Monday, April 15, 2024

"The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers"

Samuel Burr is a TV producer who has worked on popular factual shows including the BAFTA-nominated Secret Life of 4-Year-Olds. Burr's writing was selected for Penguin's WriteNow scheme and in 2021 he graduated from the Faber Academy. He previously studied at Westminster Film School.

Burr applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers, and reported the following:
They say puzzling is good for the old noggin,” the driver declared. “Stops you going doolally when you’re old.”

On page 69 of The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers, two best friends meet for the first time. But, as we uncover later in the book, ‘all best friends were strangers once’. In this scene, set in 1980, Pip Allsbrook (the revered crossword compiler from The Times) has hailed a taxi on Westminster Bridge in London. The driver behind the wheel, unusually in those days, is a woman. Nancy Stone isn’t like Pip. She lives a relatively secluded life with her overbearing mother in the East End and is the secretary of a fan club for a classic TV lothario she’s not ashamed to say she has the hots for. “What I wouldn’t give for a night with that man,” she declares, halfway down the page. And yet, these two women, while on the surface appear very different, have something quite extraordinary in common. They’re both exceptionally bright and are both operating in male worlds. Pip has fought hard to build her reputation as the nation’s most revered (even feared) crossword setter in the old-fashioned broadsheet press. And dear Nancy faces constant misogyny on the roads as she whips around the city in her black cab. “You wanna look where you’re pointing that thing,” a disgruntled male motorist shouts at her through his window when she cuts him off. “It’s not a shopping trolly.”

Not only do we touch on some of the key themes of the book on this page – the allure of puzzles, the feminist experience – we also witness a meeting of minds and the beginning of one of the most important, if unlikely, friendships in the book. Ultimately . . . this is a book about the greatest puzzle of all – finding our place in the world. I hope readers are encouraged to keep reading beyond the 69th page…!
Visit Samuel Burr's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2024

"The World Entire"

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry. In 2019, Perry was the first female writer invited to speak at the venerable Men of Mystery Event. Her short story, "The Kick The Bucket Tour" made the Distinguished Mystery Stories of 2018 list in The Best Mystery Stories.

Perry lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The World Entire, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The World Entire, Ascher Lieb–protagonist, narrator of the novel, orphan, student of mortuary-science, and reformed liar is being led through the back corridors of a mortuary. A mortuary technician friend of Ascher’s boyfriend, Isaac, leads her to the room in which Ascher will spend the next six to eight hours performing shemira–the Jewish ritual of watching over the dead–in this instance––the body of the woman Ascher and Isaac found murdered the day before.

Ascher arrives at the mortuary unsettled and unsure. As a former Jewish burial society volunteer, she’s bathed and prepared the dead for burial, but Ascher has never shared a huge chunk of one-on-one time with a dead person. And she and Isaac had an ugly argument: Isaac is sure the bloody dog they found next to the ravaged woman killed her.

Ascher is sure that the dog is innocent. Now the officious woman leading Ascher through the mortuary is behaving more like a rival than the casual friend Isaac said she was. Are Isaac and this woman closer than he told Ascher?
The woman gestures at two doors with “Biohazard” and “Keep These Doors Closed At All Times” signs screwed into them at the hallway’s end as if she is about to tell me something important about them––then she elbows the wall-panel.

One of the doors gasps open to another hallway.

“I should have mentioned that the restroom is in the back where you came in. The plumbing’s old, so make sure not to flush any tampons or menstrual products.”

Is she joking? Or do I give off a menstrual-product-flusher vibe?

… I follow her past the door to the lounge/kitchen and three more doors, and she speaks again.

“Use of electronics is forbidden when you’re with the decedent––but I’m sure you know that. Just make sure your phone is turned off before you enter, and don’t leave the memorial candle burning if you step out––even for a minute. It’s a fire hazard. And don’t forget to sign in and sign out when you leave. Okay?”

“…Blow out the candle before I leave to do some tampon and menstrual product-flushing. I think I’ll be able to keep all this straight.”

“And make sure to remember that the door on the left is yours––” Isaac’s acquaintance is already walking away, her sharp elbow raised and aimed at the touchless control panel that will free her from me––“and the one on the right is the morgue.”
Things that matter intersect on page 69, which is a sort of precipice for Ascher: Facing the murdered woman alone begins Ascher’s search for a human murderer and her efforts to save the dog, may reveal that Ascher’s relationship with Isaac is beyond repair, and will demonstrate if Ascher has what it takes to accomplish all the above alone.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

The Page 69 Test: Pure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2024

"Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny"

Mark Cecil is an author, journalist and host of The Thoughtful Bro show, for which he conducts author interviews with an eclectic roster of award winning and bestselling writers. He has written for LitHub, Writer’s Digest, Cognoscenti, The Millions, Reuters, and Embark Literary Journal, among other publications. He is Head of Strategy for A Mighty Blaze and he has taught writing at Grub Street and The Writers Loft.

Cecil applied the Page 69 Test to his debut novel, Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny, and reported the following:
I’d never heard of the Page 69 Test till you brought it to my attention, but I love the idea of it—the notion that the part will contain the whole in its microcosm. In the case of my book, the test just happens to work phenomenally well.

In my novel, Bunyan and Henry; Or, The Beautiful Destiny, Paul Bunyan has not become a lumberjack yet. Instead, he is stuck in a miserable life in a mining hamlet called Lump Town. His life is prosaic, brutal and nasty. Long ago, when he was a child, he always heard stories about a magical figure called a Chilali, a mythic being who helps guide a person along his or her “Twisty Path” to the “Beautiful Destiny,” a kind of higher, more authentic kind of life. But as an adult, Bunyan has dismissed his childhood dreams and idealism, and decided that Chilalis aren’t real. He has grown too cynical to believe in such a thing as the “Beautiful Destiny.”

However, when his wife grows ill and his life has begun to fall apart, one day an actual Chilali appears to him. At first, Bunyan is afraid of the idea of following the Twisty Path of the Chilali. It seems dangerously naïve. He thinks he’s going crazy. But on page 69 of my book, he has a change of heart. He seeks out the Chilali in the woods, and on this very page, he decides to begin to follow the Twisty Path.
Suddenly, he heard a voice.

“So, you have decided to embrace your true gift?”

The voice of the Chilali came from behind and above him, cool and ironic as it had been the day before.

“The straight path has failed,” said Bunyan. “But I cannot do this alone.”
To find the Chilali, Bunyan has climbed an enormous, petrified tree. Lump Town itself is covered in ash and soot—a kind of protocapitalist hellscape. But up here in the tree, for the first time in years, Bunyan finds fresh fruit growing. This passage on page 69 not only shows the fantastical setting of the book, but also demonstrates the rewards of beginning to chase the Beautiful Destiny. Now that he has sought out the Chilali, his life has become renewed.
A smell soon struck Bunyan’s nose. A strange smell. A delectable smell.

“What is that?” Bunyan eagerly looked about, his mouth watering.

Moments later Bunyan saw, growing from a crack in the branch, something he had not seen in years: soft, fresh, green, living . . . life. It appeared to be a vine of grapes.

They were strange-looking grapes—small, withered, hard. But they were growing nonetheless, fighting for life here in the smallest of crevices.

He knelt and took one in his hand. A tiny, perfect green sphere. He placed it in his mouth and pressed his teeth down upon it. He felt a cool eruption of juice, followed by overwhelming sweetness. For years, what had he eaten? Crumbly bread, smoked and salted meats, beans out of the tin. He found another, this one misshapen like an eggplant. He ate. More juice. It was ecstasy.
In the following pages, Bunyan will leave Lump Town for good and set out on his grand adventure. But the pivot point of the story happens to occur on page 69, when he finally says yes to the Beautiful Destiny.
Visit Mark Cecil's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

"Mal Goes to War"

Edward Ashton is the author of the novels Mal Goes to War, Antimatter Blues, Mickey7 (now a motion picture directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring Robert Pattinson), Three Days in April, and The End of Ordinary. He lives in upstate New York in a cabin in the woods (not that Cabin in the Woods) with his wife, a nine pound killing machine named Maggie, and the world’s only purebred ratrantula, where he writes—mostly fiction, occasionally fact—under the watchful eyes of a giant woodpecker and a rotating cast of barred owls. In his free time, he enjoys cancer research, teaching quantum physics to sullen graduate students, and whittling.

Ashton applied the Page 69 Test to Mal Goes to War and reported the following:
The Page 69 Test is a little tough to apply to Mal Goes to War, for the simple reason that page 69 is the end of a chapter, and only contains a couple short paragraphs of text. So, I’m going to cheat just a bit and include a couple of paragraphs from page 68 to round things out:
With that accomplished, Mal has the opportunity to explore the sensory systems that are now available to him. First, he checks for a direct link to infospace. He doesn’t expect to find one, so he’s not particularly disappointed that none exists. That’s a minor issue. He’s in an aircraft now rather than a human skull, and he’s confident he can find a functioning tower before he runs out of power and crashes. The only actual data connection he finds is through a low-power directional transmitter. Presumably, this connects the drone to whoever had been controlling it prior to Mal’s arrival. He’s also receiving a steady stream of input from an array of onboard sensors, including a visible-wavelength camera mounted on his underside.

He taps that feed, and finds that he’s orbiting directly over a rusty white pickup truck. The bed is full of armed men. As he watches, it comes to a halt.

It comes to a halt in front of a house that he quickly recognizes as the Andreous’ home.

Mrs. Andreou is leaning out of an upstairs window, frantically waving a white pillowcase over her head.

“Kayleigh?” Mal sends. “Are you awake? If you are, please tell Asher that you are about to have visitors.”

There’s no response, of course. Kayleigh can only transmit using her mouth-hole. There’s no way for her to let him know whether she’s heard him or not. Someone is leaning out from the passenger-side window of the pickup, gesturing with one arm toward Mrs. Andreou. He turns his head then, appears to speak to the men in the back. Mal checks to see whether his new body carries any armaments, and is pleasantly surprised to see that in fact there is an air-to-surface missile strapped under each wing.

He is less pleasantly surprised to learn that, in his space-making, he’s deleted the control systems needed to launch them.

“Kayleigh?” Mal sends again. “If you can hear me, you may want to pick up your bat.”
If you were looking for a single page in this book to tell the reader what they’d be in for if they picked it up, you could do a lot worse than this. From this page we can glean that our protagonist isn’t human, that he’s an entity that moves from host to host, not much caring whether he’s currently inhabiting a human body or an armed drone or a network-enabled toaster. We also learn that he has friends, and that they’re trapped in the middle of an a war. They’re obviously in a bad spot at the moment, which also describes the bulk of the book.

The thing we’re missing from this section, though, is the rest of the cast. Mal Goes to War is science fiction, but like most of my work, it’s character-driven science fiction. The main thread of this book follows the efforts of a mismatched band of refugees as they try to find some modicum of safety in the midst of chaos, and much of the fun comes from the ways in which they bounce off of one another. Kayleigh is a genetically modified woman in the body of a child. Asher is Kayleigh’s prisoner-turned-maybe-friend. Pullman is a rich doofus with a set of cerebral implants that turn out to be a perfect vacation home for Mal after Pullman’s dog steals and eats the severed head that Mal had been hanging around in previously. They’re not anyone’s idea of the A-team, but when the world is coming apart at the seams, you take whatever friends you can find.

At the end of the day, I’d probably prefer a page with a bit more dialogue and maybe a laugh or two to this one. This is a funny book, and I’m not sure this page really conveys that. You don’t have to take my word for it, though—you can read the rest of the book and find out for yourself.
Visit Edward Ashton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mickey7.

Q&A with Edward Ashton.

The Page 69 Test: Antimatter Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 7, 2024

"A Killing on the Hill"

Robert Dugoni is a critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and #1 Amazon bestselling author, reaching over 9 million readers worldwide. He is best known for his Tracy Crosswhite police series set in Seattle. He is also the author of the Charles Jenkins espionage series, the David Sloane legal thriller series, and several stand-alone novels including The 7th Canon, Damage Control, The World Played Chess, and Her Deadly Game. His novel The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell received Suspense Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year, and Dugoni’s narration won an AudioFile Earphones Award. The Washington Post named his nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary a Best Book of the Year.

Dugoni applied the Page 69 Test to his new thriller, A Killing on the Hill, and reported the following:
Page 69 opens with the line, “Well, I didn’t know what to do. I mean, the guy’s bleeding to death on the floor. So I took out my handkerchief and tried to stop the bleeding, but then Millier says, ‘Leave him be and get the hell out of my club.’”

The speaker is a witness, a boxer who went to Miller’s Pom Pom Club with the murdered boxer, Frankie Ray. He’s recounting what happened to Chief Detective Ernie Blunt. The lines reflect the overall book because this witness soon changes his story and it becomes clear to William Shoemacher, the reporter from the Daily Star newspaper that everyone in Seattle can be bought for a price, and no one can be trusted.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

The Page 69 Test: Bodily Harm.

My Book, The Movie: Bodily Harm.

The Page 69 Test: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

My Book, The Movie: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Agent.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Agent.

Q&A with Robert Dugoni.

The Page 69 Test: In Her Tracks.

Writers Read: Robert Dugoni.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 5, 2024

"The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth"

Verlin Darrow is currently a psychotherapist who lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near the Monterey Bay in northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary. Darrow is a former professional volleyball player (in Italy), unsuccessful country-western singer/songwriter, import store owner, and assistant guru in a small, benign spiritual organization. Before bowing to the need for higher education, a much younger Darrow ran a punch press in a sheetmetal factory, drove a taxi, worked as a night janitor, shoveled asphalt on a road crew, and installed wood flooring. He missed being blown up by Mt. St. Helens by ten minutes, survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake (8 on the Richter scale), and (so far) has successfully weathered his own internal disasters.

Darrow applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I’d decided on a frontal assault once I’d seen Dennis’s smug expression.

He paused and assembled his features into what passed for humility—with most people, that is. His eyes reminded me of a hound I’d known—a conniving creature who was always stealing his sibling’s food.

“I loved your mother very much, and God knows why, she loved me back. I would never harm a hair on her head. Truly.”

“I’d like to believe you, but what you said back in your hospital room was alarming,” I told him.

“Look,” he began, leaning forward, “I can see you’re sharp, and you know I put up a front sometimes. It’s hard for me to let people in—let them see who I really am. But I’m leveling with you here. I did not kill your mother.”

“But you think someone else did? Is that what you were saying yesterday?”

He leaned back again and crossed his arms. “I said I’m taking care of that, and I will.”

“You think there was foul play?”

“I do.” He kept his face studiously neutral.

“And you think you know who it was?” I asked.

“I do.”

“Why not just go to the police—or tell me, at least?” I asked. “Don’t I have a right to know?”

“It’s complicated. I need you to trust me.”

“Dennis, you’re the person I trust least in the world right now. Everything about you seems to be inauthentic.”

He wasn’t offended. In fact, he didn’t seem to care at all.
My page 69 definitely passes the test. Although several basic elements aren’t revealed—the narrator is a former Buddhist nun, for example—the interplay between this insightful protagonist trying to get the truth out of non-truth tellers is typical. Throughout my mystery, it’s hard for Ivy to know who she can trust, who isn’t who they purport to be, and who is a possible suspect. Her Buddhist precepts both help and hinder her in her search for the truth.

In this scene, Ivy is trying to brace the stepfather she’s never met after her mother may have been murdered. Her bi-polar sister certainly has thought so from the outset, and now it appears she is right. Unfortunately, shortly after page 69, Dennis is murdered as well and his background as a smuggler comes to light, complicating the case.
Visit Verlin Darrow's website.

Writers Read: Verlin Darrow (May 2023).

My Book, The Movie: Murder for Liar.

The Page 69 Test: Murder for Liar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

"An Inconvenient Wife"

Karen E. Olson is the winner of the Sara Ann Freed Memorial Award and a Shamus Award finalist. She is the author of the Annie Seymour mysteries, the Tattoo Shop mysteries, and the Black Hat thrillers. Olson was a longtime editor, both in newspapers and at Yale. She lives in North Haven, Connecticut.

Olson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, An Inconvenient Wife, and reported the following:
Page 69 is from one of the chapters from the point of view of Anna, Hank Tudor’s fourth wife:
She could hear Hank and Tom talking on the back porch below Lizzie’s room, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying. It was best she didn’t know, anyway. There were a lot of things it was best not knowing. That’s why she never asked Caitlyn about Alex Culpepper.

Anna closed the drawer and picked up the laundry basket. Lizzie was leaning against the railing at the top of the stairs, her red hair escaping from the French braid to form little tendrils around her face. Anna was struck again by how solemn her expression always was. The girl rarely smiled, although when she did, it lit up the whole room.

“Daddy’s leaving.”

Anna felt a surge of maternal love and reached around to hug her.

“He’ll be back,” she whispered.

“I know.” Lizzie pulled away and stood up straighter, her head high. She was a tough one, but sadly it was because she had to be. “He says you and Joan will keep us safe.”

Anna nodded. “That’s right. We won’t let anything happen to you or Teddy.”

Lizzie cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. “But it’s really Will and Murph who are protecting all of us, right?”

Leave it to Lizzie to know what was what. “That’s right.”

“They couldn’t protect that woman, though, could they? So how safe are we, really?”
This page is a good snapshot of Anna’s character. “There were a lot of things it was best not knowing” is a theme throughout the book, indicating the secrets tucked away among Hank’s relationships and how Anna knows she has to keep those secrets close to the vest. This page also shows the deep relationship between Anna and Hank’s daughter Lizzie, and Lizzie’s feelings about her father, who is mostly absent from her life.

The sense of foreboding at the end of this passage adds to the suspense that weaves itself throughout the novel.
Visit Karen E. Olson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 1, 2024

"The Monstrous Misses Mai"

Van Hoang’s first name is pronounced like the “van” in “minivan.” Her last name is pronounced “hah-wawng.” Hoang earned her bachelor’s in English at the University of New Mexico and her master’s in library information science at San José State University. She was born in Vietnam; grew up in Orange County, California; and now resides in Los Angeles with her husband, kid, and two dogs.

Hoang applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Monstrous Misses Mai, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Nothing good comes for free,” Audrey announced in a voice so full of doom, they all turned and stared at her. “What? It’s true.”

“On the contrary,” Callum said, “all the best things in life are free.”

Tessa snorted.

“You don’t believe me?” Callum stood up. “All right, it’s time to show you ladies that I mean business. Come on. We need”--he looked around the apartment–”candles. A bowl. Some of your most sentimental items.”

Cordi finished the last of her sandwich, wishing she had more.

“Come on, chop-chop.” Callum clapped twice, and despite herself, she got up from the table. The others did as well, looking mildly amused. Callum rubbed his hands together. “Let’s make some magic.”
This is actually a perfect moment to browse the book because it’s a pivotal plot point that doesn’t give away too much. The main characters have just discussed all their goals for their lives, expressing how much they long for their wishes to come true, when Callum offers everything they’ve ever wanted through a simple magic spell. It seems too good to be true. But they take a chance, and are about to embark on a magical adventure, their hearts full of hopes and dreams for the future.

I also really love this page because it’s the first time the Misses Mai all hang out as friends--and the first moment that they realize they’re in this together. They’re about to become accidental witches, all just to pay rent, but at least they have one another, no matter how bad things are about to get.
Visit Van Hoang's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 29, 2024

"The Waves Take You Home"

María Alejandra Barrios Vélez is a writer born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She has an MA in creative writing from the University of Manchester and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and scruffy dog, Gus.

She was the 2020 SmokeLong Flash Fiction Fellow, and her stories have been published in Shenandoah Literary, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, El Malpensante, Fractured Lit, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Offing, and more. Her work has been supported by organizations such as Vermont Studio Center, Kweli, Caldera Arts, and the New Orleans Writers’ Residency.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Waves Take You Home, her debut novel, and reported the following:
If readers open The Waves Take You Home on page 69, I believe they’ll get an accurate sense of the book. This is a very emotional passage, where my main character, Violeta Sanoguera, encounters her past love, Rafa, in the kitchen after she burns herself. This is the first time she has been in her family kitchen in many years, and the grief of her Abuela passing, and trying to have everything perfect for the reception has really gotten to her.

After many years, Rafa is now a doctor who enters the scene rushing to help. The pain of the burn and all the feelings from seeing him again are pretty accurate to the emotional turmoil in the book. There is also the lingering intrigue of what will she do with the ghosts of her past?
His name burned on the tip of my tongue. A name I had swallowed again and again back home in New York. The name that tasted bitter like regret. Bittersweet like a secret. Rafa.

This couldn’t be, I hadn’t seen him since that night. Hadn’t heard from him, apart from the gossip that the mellas told me sometimes when I was home.

He ran to me and took my hand between his. What was Rafa doing here? My vision was blurring from the pain, and although I wanted to focus on reality, my head felt woozy and I couldn’t form any real thoughts.

“Ay, Vi,” he said, examining my hand. “This looks bad; did you press your hand on the pan?”

I nodded, my cheeks wet even though I didn’t know when I had started crying. “Vi,” he said.

The word cut me like a slap, after all these years. I had pictured this encounter many, many times in my head, but I couldn’t have imagined that it would be like this. “What…?” I shook my head, trying to wake myself up. “What are you doing here?” Rafa smiled; I could see the concern in his almond eyes. “I’m here to pay my respects. Anton, wait, do you know if Doña Emilia kept an emergency kit in the kitchen?” Anton looked at him for a couple of moments, as if he couldn’t fathom what Rafa possibly could be doing in his kitchen.
In this case, page 69 works well in showing one of the places where the book takes place: a kitchen in the Caribbean and the relationship between one of the main love interests, and the main character. If readers are into the longing of this scene, and second chance romance, I think they’ll love The Waves Take You Home!
Visit María Alejandra Barrios Vélez's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

"The Vineyard Remains"

Addison McKnight is the pen name for Nicole Moleti and Krista Wells. After over a decade of writing nonfiction, their common interests in women’s emotions and the cultural obsession with perfection sparked an idea for their debut novel, An Imperfect Plan. With six jobs and six children between them, they wrote their first book on Saturday nights and on the sidelines of their children’s games. They reside in West Hartford, Connecticut with their families.

Moleti and Wells applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, The Vineyard Remains, and reported the following:
If readers open our book to page 69 they will get an accurate idea of one side of the book. The story is told via two POV’s and on this page the reader will see a glimpse of one of our two main characters, Angela, who underwent childhood trauma and experiences a secondary trauma that has her mind spiraling. This section of page 69 gives you an extremely accurate sneak peek into the emotions she struggles with for the rest of the book. It is unclear to Angela what exactly happened in the moments following the birth of her child and that is the driving force of her journey throughout the book.
Angela remembered seeing the monitor dropping, but she also worried she was blocking something else out. She thought back to the crying sounds, but the memory was clouded with uncertainty. Angela felt a combination of detachment and apathy, secretly relieved not to be bringing a baby home, yet simultaneously feeling an overwhelming sense of emptiness alongside her genuine grief. Maybe the overwhelm was just her mind playing tricks, but she feared she unconsciously harmed her baby before her gram went away.

“I think I hurt her,” Angela said, her anxious admission further terrifying her.
The Page 69 Test worked in terms of revealing the book theme as well as one of the characters struggles as she wakes up in a psychiatric hospital, reflecting on her stillborn baby, and the emotions that the incident provoked. Right away, it lets the reader know that this isn’t a typical Martha’s Vineyard beach read, it’s a book about the darker underbelly of these islanders’ lives and would have them wanting to know more. The Vineyard Remains contrasts an idyllic setting with the complex family secrets, which makes for a pacey and intense read.
Visit Addison McKnight's website.

The Page 69 Test: An Imperfect Plan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 24, 2024

"Murder Marks the Page"

Karen Rose Smith is the author of the Jazzi Swanson Mysteries, the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mysteries, the Caprice De Luca Home-Staging Mysteries, and the Tomes & Tea Mystery Series.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Murder Marks the Page, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Murder Marks The Page, book 1 in my new Tomes & Tea cozy mystery series, is representative of the cozy as far as its setting. This series is located in the lake resort town of Belltower Landing in New York State. The page gives a hint into my sleuth, Jazzi Swanson’s, free time paddle boarding with her bookstore and tea bar partner and best friend, Dawn. Page 69 reveals the friendship between them. They’re exploring a lake channel on their SUPs, spotting red-winged blackbirds, watching the sun sparkle on the blue water before a busy day at their store, Tomes & Tea. Jazzi is also worrying about a date she accepted for that night, unsure it was the right thing to do.

Since my novel is a cozy mystery, the browser who is reading page 69 would not catch a glimpse of the murder mystery. Jazzi Swanson, daughter of Daisy Swanson, the sleuth in my Daisy’s Tea Garden series, was adopted. She is now twenty-five years old and finding a life of her own. She was introduced to another adoptee who is searching for her biological father. Brie made contact and consulted with Jazzi on how to handle her first meeting with him. In addition, deciding it’s time to get serious about dating and starting a family, Brie is using a dating app. When Brie is murdered, strangled with her paddle board leash, Jazzi is drawn into the investigation. There are elements on page 69 which would lead the reader to guess the sport of stand-up paddle boarding could be somehow involved in the murder plot.

So does the Page 69 Test work with my cozy? Possibly…if the browser understands cozies and can unearth a few elements running through the novel from a single page of Murder Marks The Page. My readers have followed Jazzi growing up in Willow Creek, Pennsylvania in my Daisy’s Tea Garden series. They met her when she was fifteen and searching for her birth mother. They followed her through that search and how she and Daisy juggled mom, birth-mom and Jazzi’s relationships. She matured in that series and was prepared to go off to college at the end of it. On page 69 of Murder Marks The Page, my readers will recognize her name and will possibly want to read about this young adult Jazzi who owns a bookshop and tea bar with her best friend in a resort town on a lake.
Visit Karen Rose Smith's website, Facebook page, and Instagram page.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Rose Smith & Hope and Riley.

The Page 69 Test: Staged to Death.

The Page 69 Test: Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

"The Inheritance"

Joanna Goodman's novels include the #1 national bestseller, The Home for Unwanted Girls, which was on The Globe & Mail’s Fiction bestseller list for more than six months, as well as The Forgotten Daughter and The Finishing School, both national bestsellers. Her stories have appeared in The Fiddlehead, B & A Fiction, Event, The New Quarterly, and White Wall Review, as well as excerpted in Elisabeth Harvor’s fiction anthology A Room at the Heart of Things.

Originally from Montreal, Goodman now lives in Toronto with her husband and two kids.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Inheritance, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“It looks like a crime scene,” Arden says, turning on the lights.

“It probably is a crime scene,” Tate reminds her.

Virginia’s bedroom is still exactly as it was left the night of the assault. The duvet and sheets are still in a heap on the floor, with pillows and clothes strewn everywhere. Also on the floor are the lamp from her bedside table, some books, the portable phone and base, and shards of broken glass stained with red wine. There’s still blood on the sheets and mattress.

Arden’s been here once to collect a bunch of her mother’s things, but she didn’t have time to clean up. It was the day after the assault and Arden was still in a daze. She grabbed as much as she could for her mother and fled. It’s the first time Tate is seeing it.

“I’m going to wash all the bedding,” Arden says, bending down to collect the pieces of glass on the floor.

“Do you think you should?” Tate says. “What if his DNA is on it?”

“Really? This isn’t an episode of CSI.”

“Seriously, Arden. Who knows? Just put the fitted sheet in a plastic bag. You can wash everything else.”

Tate puts the lamp back on the table, gathers the books in a pile. “What the hell do you think happened here?”
Interestingly, the Page 69 Test worked perfectly for the back story of my novel. The page actually thrusts the reader right into the heart of the drama unfolding alongside - but secondary to - the main story, which is the courtroom drama surrounding the inheritance case. I do think reading this page would set the reader up to expect a novel about a sexual assault and specifically about elder abuse, but ultimately it doesn’t say much about the main storyline or about any of the primary themes of the novel. In that sense, I would have to say in that sense, the “test” is not a great indicator about the book as whole.

What I do love about how this experiment works for The Inheritance is that the first line stands alone as an exciting entry point into a juicy suspense novel. It looks like a crime scene. What a great first line to set up a mystery/crime novel, which is definitely a key component in The Inheritance, if not the primary one. I think the rest of the page also builds on the suspense of the first line, establishing a compelling mystery about what happened, who did it happen to, and who did it? I also love that there is mention of DNA on page 69, and ultimately, DNA will prove to be the crux of the entire inheritance case. In that way, it does drop a significant clue and foreshadow what’s to come in the main story as well.
Visit Joanna Goodman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue