Saturday, November 19, 2022

"An Unforgiving Place"

Claire Kells is an author, a physician, and an avid open-water swimmer. She's rather obsessed with the great outdoors, even though she's scared to walk in the woods at night. Aside from wilderness adventures, her favorite things to write about are twisty plots, flawed characters, and romantic tension. She lives in Virginia with her family.

Kells applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, An Unforgiving Place, and reported the following:
From page 69:
His lips curled up in a smile as he handed me one of the spinach wraps. As soon as I took that first bite, I realized how hungry I was. It had been a grueling day, with more hard hours to come. Now that the rangers had left, I wondered if the wolves were feeling emboldened. I could still hear them howling in the distance, a lonely chatter that rolled through the valley.

When we’d finished our dinner, I looked back at the final resting place of Tim and Kelsey Greer. In some ways, it was a serene setting—the river, the white spruce, the vast Alaska wilderness. The sky was a dazzling blue.

But I’d been doing this job long enough to suspect that they hadn’t died peaceful deaths. The toxic berries. The wounds on their wrists. Their bodies prostrated on a riverbed of rock and silt.

Something sinister had happened here.

The question was, what?
I feel like I got exceptionally lucky with the Page 69 Test; it almost reads like my jacket copy! It nicely captures the “bones” of my novel: the setting, plot, and tone. First, it features the two main characters sharing a meal on some desolate backcountry trail, which they do often over the course of their investigation. I tend to have a spare writing style, which also comes across here. Setting plays a critical role in my mystery series, since all the books are set in National Parks, and I’m pleased that I managed to mention the “Alaska wilderness” on this page, too.

This page also sums up the “hook” of the story’s central murder mystery, which is important because my books tend to start with a missing person. In other words, I don’t tend to have a body on the first page. There are also some potential twists mentioned here that a reader can look forward to—the few clues that may or may not be important, the hint of something sinister.

Lastly, I like that this page shows my main character pondering the case in its early stages. This is something she does throughout the series since it’s from her perspective that the stories are told.

I do think that if a reader applied the Page 69 Test to this particular book, they would know exactly what they were getting!
Visit Claire Kells's website.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Underwater.

--Marshal Zeringue