Wednesday, May 20, 2020

"The Good Stranger"

Dete Meserve is the award-winning, bestselling author of three novels in the Kate Bradley Mystery Series: Good Sam, Perfectly Good Crime, and The Good Stranger, and a fourth standalone mystery/suspense novel The Space Between. Her first non-fiction book, Random Acts of Kindness, co-authored with journalist Rachel Greco was published in March 2019.

Meserve applied the Page 69 Test to The Good Stranger and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Good Stranger, reporter Kate Bradley, who’s just moved from Los Angeles to Manhattan to take a position at a national news network, gets a call from a clerk at Purple Payday Loans saying that a woman is there paying off strangers’ payday loans. Up until now, thousands of mysterious good things are happening throughout Manhattan but no one has any solid clues about who could be behind it. This is the first time that Kate—if she moves fast enough—could catch the person in action. And the first time she has a description of the suspected good Samaritan. The clerk tells her: “She’s got big white sunglasses. Look expensive. Her hair is covered by a red scarf. You know, like Jackie O. or some kind of old-time movie star.”

But Kate has only been in Manhattan a few weeks. How can she navigate her way across town before the woman leaves? She leans on Scott Jameson, the host of Wonders of the World, an action-filled natural wonders series, who knows “a fast way.” This is one of many ways Scott shows he’s not only a useful partner—he knows shortcuts through the city—but that he’s also willing to drop everything to join her in her quest to find the anonymous people behind these escalating gifts.

Also, page 69 is an example of the fast-paced nature of the book. When you set out to write a mystery which focuses on goodness, readers can wrongly assume that the story and writing might be treacly, slow-paced and not entertaining. Page 69 proves that you can use the familiar tricks of a “procedural”—a ticking clock, a race-across town, a first-person but obscured sighting of the suspect—and apply them to a story where we aren’t tracking a killer or robber, but someone leaving thousands of mysterious and anonymous gifts throughout Manhattan.

Page 69 also allows me to give readers a subtle hint about the person behind the mystery. By elevating her description, “…you know, like Jackie O. or some kind of old-time movie star,” I’m hoping readers find her mysterious and admirable. And finding out who she is, whether she’s working alone or with a group, and why she’s doing this will hopefully keep readers turning pages until the very end.
Visit Dete Meserve's website.

--Marshal Zeringue