Monday, October 10, 2022

"Under a Veiled Moon"

Karen Odden earned her Ph.D. in English from New York University and subsequently taught literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays to numerous books and journals, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes & Noble classics series, and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture. Her previous novels, also set in 1870s London, have won awards for historical fiction and mystery.

Odden applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Under a Veiled Moon, her second Inspector Corravan Mystery, and reported the following:
On page 69 Inspector Michael Corravan interviews Frederick Boncy, one of the few survivors of the collision between the pleasure steamer, the Princess Alice, and an enormous coal ship, the Bywell Castle, the previous night, resulting in the steamer sinking in the Thames and drowning most of its 630 passengers. (This historical event occurred in September 1878.) Corravan elicits Boncy’s impressions of how the accident happened, and, significantly, they’re not matching up with an account he just heard from the Bywell Castle’s captain.

This isn’t deeply thematic, for the emotional question at the core of this book is about regret and how we live with ourselves after we make terrible mistakes we can’t undo. However, this page is representative in that it points to one of my minor themes: in every event, witnesses almost never have the same impressions or tell the same story. We bring our own subjectivities—our own assumptions and interpretive paradigms—to every situation. (I like to learn what experiences cause those assumptions and paradigms; this is one of my favorite mysteries about people.) In this book, disparities in accounts become important because a group of newspapers coordinate to produce a single, misleading version of the collision.

Furthermore, page 69 does represent Corravan’s method: he gathers up stories and finds places they don’t match. An early Goodreads reviewer said of this book, “One of the things I’ve loved, about both the first book [Down a Dark River] and this one, is that Corravan solves mysteries through solid, good police work. He isn’t a Holmesian genius, he doesn’t stumble upon MacGuffins and dash into climactic battles; he puts boots on the ground and chases down leads, and asks for help from many different sources, until he has enough pieces of the puzzle to put together.” I was deeply gratified by these few sentences – because I appreciate mysteries that aren’t solved by lucky chances and sudden insights but by slow, steady work. Maybe it’s because I feel like my writing career has proceeded along those lines, putting my boots on the ground (as in, butt in the chair) and asking for help. People sometimes ask if I have anything in common with my Irish, 6-foot-tall former thief and bare-knuckles boxer from seedy 1870s Whitechapel, and I guess that’s it.
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

The Page 69 Test: A Lady in the Smoke.

The Page 69 Test: A Dangerous Duet.

Q&A with Karen Odden.

The Page 69 Test: Down a Dark River.

My Book, The Movie: Under a Veiled Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue