Sunday, January 28, 2024


Jill Fordyce was born and raised in Bakersfield, California. She received a degree in English from the University of Southern California and a law degree from Santa Clara University. While practicing law, she continued to study writing through the Stanford Continuing Education creative writing program.

Fordyce applied the Page 69 Test to Belonging, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Belonging begins with dialogue between Jenny and Henry. Here it is in its entirety. Jenny speaks first:
“I don’t understand how people can do something like that.”

“I know you don’t. Get some sleep and try not to think about it anymore tonight.”

When she hung up the phone, she went out the window and sat on the rooftop. A rare breeze lifted her hair slightly off her face as she stared into the darkness. The only sound was the collective hum of air conditioning units droning through the neighborhood. She thought about her mother asking her to take off her sweatshirt, tearing the photograph, calling her trashy. Her mother had always been absent maternally, unconcerned with all the things that other mothers were concerned with, like grades and groceries and dinner, but there was something about Jenny being a teenage girl, with breasts and long legs and full lips, that piqued her interest. She’d become overly intrusive, and her scrutiny was constant. Her standards were from a different time. She didn’t want Jenny to wear spaghetti straps or cut-off jeans or sandals with heels. She glared at her if she ever saw her touch Billy, even just holding his hand. The words trashy, slut, tramp, whore, floozy were flung at her so often that Jenny almost believed that they were true, even though she was a virgin and had only kissed one boy her whole life. She wondered how much of it had to do with her mother’s own teenage years, and the fact that she’d married her father and given birth to Jenny at nineteen.

She thought about seeing Henry being kicked and punched and spit on, about throwing herself into the fray. She realized that she was more afraid walking into her own house than she was confronting Henry’s attackers. She remembered what Henry said by the pool, and she knew he was right. She started to imagine driving away from Lupine Lane, from Bakersfield. They would find a way to go away to college.

Before she got in bed that night, she took her prayer cards out of the drawer. She searched for the Saint Teresa prayer she’d turned to so often. May I be at peace. May my heart remain open. May I be aware of my true nature. May I be healed. May I be a source of healing to others. May I dwell in the Breath of God.
If a reader turned to page 69 of Belonging, they would get a very strong idea of the book. I was surprised and fascinated by how well this test worked, as page 69 reveals several important aspects of story, character, and theme. For example, the reader gets a glimpse into the relationship between Jenny and Henry, childhood best friends now on the cusp of adulthood, which in many ways forms the heart of the book. The dialogue at the top of the page is a phone call between them on the night Henry was jumped at a high school party and Jenny tries to protect him. We see the early seeds of Jenny and Henry planning to leave town. We learn that Jenny is a girl who is not afraid to throw herself into a fight to defend her best friend, but who lives in fear in her own household. On page 69, there is arguably the most definitive description of Jenny’s relationship with her mother, an emotionally abusive alcoholic. It hints that the mother has some secrets and articulates the foundation of Jenny’s shame. Finally, we see what Jenny relies on to steady herself—the solace of her rooftop and the prayer cards she’s collected since she was a child.
Visit Jill Fordyce's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

"Last Acts"

Alexander Sammartino lives in Brooklyn. He received his MFA from Syracuse University.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Last Acts, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Last Acts is formatted like a screenplay. There’s dialogue, there are many parenthetical directions. At this point the novel’s main characters—the hapless and ambitious father-son duo, David and Nick Rizzo—after many failed takes filming a television commercial for their gun shop, Rizzo’s Firearms, agree to embark on one more take, even after their most recent attempt devolved into a brief exchange of punches. Page 69 concludes with a parenthetical that describes the pair turning toward each other, and this minor movement is repeated as the footage is fast-forwarded and then rewound, ending on the one-word sentence: “Pause.”

Somehow, in an incredibly strange coincidence, this page alone provides an accurate feel for the entirety of Last Acts. The father-son dynamic, the structural range, the isolated language. The dark comedy. The focus on repetition. (Like father, like son.) That final word, Pause, is especially telling: throughout the book the characters begin to slow down more, becoming increasingly present in their own lives.

The screenplay structure of this chapter, which ends on page 69, was central to the book from the very first draft. The book examines the sometimes necessary but always stressful notion of performance—the performance of being male, of appearing successful, of seeming like a happy family, of being in recovery—and this is the first time that the text directly calls attention to this idea through its form. This is also the chapter, I feel, when Nick Rizzo becomes his own character with an identity separate from that of his father. Until this point, his father has been the primary subject of the novel, and much of Nick’s struggles as a newly sober person who recently overdosed have been mediated through the perspective of his father. Here, however, in a well-meaning but poorly executed attempt to save the family business, Nick reveals something deeper than previously seen about who he is.
Visit Alexander Sammartino's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 20, 2024


Thomas Perry is the author of 30 novels including the Jane Whitefield series (Vanishing Act, Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, Blood Money, Runner, Poison Flower, A String of Beads, and The Left-Handed Twin), Death Benefits, and Pursuit, the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for best novel. He won the Edgar for The Butcher’s Boy, and Metzger’s Dog was a New York Times Notable Book. The Independent Mystery Bookseller’s Association included Vanishing Act in its “100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century,” and Nightlife was a New York Times bestseller. Metzger’s Dog was voted one of NPR’s 100 Killer Thrillers–Best Thrillers Ever. Perry was born in Tonawanda, New York in 1947. He received a B.A. from Cornell University in 1969 and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Rochester in 1974. He has worked as a park maintenance man, factory laborer, commercial fisherman, university administrator and teacher, and a writer and producer of prime time network television shows. He lives in Southern California.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Hero, and reported the following:
I think that the Page 69 Test works well for Hero. The page, in spite of the fact that it comes at the end of a chapter, isn't one of those last pages with six lines on it. Page 69 is nearly full-length, and it's got some information, some sincere emotion, and also comes at a moment when the protagonist, Justine Poole, who is the "hero" of the title, is beginning to sense the unfamiliar current of events that is taking her in a frightening direction.

Justine and three of the other bodyguards who work the night shift for Spengler-Nash Security in Los Angeles are being interviewed by police officers at the office because Ben Spengler, their boss and mentor, has just been found murdered in his house. Spengler is a positive figure that all of them are shocked to lose. For Justine it's worse. Two nights ago, Spengler had called her when she was just finished with her first assignment of the shift, and asked her to fill in as his backup because he was seeing indications that the couple he'd been watching over were about to be the victims of a follow-home robbery. Justine arrived at the clients' home first, and had to protect the clients alone. In doing so she was drawn into a gunfight, shot two of the five robbers, and called the police in time to get the others arrested. As Justine explains to the police officers, Ben was probably killed because of her: "He said that the people who were behind the robbery would be looking for me. I think he was right and they went to his house to find me, but found him instead." This is a crucial revelation. Not only does Justine now know a killer is already on his way to get her, but he's already deprived her of her best and strongest ally and advisor. The police had already taken her legal firearm as evidence in their investigation, and things are about to get worse.

Instead of following up on what she's said about the killing, The police officers react to her important statement by asking her in roundabout ways whether she had been sleeping with the boss. When the police officers are called away to help work the scene of the murder, Justine talks to her colleagues: "She turned away and looked at the three men from the night shift. She cleared her throat so her voice would be loud and strong and wouldn't break. 'I'm so sorry,' she said. 'If I'd guessed, I would have been there instead of here.'"

Page 69 gives a fair sense of the way the novel works. It also gives us a taste of what it would be like for a young woman to work in this particular environment. As a reader can tell, Justine is going to get into greater and greater danger, and at the same time, become more and more alone in her efforts to stay alive. Her situation tests her courage, her cunning, and her self-reliance. It will also demonstrate that being hailed as a hero isn't entirely a good thing.
Visit Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Silence.

The Page 99 Test: Nightlife.

The Page 69/99 Test: Fidelity.

The Page 69/99 Test: Runner.

The Page 69 Test: Strip.

The Page 69 Test: The Informant.

The Page 69 Test: The Boyfriend.

The Page 69 Test: A String of Beads.

The Page 69 Test: Forty Thieves.

The Page 69 Test: The Old Man.

The Page 69 Test: The Bomb Maker.

The Page 69 Test: The Burglar.

The Page 69 Test: A Small Town.

Writers Read: Thomas Perry (December 2019).

Q&A with Thomas Perry.

The Page 69 Test: Eddie's Boy.

The Page 69 Test: The Left-Handed Twin.

The Page 69 Test: Murder Book.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 18, 2024

"The Parliament"

Born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia, Aimee Pokwatka studied anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she helped catalog a collection of archaic-period human skeletal remains. She received her MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University.

She has worked at Blockbuster Video, where she rewound and shrinkwrapped VHS tapes, and as a veterinary technician, where she expressed anal glands and once tended to a lion cub from the circus. She has also taught writing to students of all ages, and served as the editor of Salt Hill Journal and The Newtowner. She lives in New York with her family.

Pokwatka applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Parliament, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I don’t know why this is happening,” she said. “I don’t know why the owls are here, and I don’t know how to make them go away. This is what I do know.”
The Parliament is a novel about a group of people who are trapped in a small-town library which is surrounded by a parliament of tens of thousands of owls who quickly deflesh anyone who dares to walk outside. Page 69 of the book occurs in the aftermath of one such attack. Cosmetic chemist Madigan Purdy, a reluctant teacher of a middle-school chemistry class, is now charged with mitigating the effect of the situation on her students. But for Mad, who survived a school shooting when she was the same age as her class, that task is complicated.
“There are a lot of people out there who want to get you home safe,” Mad said. “All we have to do is give them time. And who knows? The owls might leave on their own by morning.”

“And if not?” Harper said.

Winnie blew her nose.

“If not, then the people outside, who love you very much, will find a way to get us out,” Mad said, even though she knew love did nothing to guarantee safety.
Despite her own trauma, page 69 is the first moment where Mad rallies the kids (and herself), reminding her students that humans are capable of surviving a lot, a sentiment that she continues to wrestle with throughout the book. In this moment, page 69 encapsulates a central theme of the novel: the impossible desire to shield both ourselves and those we care for from senseless tragedy in a world where many dangers require both personal courage and communal solutions.
Visit Aimee Pokwatka's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

"Three Eight One"

Aliya Whiteley is one of the most exciting talents in the UK. She is the author of seven books of speculative fiction, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlisted Skyward Inn and The Loosening Skin, and also The Beauty, which was shortlisted for both a Shirley Jackson award and the Otherwise Award. She lives in Sussex with her husband and daughter.

Whiteley applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Three Eight One, and reported the following:
Three Eight One is a book that deliberately moves through a number of styles and genres, so I was intrigued to take the test. Would the contents of page 69 reflect anything about the novel as a whole? The answer was, weirdly, a resounding yes.

There are two narratives at work in Three Eight One. The main body is a fantasy quest adventure for a young woman who starts to find meaning in the odd experiences that come her way. The introduction, conclusion and footnotes are written by an amateur historian, living centuries in the future, who has uncovered the quest story among vast amounts of data, and has decided to investigate it. Key to both texts are small furry creatures called cha. They pop up everywhere, and start to create meaning.

What’s great about reading page 69 out of context is the fact that you get a bit of the quest, but also half of a footnote. These reflect the way the narratives interact in oblique ways to create the flow of the novel. In the quest, the young woman is talking about how she has befriended a group of cha who have welcomed her into their mountain home, and she has no idea why. They hop about and play games, and she’s aware that they have a strong smell. They seem benevolent. In the related footnote, the librarian of the future is talking about the concept of purity within twenty-first century cyber-culture. She calls it ‘a dark forest of meaning’. That’s the only clue to the fact that what comes next belongs more to horror than fantasy.

The narrator says, in the centre of the page:

Every afternoon the cha leave, and they return in the evening. Where do they go? I want to know. I need to know.

That need to know – to explore even the darkest things – drives the quest, the historian, and also drives the reader. I'm really pleased to find that the Page 69 Test works in this case. That page incorporates genres and ideas and fantastical yet also mundane narratives. It gives a sense of the loops and layers within both strands of Three Eight One.
Visit Aliya Whiteley's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Arrival of Missives.

The Page 69 Test: Skyward Inn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 14, 2024

"Invisible Woman"

Katia Lief is the author of A Map of the Dark and Last Night published by Mulholland Books/Little, Brown under the pseudonym Karen Ellis. Earlier work includes USA Today and international bestselling novels Five Days in Summer, One Cold Night, and The Money Kill, the fourth installment of her Karin Schaeffer series published by HarperCollins and nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She teaches fiction writing at The New School in Manhattan and lives with her family in Brooklyn.

Lief applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Invisible Woman, and reported the following:
When you open Invisible Woman to page 69, you’re dropped into a story that has built carefully to this moment, when the plot pivots in a new direction. You’ll come away with a good sense of what’s at stake for one of the novel’s secondary characters, which has a direct impact on the main storyline. But you won’t meet the novel’s protagonist on that page and so it doesn’t reflect the story’s major narrative voice which drives most of the novel forward. This might count as a spoiler, so don’t read more if you want to come to the novel fresh.

On page 69, Val, the best friend of protagonist Joni, has just revealed a long-held secret to her husband Russ. Russ is shocked but supportive; he reassures Val that he’s with her no matter what comes next.

The novel opens in 2018, and the plot hangs on the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements yanking aside a veil of silence that had long kept women quiet about all kinds of diminishment and even violence suffered in all aspects of their lives. Joni and Val have held tight to an assault suffered by Val decades in the past when they were young women starting their careers in Hollywood, Joni as a filmmaker and Val as an actress. The assault locked them into a pact of silence that ultimately pushed them apart. Now, years later, a piece of salacious breaking news out of Hollywood puts their secret front and center.

Joni tracks down Val and urges her to seize the moment and finally tell the world what happened to her, insisting that sharing her experience will empower other women and also strengthen the legal case that’s sure to develop out of the headlines. Val isn’t sure she’s ready, but she’s come to think that Joni’s right. Telling Russ is the first step forward. Page 69 shows his reaction to the shocking news.
Visit Katia Lief's website.

The Page 69 Test: Next Time You See Me.

The Page 69 Test: Vanishing Girls.

The Page 69 Test: Last Night.

Q&A with Katia Lief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 12, 2024

"The Ungrateful Dead"

Adam Simcox is a London-based filmmaker who's shot commercials for brands such as McLaren, Primark and Vice, and music videos for Britpop veterans as well as fresh on the scene alt-country stars. He began his film career by writing and directing three features: the first sold to Netflix; the second and third won awards and critical acclaim at festivals worldwide. He is a graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course.

Simcox applied the Page 69 Test to The Ungrateful Dead, the third novel in The Dying Squad series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Megan leaned forward. ‘Dave said there’s a new drug on the market that you’ve had some dealings with. Spook.’

Julius smiled at her, then rose from his seat, walking towards the hi-fi rack. He reached down, twisting a chunky circular dial on the jet-black receiver. The classical music jumped several leagues in volume, the walls almost shaking with it.

He turned back towards her.

He was holding a gun.

Up, he mouthed.

Bits stared at the room, trying to take it in. To make sense of it.

There were six places laid at the dining room table. The chairs next to those places were occupied. If you squinted, you would have assumed the figures were children. They sat patiently, their arms out in front of them, their heads half turned towards each other as if in conversation. The plates in front of them were piled high with food at odds with their age; there were no fairy cakes here, no childish fancies. Instead, beef Wellington sat in pools of gravy, and full-to-the brim wine glasses waited impatiently to be drunk.

Bits saw, all too clearly, that the children weren’t really children.

They were dolls. Incredibly lifelike ones. Their hair was shiny, their skin a close approximation of the genuine thing, their eyes dead and glassy.

The food in front of them was all too real, though. The flies that swarmed and swam in the oceans of gravy confirmed that.

A wailing filled the air. It sounded almost as mournful as the classical music in the dining room.

Glad of the excuse to leave such a creepy scene, Bits decided to follow it.
I love the idea of this test, and this excerpt from page 69 is a great example of the tone and the subject matter of The Ungrateful Dead. It illustrates well how I try to mix the ordinary and extraordinary, the fantastical and the everyday. The Dying Squad trilogy has always been a smorgasbord of genres – crime dashed with a taster of fantasy, with a topping of horror – and this page captures that nicely. Bits and his living partner Megan are on the hunt for the hero of the trilogy, Joe Lazarus, who went missing at the end of the second novel, The Generation Killer. Their quest has brought them to a drugs den in Manchester; the kingpin inside deals in Spook, a drug which allows the living to see the dead. I’ve always aimed for gritty realism with these books, which hopefully means when the supernatural elements come out to play, the reader is kept off-balance.

What page 69 doesn’t represent totally accurately is the geography of the novel. The majority of The Ungrateful Dead is set in Berlin through the decades, starting in the 1940’s, and ending in the present-day iteration. It’s a city I find endlessly alluring, one with a sense of bohemian decadence that bombs, walls and fascism hasn’t been able to eradicate. I’d wanted to write about it for a long time, and the final part of The Dying Squad trilogy gave me the perfect excuse to do just that.
Follow Adam Simcox on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads.

My Book, The Movie: The Dying Squad.

Q&A with Adam Simcox.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

"The Sign of Four Spirits"

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than forty books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. She is currently writing four cozy mystery series: the Tea by the Sea mysteries for Kensington, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series for Crooked Lane Books, the Catskill Resort mysteries for Penguin Random House, and the Lighthouse Library series (as Eva Gates) for Crooked Lane.

Delany is a past president of the Crime Writers of Canada and co-founder and organizer of the Women Killing It Crime Writing Festival. Her work has been nominated for the Derringer, the Bony Blithe, the Ontario Library Association Golden Oak, and the Arthur Ellis Awards. She is the recipient of the 2019 Derrick Murdoch Award for contributions to Canadian crime writing. Delany lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the newest novel in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, The Sign of Four Spirits, and reported the following:
From page 69:
the salute made him look as though he were performing in an amateur production of the Pirates of Penzance.

Probably not the look he was going for.

“Kind of an odd dining room,” Estrada said as we walked into the room. “No table or chairs?”

The dining room was large and formal and, like the rest of this house, beautifully and tastefully decorated. The top three-quarters of the walls were painted a deep blue, and the wainscoting was white, as was the baseboard and ceiling trim. A glass-fronted cabinet, also painted white, containing glass figurines and fine china, was set at an angle in one corner. The drawn curtains were beige silk shot with blue thread selected to match the paint, and ink drawings of flowers in bright shades of blue, pink, and green hung on the walls. A blue-and-red rug filled the center of the room. The rug was the only thing in the center of the room, as there was no table. Two chairs that matched the ones in the library had been pushed to one side.

“They were moved into the library for the occasion,” I said. “The furniture in there’s also been rearranged.”

“Do you deliberately seek out trouble, or does it find you all by itself?” Estrada said to me once she’d shut the door.

“Considering I came here this evening not knowing someone would be murdered, I can’t claim to have sought it,” I replied as I settled myself comfortably into one of the two chairs. Both detectives remained standing. “Trouble seems to find me.”

“Don’t I know it,” Ryan groaned.

“I hope your date is the understanding type,” I said to Detective Estrada in an attempt to be friendly.

Her eyes narrowed, not looking at all friendly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
The Sign of Four Spirits passes the Page 69 Test but only to a limited degree. At first, the test would appear to fail as almost half the page is a description of the room the characters have just entered. With absolutely no context provided, even a reason they are there or why the room is “odd”, the detailed description has no meaning. An occasion is mentioned, but there’s no suggestion as to what the occasion might be, or what has happened there, although we do know that a murder has taken place, thus the arrival of the police.

But, we do get a glimpse of the main character and the premise of the entire series toward the end of page 69. Gemma Doyle, the POV character, is asked by Estrada, a police detective, if she deliberately seeks trouble, or does it find her. Throughout the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series (as in any mystery series) the characters become involved, usually through no fault of their own, in murder and mayhem. Gemma replies that trouble finds her. Which, considering she is intended to be Sherlock Holmes reimagined as a modern young woman, is the entire premise of the series.

Most importantly, as regards the test, the last two lines on the page give a suggestion of the Sherlock Holmes theme behind the series: Gemma deduces by observation that Detective Estrada has been called away from a date. Estrada is surprised and suspicious that Gemma knows what she’s been doing. Gemma is attempting to be friendly, but just like Sherlock Holmes, she sometimes is not entirely aware of how her uncanny perception can be disturbing to other people. Thus Estrada is not friendly in return.

To find out how Gemma determined that Detective Estrada was on a date, the reader must read on.
Visit Vicki Delany's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen.

The Page 69 Test: A Scandal in Scarlet.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in a Teacup.

The Page 69 Test: Deadly Summer Nights.

The Page 69 Test: The Game is a Footnote.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 8, 2024

"That Others May Live"

Sara Driscoll is the pen name of Jen J. Danna, author of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, FBI K-9s series, the NYPD Negotiators, and the upcoming standalone thriller, Echoes of Memory.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest FBI K-9s novel, That Others May Live, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Meg could have wept when she came around the corner to find an open parking space directly in front of her house, allowing her to park nearby instead of having to trudge a full block or more home, as happened some nights. The frequent lack of parking was the only negative of their house, which she otherwise loved. But tonight, after a day where she mostly felt luck wasn’t on their side, this small sign of some for herself eased a little of her misery.

As opposed to those who lived at Talbot Terraces, if they’d survived at all, she had a place to come home to. Todd wouldn’t be home until the next morning, so she’d be alone tonight, but at least she’d be in her own bed. Hawk was almost never allowed up on the bed, but tonight she might make an exception. She hadn’t seen Todd all day, as she’d been on the pile and he’d been inside the structure. She was sorry she’d miss him tomorrow morning, as she needed to start at 8:00 AM on the pile, just as his shift ended at Firehouse 2.
The story of That Others May Live centers around the partial collapse of a condominium building in downtown Washington DC, and the effects it has not only on those families involved, but, crucially, on the first responders working the scene. Page 69 of the book highlights this last aspect.

As Chapter 6 opens on page 69, Meg is just returning home after her first shift at Talbot Terraces, the condominium that has partially collapsed. It’s been a day of few rescues, and the overwhelming effort has been to find those who perished in the disaster. It’s a perilous job—in a location where one wrong step could trigger a further collapse while the remains of the structure still tower unstably overhead—but one the city’s first responders are more than capable of handling. Meg Jennings, part of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team, and her K-9 partner, Hawk, were among the first teams on the pile searching for survivors. But, for Meg, an additional stress comes in the knowledge that her fiancĂ©, DC Fire and Emergency Services firefighter-paramedic Lieutenant Todd Webb, is inside the standing structure rescuing trapped residents, and could lose his life at any second if the remaining section collapses. It’s exhausting, terrifying, and discouraging work for everyone involved.

To return to the quiet of home, even knowing her fiancé is still on site and she will be unlikely to see him before she has to return to the collapse the next morning, is the balm Meg needs after a miserable day of death and tragedy. Even the small bit of luck of a convenient parking spot gives her a much-needed boost when hiking a block after parking her SUV simply feels like too much effort to manage.

That Others May Live is a thriller based on the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, but, at its heart, it’s a love letter to the dedication and courage of the first responders who responded that day and in the following days, as well to all first responders for what they do for us, day in and day out, often at their own peril.
Learn more about the FBI K-9 Novels.

The Page 69 Test: Lone Wolf.

The Page 69 Test: Storm Rising.

The Page 69 Test: No Man's Land.

The Page 69 Test: Leave No Trace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 4, 2024

"Death at a Scottish Wedding"

Lucy Connelly loves traveling the world, but her favorite place is at home with her dogs and family. That said, she's always up for adventure and is constantly on the lookout for killer inspiration--as in who will be the next killer in her books? She has a master's degree in humanities and enjoys learning all the things. And she's been published by many other names.

Connelly applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Death at a Scottish Wedding, and reported the following:
If you opened Death at a Scottish Wedding on page 69, you’d discover more about the victim’s background and how he might have ended up at the castle the week of the wedding. Or at least what people thought had happened to him. So, the Page 69 Test does work because you’d get a clue into what Dr. Em is trying to discover about how he arrived at the remote castle where only guests of the wedding had been invited.

As Dr. Em interviews the cousin of the victim, we discover new information about his state of mind and how he bounced back from a troubling past.

“There was no reason for him to be here,” Marianne said softly as if she were as confused as me. “…The old Robbie, the sweet one, was back. He told me he was happier than he’d been in a long time.”

This information makes the heroine wonder why the victim appeared at his ex's wedding celebration.
Visit Lucy Connelly's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 1, 2024

"The Lost Van Gogh"

Jonathan Santlofer is an author and artist. He is the author of the memoir The Widower’s Notebook, the novels The Last Mona Lisa, The Death Artist, Color Blind, The Killing Art, The Murder Notebook, and Anatomy of Fear.

Santlofer applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, The Lost Van Gogh, and reported the following:
When I first looked at page 69 of The Lost Van Gogh, I didn’t think it was particularly important to the book. But I was wrong. The page contains several crucial plot points. It is the last page of a chapter, the two male protagonists, downtown artist Luke Perrone and ex-INTERPOL analyst John Washington Smith, are heading downtown on Manhattan’s Bowery. In a page of mostly dialogue, we learn that Smith has “people” in Amsterdam combing the black market to see if a Van Gogh painting is being offered for sale. Also, that Luke’s girlfriend, Alex, has an appointment at the Van Gogh Museum, in Amsterdam, to find out if the painting she and Luke found is a real Van Gogh or a forgery. So, we learn the gist of the story, the search for a “lost” Van Gogh, that the protagonists are going to Amsterdam, and they will be dealing with the art world underground, which sounds ominous, and it is.

What we haven’t learned from this page, is the painting’s backstory: when Van Gogh painted it, how it ended up in the US, or how Luke and Alex found it only to have it stolen again. Nor do we know that the painting had been hidden under another painting, but I am not spoiling much because the reader learns this right away in a prologue set in 1945, as a French resistance fighter and artist paints over a famous painting.

Or that it’s a Nazi-looted artwork and several people are looking for it, including the son of a Hitler appointed art dealer who will stop at nothing, including murder, to acquire it. How Luke and Alex, and Smith, who, for many pages, appear to be at cross-purposes, are swept up in this dangerous contemporary tale of post-war stolen art, or if they will survive it, are the questions that drive a story which mixes historical fact with fiction, toward a dramatic and explosive ending.
Visit Jonathan Santlofer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue