Thursday, June 24, 2021

"A Distant Grave"

Sarah Stewart Taylor is the author of the Sweeney St. George series and the Maggie D'arcy series. She grew up on Long Island, and was educated at Middlebury College in Vermont and Trinity College, Dublin, where she studied Irish Literature. She has worked as a journalist and writing teacher and now lives with her family on a farm in Vermont where they raise sheep and grow blueberries.

Taylor applied the Page 69 Test to A Distant Grave, the second Maggie D'arcy mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Saturday at headquarters usually feels skeleton, but when we have a big case — which this is, on account of the nice neighborhood, the mystery about what exactly we're looking at – it’s as busy as a weekday. Dave and I update everyone once we get back from the scene and make sure they know what they’re working on. Then I go to talk to Marty. But when I poke my head into his office, he’s not alone.

Cooney and Pat Messenger are there, Cooney sitting in a chair too small for him and looking much too elegant for Marty’s plain office and Pat leaning awkwardly against the heating unit in the back of the room. He’s pale, his eyes sunken; Pat is 6’3”built like a quarterback but now his blue jacket is hanging off his shoulders, his belt cinched tight in the loops of his too-loose pants.

“Detective D’arcy,” Cooney says, nodding at me from across the room.

I stand up a little bit straighter, straighten my blazer over my hips. I nod to Pat.
Page 69 is the first page of a new chapter and though it's not a perfect encapsulation of the themes of the novel, I am delighted to see that it does introduce one of the novel's central conflicts. At the beginning of A Distant Grave, my main character, Long Island homicide detective Maggie D'arcy, is still recovering from the events of her deeply personal last case when the body of an Irish man named Gabriel Treacy is found in a marina near a wealthy Long Island beach community. As Maggie starts to work the case, both on Long Island and then in Ireland, she comes up against the characters with whom she's interacting in this scene: the district attorney John "Jay" Cooney, the police commissioner, Pat Messenger, and Maggie's boss, the commander of the homicide squad, Martin Cascic. She and Cooney have an antagonistic relationship and when he decides that the victim was killed by MS13 gang members, Maggie finds it hard to get him (or anyone else) to consider a different solution. Marty, on the other hand, is a good friend and mentor and he sticks his neck out for Maggie throughout the novel. These relationships will be very, very important to the progression of Maggie's investigation and to the future of her career.
Visit Sarah Stewart Taylor's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mountains Wild.

--Marshal Zeringue