Sunday, June 2, 2024

"Deep Beneath Us"

Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and lived there until 2010, then immigrated to California where she lives on Patwin ancestral land. A former academic linguist, she now writes full-time. Her multi-award-winning and national best-selling work includes: the Dandy Gilver historical detective stories, the Last Ditch mysteries, set in California, and a strand of contemporary standalone novels including Edgar-finalist The Day She Died and Mary Higgins Clark finalist Strangers at the Gate. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, The Crimewriters’ Association, The Society of Authors and Sisters in Crime, of which she is a former national president.

McPherson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Deep Beneath Us, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Chapter 10


She seemed like she was going to walk right into Davey’s house but now she’s bottled it on the doorstep.

‘What?’ he asks her, peering over her shoulder. ‘Aw, naw!’

He’s never been in this way before. Davey always used the back door and so Barrett and him did too whenever they came in for a feed after a long day on the hills, whenever they made a night of it with the cribbage board. The door to this wee pantry or scullery or whatever it is has always been closed. But now it’s obvious Davey was sleeping in here. Just as obvious that he died in here. No wonder she can’t make her feet step over the threshold. Gordo’s legs aren’t feeling too steady either.

The single bed is pushed against the far wall, but the room’s so small the glass from that copper breaking in has left spangles on the grubby sheet. Jesus Christ, that sheet. It’s royal blue, to match the duvet cover and the case on the single pillow, but it’s black with grime in the middle where he’s been lying and there’s a smaller patch of greasy black in the pillow dent. There’s no wee table by the bed or even a chair. Just a paperback and some screwed up tissues on the floor, a lip salve with no lid and marks from coffee cups all over the beige vinyl like Olympic rings. That’s not the worst. The worst is syringes and ampoules and ripped blister packs of something or other that the paramedics must have left behind. And it’s not the weirdest. The weirdest is a Bible there by the bed. Gordo remembers everything Davey ever said about ‘corporate superstition’ and ‘state-sanctioned magic’ and yet right there on the floor is a well-thumbed leather-bound Bible with a bookmark about halfway through.
Well, look at that! Deep Beneath Us passes the Page 69 Test with flying colours. This page is ideal. We find out who the POV character is – Gordo. Other chapters are in the first person voice of Tabitha (the “she” here) and the close third-person voice of Barrett who is being protected from the pitiful sight of the room where Davey’s life has just ended. See? All the characters. Even the dead one. And we find out that Gordo, Barrett and the late Davey spend time together out on the hills around their home, and that their idea of “making a night of it” involves cribbage. I think we get a good sense of this trio of gentle misfits.

Also, plot! Page 69 tells us that Davey died suddenly, that police came, that paramedics came. It really is an efficient page. I can’t quite believe I didn’t cheat to get such a good one.

Besides that, I think page 69 lets readers who would be annoyed by informal Scottish English style save themselves the bother of ordering the book from the library and then giving up on it. There are two “wee”s on the page. I have to do a wee-ectomy on every book to get the count down from realistic to bearable. It’s a wee bit extra work, but it’s worth it.

As if that wasn’t enough, right at the end of the page there’s a clue! A bona fide clue that’s one of about seven that will bamboozle Tabitha, Gordo and Barrett right to the end of the book. Why would a man like Davey have a Bible by his bed? You’d need to read the book to find out.
Visit Catriona McPherson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Go to My Grave.

My Book, The Movie: The Turning Tide.

The Page 69 Test: The Turning Tide.

My Book, The Movie: A Gingerbread House.

The Page 69 Test: Hop Scot.

--Marshal Zeringue