Tuesday, December 22, 2020

"The Man in the Microwave Oven"

Susan Cox is a former journalist. She has also been marketing and public relations director for a safari park, a fundraiser for non-profit organizations, and the president of the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Attractions Association. She considers herself transcontinental and transatlantic, equally at home in San Francisco and Florida and with a large and boisterous extended family in England. She frequently wears a Starfleet communicator pin, just in case. Her first novel, The Man on the Washing Machine, won the 2014 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition.

Cox applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Man in the Microwave Oven, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Aromas had made it onto the tourist trail after the publicity of a few months ago, and Katrina’s murder only made a brief dip in the number of our customers. We were busy again at the end of the week. I asked Haruto to add a couple of extra half days to his work schedule, and Davie was still on for three afternoons a week, but I needed at least two more part-timers. I’d been reluctant to hire anyone in case the increased tourist business was temporary. Then I'd need to lay them off, which I wouldn’t have the heart to do, and I’d be worse off than before. My former partner had left the store in some debt. It wasn’t a huge amount, and I could have paid it off from my personal funds, but it had become a point of pride to get Aromas into the black and prosperous.

While I did some sums on the back of an envelope, I also wondered who—besides me—had a reason to kill Katrina. I scribbled over the numbers to make a list of potential killers. It could have been someone we knew nothing about, like one of the ex-CEO’s maybe. But, if it wasn’t random—and Nat’s idea about her briefcase seemed to bear that out—it had to be someone who knew where she lived, who knew she’d be parked on the street, and who knew she’s be leaving for work at five in the morning. Nat was right; it wasn’t business, it was personal.
The Page 69 Test doesn’t work completely because it makes the book seem gentler that it is. This page does explain some important aspects of the story--that Theo is a business owner with some money troubles, that she had a reason to be suspected of Katrina’s murder, and she’s starting to puzzle out who might have done it. Those elements of the novel are blown out of the water by later events, including some long-hidden family secrets she’s unaware of on page 69. One of the important parts of Theo’s story is that she is living undercover—she is hiding from the tabloid press and a disastrous family tragedy in England. The difficulty of keeping those secrets from her new friends is a constant undercurrent and tends to make the benign-seeming events of her day-to-day life deceptive.
Visit Susan Cox's website.

--Marshal Zeringue