ready to fully admit to herself: that she would do just about anything to be with Randolph in Bliss House.

"Carrie, you'll sit somewhere else, please."

"Are you sure?" Carrie gave her a questioning look, her green eyes wide. She was a pretty woman, with her red hair, and neat, if ample figure. Though she was a decent enough housemaid, Lucy imagined that she would make an excellent nanny.

Now why does that come to mind?

Lucy had told Carrie about coming to Bliss House with Faye, but when Carrie asked her about ghosts, she had lied, and said that the house was impressive, but decidedly unhaunted.

"Yes, if you would. I'm sure you'll find someone you know. Half the town is here."
This selection is a perfect example of how Bliss House affects its--for want of a better word--victims, driving some to obsession, delusion, or complete madness. Here we see Lucy wading deep into her delusion, ready to lie to her friends and family in order to be a part of Bliss House. Her eventual life within its walls will become a nightmare from which she can never fully wake.
Visit Laura Benedict's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bliss House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Frosty the Dead Man"

Christine Husom is the national bestselling author of the Snow Globe Shop Mystery series, as well as the Winnebago County Mysteries, also set in central Minnesota. She served with the Wright County Sheriff’s Department and trained with the St. Paul Police Department, where she gained firsthand knowledge of law enforcement procedures.

Husom applied the Page 69 Test to the latest Snow Globe Shop mystery, Frosty the Dead Man, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I barely remembered the short drive home, and that was not a good thing. And admitting it to Clint would be even worse. I lived in a homey 1960s brick Tudor-style house that had belonged to my birth mother’s dearest friend on earth. When Sandra McClarity joined Berta Brooks in heaven the past year, I liked to think the two of them had picked up where they’d left off over thirty years before.

I rented the largely-furnished house from her children, and loved living in a place that had always held a special place in my heart. The home sat in an older part of town where the blocks were plotted so alleys divided neighbors’ back yards. Most had garages that were accessed from the alleys, and others had upgraded by adding garages that attached to their houses. It would be a nice feature to have in the cold days of winter, or in inclement weather. I pulled into the alley and pushed the button to open the automatic garage door. That was the perk I’d added when I moved in so I didn’t have to wrestle with the heavy overhead door. I kept an extra opener in my purse, and always fished it out before I got out of the car.

Clint’s car was idling in the alley as I stepped out of the garage and pushed the button to close the door. He rolled down his window. “Your house is locked, right?”


“Okay. Be sure to lock up again as soon as you get inside.”

It was one of his favorite warnings for me. “Yes, sir.” My teeth were starting to chatter, and that time it was the freezing air causing it. I dropped the opener back in my purse and pulled my keys from my pocket. When I reached the back door my fingers were stiff from the cold, even with my leather driving gloves on.
In Frosty The Dead Man, the third book in the Snow Globe Shop Mysteries, Curio Finds manager Camryn Brooks lands smack dab in the middle of another murder investigation when she discovers the body of Mayor Lewis Frost on his office floor. Dead from a snow globe blow to the head, and the very one she’d sold him that afternoon. Lying near the broken shards of glass, Cami spots a large diamond, naturally piquing her interest. As she works to uncover who killed Frosty, she unwittingly puts herself in harm’s way, with some very unsavory people out to stop her.

On page 69, Cami had been questioned by both the police and her friends and is more than ready to go home. She reluctantly agrees to let Assistant Police Chief Clinton Lonsbury follow her there, so he’s sure she gets safely inside. The page gives a brief description of where Cami lives, and a little about how a cold December evening in Minnesota feels.
Visit Christine Husom's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Iced Princess.

My Book, The Movie: Frosty the Dead Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 8, 2017

"Pacific Homicide"

Patricia Smiley is the bestselling author of four novels in a mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Tucker Sinclair.

Smiley applied the Page 69 Test to Pacific Homicide, the first book in her new series about LAPD homicide detective Davie Richards, and reported the following:
LAPD homicide detective Davie Richards knows that murderers lie, but she and her partner Jason Vaughn stand alone in the victim’s shoes protecting the woman’s interests against all others. On page 69 from Pacific Homicide, Davie is interviewing a suspect in her first murder investigation since transferring to the division.

Solving a murder is a complex puzzle. Davie doesn’t yet have sufficient evidence to arrest Andre Lucien. She must walk a fine line between interviewing a witness who has intimate knowledge of the victim versus harsher interrogation to get a confession from a suspect who is unwilling to give her any information. In this scene, Lucien seems cooperative and has even given his consent for her to search the apartment he shared with the victim. But as Davie knows, murderers also mask and manipulate.

At the top of the page, Davie has just completed her search and begins asking Lucien rapid-fire questions—disparate and out of order—about evidence she’s collected, not allowing him to think or plan his answers. Just as he takes a breath to regain his composure, her partner jumps in with more questions, hoping not only to keep him off balance but also to catch him in a lie.

Pacific Homicide explores issues of camaraderie, loyalty, and the emotional wounds that drive detectives to extraordinary lengths to give the victim a voice. Page 69 supports the premise and illustrates the relationship between two detectives working in concert to solve the case. Davie and Vaughn don’t always agree on interview techniques, but they’re a team with one goal: to sort truth from lies and bring a killer to justice.
Visit Patricia Smiley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Twice Told Tail"

Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series, from Berkley Prime Crime. This popular cozy mystery series features Hamlet the cat and his transplanted-Texan caretaker, Darla Pettistone. Together, the pair work and sleuth out of Darla’s Brooklyn-based independent bookstore.

Writing as Diane A.S. Stuckart, she is the author of the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. The limited series which debuted in hard cover received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, with the second novel winning a Silver Medal in the Florida Book Awards.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Twice Told Tail, Book 6 in the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series, and reported the following:
I’m particularly happy to apply the Page 69 Test to Twice Told Tail. The reason – because it’s on this exact page that my series protagonist, Darla Pettistone, tells her police detective friend that a beloved character has died.

First, the setup. Darla has discovered the deceased in a chair clutching a vintage pillow embroidered with the phrase, Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. She recognizes the words from a poem she learned in high school, and recalls the rest of the poem. And so, Page 69 begins:
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

Shivering a little at that last word, [Darla] put the phone to her ear. “Reese” she managed, “I’ve got some awful news.”

In a halting voice, she relayed what had just happened. When she’d finished, she heard him sigh.

“Sorry, Red. He was a nice old guy. Don’t worry, I’ll make all the calls. How’s Mary Ann holding up?”

“Mary Ann!” Darla gasped, her heart sinking even further, if that were possible. “How could I forget? Reese, she’s not here. She had to meet a customer about a consignment. What should I do? I can’t tell her this over the phone.”

“I’ll take care of that when I get there…”
Of course, Darla has no idea that she’s stumbled across a murder. She assumes our victim died of natural causes. But, soon enough, she learns the frightening truth and determines to help solve the mystery.

Having the dead body in Twice Told Tail show up precisely on page 69 is coincidence. Or is it? I’ve mentioned in other blog postings how I’ve never subscribed to the notion that, in a cozy mystery, the murder victim should be sprawled right there on page one. I never want Darla to shrug her shoulders and view the latest homicide as simply another puzzle to solve. Murder is a serious subject, and I believe it should be treated accordingly, even in light fiction. I want both Darla and the reader to get to know our victim before the hammer (or whatever the weapon of choice is in that particular book) comes down.

Plotting this way actually does take me until about page 69 or so in each of my novels before I’ve killed off that book’s victim. And if you think about it, I have, in a way, satisfied the supposed requirement of presenting the dead body right up front. The reader who applies the Page 69 principle to my books will immediately know the “who” and the “where” and the (presumably) “how” of the murder. He or she can now go back to the start to find out what led up to the death, and learn why he or she should care about learning the killer’s identity. Mission accomplished!
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.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"The Altreian Enigma"

Richard Phillips is the author of the bestselling science fiction series, The Rho Agenda. He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Altreian Enigma, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Altreian Enigma begins Chapter 11. Here it is in its entirety:
As the alarm sounded throughout the Parthian, the overlord felt the brief mental disturbance from a mind that Parsus had not felt in thousands of cycles, one he’d believed he would never encounter again.

Apparently the impossible had happened. His twin brother had escaped.

The council guard would respond, but they would not be enough to stop Khal Teth. Only the combined will of the Circle of Twelve, a dozen of the thirteen members of the High Council, could accomplish that. Fortunately, the requisite council members were present inside the Parthian on this day. Parsus merely had to assemble them to enable the confrontation that would put his beloved brother back inside his eternal prison. He only hoped that his guards could delay Khal Teth long enough to enable him to pull the necessary pieces into place.

* * *
Khal Teth moved along the gently curving outer hallway, the numbers of guards he had turned to his side growing to fifteen as they left the more troublesome of their lot dead on the floor behind him.
Page 69 is representative of The Altreian Enigma and of the Rho Agenda Series as a whole. This is a near-present-day story of a small group of extraordinary humans as they fight to prevent two warring alien species from assimilating or destroying the Earth’s population. Beyond that, this is a coming of age story for a human race that is struggling to cope with beneficial technologies that could tear the world apart. What if all diseases were suddenly eradicated and the human lifespan extended tenfold? Sometimes getting what you want can lead to a horrible outcome.
Visit Richard Phillips's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"The Old Man"

Thomas Perry's novels include the Jane Whitefield series (Vanishing Act, Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, Blood Money, Runner, Poison Flower, and A String of Beads), Death Benefits, Pursuit, the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for best novel, and The Butcher's Boy, which won the prestigious Edgar Award.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Old Man, and reported the following:
I have begun to think that the page 69 test can't fail. I've always found the page to be a fair sample of the book. In the early parts of The Old Man we meet the sixty year-old-man in question. He calls himself Dan Chase, and he lives in the peaceful community of Norwich, Vermont with his two big dogs. He's a former army intelligence officer who, 35 years ago, went on a failed mission to support a group of Libyan rebels. He delivered twenty million dollars to a middleman, who began spending it all on himself. Chase stole it back, made it all the way to the U.S. to turn it in, and was about to be arrested for stealing it and leaving the rebels defenseless. Instead he chose to disappear. 35 years later, men are trying to kill Chase. At the point of page 68 he still isn't sure who or why. He's in Chicago walking his dogs at night when a young man pretending to be jogging tries to pull out a gun just as he reaches Chase. The dogs react and so does Chase, who ends up with the gun. On page 69 he interrogates the young man, whose license says he's 18. He decides to let the young man go, but keeps the gun. As the young man starts to leave, Chase stops him and gives him the hundred dollars in cash from his own wallet. He says robbing people is a stupid way to get money.

This passage, although he and the reader don't know it, is the introduction of Chase's counterpart in today's military intelligence--a young operative on a dangerous, questionable mission. He was supposed to kill Chase that night, but that will now have to wait until a later time. But it is as though each of the two men is meeting himself at a different age. In time that similarity will have large implications for the rest of the book. I hope that readers who make it to page 69 will follow the story to the end.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Thomas Perry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"Fudge and Jury"

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research.

Alexander applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Fudge and Jury, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I did a little dance as she strolled away on four inch heels. Sandi Kramer was impressed with my cakes. By “talk” did she mean talk about featuring Torte in Sweetened? We couldn’t pay for that kind of exposure. Having a story or photos in Sweetened would basically ensure that our wedding cake business would skyrocket.

“Nice moves, Jules.” Thomas snuck up behind me.

I startled.

Thomas grinned. “You’ve got rhythm. I didn’t peg you as a dancer.”

“It’s not nice to sneak up on someone.”

“I didn’t sneak. You were too wrapped up in your dance moves.” He swayed his hips from side to side.

I punched him in the shoulder. “I don’t look like that when I dance.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Yeah. Actually, you do.”

Glaring at him, I folded my arms across my chest. “Did you need something other than making fun of me?”

“But making fun of you is so easy.” Thomas smiled. “Okay, okay, back to business. I’m letting everyone know that there’s been a change of plans. We are not going to open the festival to the public tonight.”


“Your mom raised a valid concern, and the Professor agreed. If someone’s chocolate has accidently been tainted with nuts we can’t put the public at risk. I need to gather samples of every product here that is labeled nut free. The Professor is having me drive them up to the lab in Medford right away. We’ll get them tested immediately in hopes of being able to open the doors tomorrow.”
One of the challenges with writing a mystery series is finding ways to keep the murder fresh (pardon the pun). Since the Bakeshop Mysteries center around food and baking I thought it would be interesting to have Jules’s pastries get called into question. In Fudge and Jury she is a rising star in Ashland’s annual Chocolate Festival. That is until her biggest competitor drops dead on the ballroom floor after tasting bite of her decadent four-layer chocolate cake. On Page 69 our sweet chef learns that the entire festival is being put on hold.
Visit Ellie Alexander's website.

My Book, The Movie: Fudge and Jury.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"Plaid and Plagiarism"

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library.

MacRae applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Plaid and Plagiarism, book one in the Highland Bookshop Mystery series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
On her return trip to the desk, Janet passed Pamela looking comfortable in one of the overstuffed chairs near the picture books. She appeared to be nodding over a copy of The Tobermory Cat. At the desk, Sharon was deep in conversation with another customer—Maida Fairlie, mother-in-law to Janet’s son, Allen.

“Maida! It’s been too long. It’s so good to see you.” Janet sounded overly effusive, but she didn’t care. She hoped her gush would make up for not being in touch before now. Though they’d never been great friends—friendly more than friends, as Sharon had put it—Maida was one of the first people Janet had met in Inversgail all those years ago. Janet often came away from conversations with Maida feeling as though she’d been tested. Not by Maida, so much. Maida seemed to enjoy hearing about life in central Illinois, and Maida and her husband had given Allen their blessings to marry Nicola, their only child. But it was always clear to Janet that looking over Maida’s shoulders was a long line of sober, solemn, and Sabbath-keeping ancestors, clucking their tongues, even though they’d been buried in the kirkyard for centuries.

“I’ll have a look round the shop,” Sharon said, “and leave you two to chat. I’ll catch you again before I’m away, Janet.” Sharon squeezed past one of the hikers engrossed in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Tartan and disappeared into the aisle with the gardening books.

“The grandboys send their love,” Janet said to Maida. “We flew into Edinburgh and stayed with them for a few days before coming here.”

“Nicola told me.”

“I can’t believe how much they’ve grown in the few months since we came to sign our lives away into this book business. Freddy started calling me Nana Jana, and Wally immediately changed it to Banana Jana, and they laughed until they had the hiccups. I loved every minute of their silliness. But look at you, Maida; you haven’t changed a bit in five years.”

“Away with you,” Maida said. “It’s just that I’m wearing my same old coat.” She looked down at the dark gray cloth, darker because of the rain, and flapped the hem. “And it’s more like five and a half years.”
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book? Yes and no. Plaid and Plagiarism is a traditional amateur sleuth mystery whose protagonists are the new owners of a bookshop in the Scottish Highlands. The scene on this page puts the reader in the shop with Janet, one of those new owners. The first line introduces the coziness of the setting.

The second paragraph fills in some of Janet’s backstory and also lets the reader in on her slightly uneasy feelings about an old acquaintance, Maida Fairlie, who is also her son’s mother-in-law. The last line on the page, spoken by Maida as she offers a minor correction of something Janet said, further hints at tension between the two characters.

The overall tone of the page is that of a gentle read, which is true of the book as a whole. The book is a murder mystery, though, and there is a body and there are moments of suspense, action, and danger. Just not on page 69.
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

My Book, The Movie: Plaid and Plagiarism.

--Marshal Zeringue