Sunday, February 5, 2023

"A Dangerous Education"

Megan Chance is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of more than twenty novels, including A Splendid Ruin, Bone River, and An Inconvenient Wife. She and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest.

Chance applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Dangerous Education, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a scene with the three senior girls at Mercer Rocks School for Wayward Girls—Maisie, Sandra and Jean—as they sneak out of the school in the middle of the night to go down to the beach to drink (as bad girls do) and discuss their plan for the new Home Economics teacher:
Silently, they go down the stairs. Sandy hands Maisie the flashlight she’s stolen; Maisie is always the leader. Jean tucks a bit of folded cardboard into the lock to block it so they can get back in. Then they race out into the night, past the tennis courts and the brick fireplaces and picnic tables and the big willow tree in the middle of the grounds. None of them speak. The only sounds are the rush of their breathing, the shush of their shoes through the grass. The school lights lend enough illumination that they don’t need the flashlight. But at the boathouse, where the path disappears into the grove of white oaks, Maisie switches it on. The beam bounces against the gray weathered planks of the boathouse, glints upon the chain blocking the steps, the sign reading “Danger. Keep Out.”

Jean slaps at her hand, forcing the beam away. “Stop it,” she says in a harsh whisper.

Maisie laughs quietly. “What’s wrong, Jeanie?”

“Turn it off,” Sandy says. “Someone will see.”

“Look—no one’s repaired it yet.”

“They’ve left it like that on purpose,” Jean says crossly.

“Turn it off,” Sandy says again.

Maisie keeps it on another moment to show that it’s her decision, not Sandy’s and not Jean’s, and then she does turn it off until they round the corner, until they’re out of sight of the school, and it’s really too dark to see the path—
Interestingly, this is one of the only sections in the book that is written in present tense, and it is one of four short sections written in the point-of-view of one of the girls—in this case, Maisie. While the vast majority of the novel is written in past tense, and in the point-of-view of Rosemary Chivers, their teacher, and details her past and her dilemma in getting too involved with this particular clique of girls, this snippet gives a very good idea of the book’s overall tone, which has mystery and gothic elements.

This scene also gives the reader a glimpse into the danger of the girls. It shows that Maisie is their leader, and begins to reveal the way they interact with each other. It also hints at the important role the boathouse has played in their past and will play in the novel’s unfolding. So, while page 69 is misleading in that it’s not indicative of the main character or action, it gives a very good idea of the overall mood and lends a nice creepy edge, which winds its way (hopefully) throughout the story.
Visit Megan Chance's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Splendid Ruin.

The Page 69 Test: A Splendid Ruin.

Q&A with Megan Chance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 3, 2023

"Before I Sleep"

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is the author of the hugely popular Morland Dynasty novels, which have captivated and enthralled readers for decades. She is also the author of the contemporary Bill Slider mystery series, as well as her recent series, War at Home, which is an epic family drama set against the backdrop of World War I.

Harrod-Eagles applied the Page 69 Test to the new Bill Slider mystery, Before I Sleep, and reported the following:
Page 69 contains the end of a conversation betwen DCI Bill Slider and his immediate boss, the language-mangling Det Sup Porson. In a new scene, Slider and his sidekick Atherton head for Burnham Beeches, a large woodland area near London to which circumstance has directed them to look for a missing woman. They have to go via the local police station and its gatekeeper, Slider's opposite number there, DCI Dalton.

Page 69 contains a good flavour of the book, starting with just a hint of good old Porson who, despite saying things like 'It's not rocket surgery', is really pretty smart and is always supportive of his people. He sees his role as standing between the working cops at the coal face and the constant shower of brown stuff from the highly-paid desk warriors above. Then there's the easy cameraderie between Slider and Atherton, who have worked together so long they can finish each other's sentences. On another page Slider worries about this and says, 'We have got to see other people'. And it suggests one of the frustrations of policing when a case crosses into another jurisdiction: having to follow protocol, avoid treading on toes, and curtsey to the local police gods. There always seems to be at least one rigid, rule-following pillock like Dalton to get in the way, slow you down, and, if possible, make you feel small. Slider, though, can never give up once he’s invested in a case. With the help of his heterogenous team and the witty, irreverent Atherton, he follows the faint trail left by the missing woman, Felicity Holland, to the bitter end.
Visit Cynthia Harrod-Eagles's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Secrets of Ashmore Castle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

"The 12th Commandment"

Daniel Torday is the author of The 12th Commandment, The Last Flight of Poxl West, and Boomer1. A two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award for fiction and the Sami Rohr Choice Prize, Torday’s stories and essays have appeared in Tin House, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, and n+1, and have been honored by the Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays series. Torday is a Professor of Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College.

Torday applied the Page 69 Test to The 12th Commandment and reported the following:
From page 69:
On seeing the green of Upstate New York out the window of their U-Haul once we hit the interstate with Osman between us, Yael just stares outside.: I perceive what I see in her as excitement, but whether in that moment it's excitement or dread, it will eventually turn to fear. Repulsion. Repulsing. A taking-away. An addition of absence. The first months of August in Central Ohio brutal as prophecy predicted::
This is the beginning of the 69th page of the novel, which finds us deep in one of the longest excerpts from the prison journals of Natan of Flatbush, self-proclaimed prophet of his own group of outwardly Islamic, secretly Jewish mystics called the Donme. The rest of the page follows them in their move from a Hasidic community in Brooklyn, to their new rural enclave in Ohio. One note on Natan's voice-- he uses a punctuation system borrowed from early version of the Talmud, where instead of just periods and commas, there were :: and .: punctuations to delineate different length pauses.

There are lots of voices in this book! And they shift based on tenses: past, present and future. The main character, Zeke, finds his way into the Donme community as a reporter, and eventually, more, and most of the main narration comes through him. But we also learn a lot of the backstory of the book through Natan's journals. So we really only get a third of a sense of how the book sounds from this page. Which is weirdly enticing, I think.
Visit Daniel Torday's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

"Dangerous Blues"

Stephen Policoff is the author of Beautiful Somewhere Else, which won the James Jones Award, and was published by Carroll & Graf. His second novel, Come Away, won the Dzanc Award, and was published by Dzanc Books in 2014. He was writer-in-residence at Medicine Show Theater Ensemble, with whom he wrote Shipping Out, The Mummer’s Play, Ubu Rides Again, and Bound to Rise, which received an Obie. He was also a freelance writer for Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, New Age Journal, and many other publications. He helped create Center for Creative Youth, based at Wesleyan University, and has taught writing at CUNY, Wesleyan, and Yale. He is currently Clinical Professor of Writing in Global Liberal Studies at NYU, where he has taught since 1987.

Policoff applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Dangerous Blues, and reported the following:
If you flip to page 69 of Dangerous Blues, you might get a vague notion of what the book is about. On the previous page, the narrator Paul, who believes he may be seeing the ghost of his dead wife Nadia, confides this to Nadia’s dad, Dr. Maire, an expert in occult lore. On page 69, Paul’s daughter Spring and her new best friend Irina are trying to write a happy memory for a middle school assignment and Spring, who fiercely misses her recently dead mom, is angry and miserable, and says that she cannot remember any happy memories. Irina, whose mother escaped from a cult, counters with her own troubled memories of their family.

This is certainly an important element of Dangerous Blues. The looming presence of grief, the ways in which we try to go on living when we are draped in sorrow, these are threads throughout the novel. The friendship between Spring and Irina is also a push-pull throughout the book. Especially toward the end of the novel the Spring/Irina bond is one of the “engines” which brings the other main characters together.

But what page 69 does not really include is what I consider the greatest strength of the novel—the inevitable intermingling of tears and laughter, of loss and an abundant appreciation of life’s absurdity. These are the underlying elements of the novel, and they helped me not only write the novel but learn to emerge from the very dark period after my wife died, and to render what I hope is a resonant picture of the weirdness of life, and the ways in which we navigate that weirdness and keep on keeping on.
Visit Stephen Policoff's website.

The Page 69 Test: Come Away.

Writers Read: Stephen Policoff.

Q&A with Stephen Policoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 29, 2023

"Episode Thirteen"

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, DiLouie’s novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film. He is a member of the HWA, SFWA, International Thriller Writers, and IFWA.

DiLouie applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Episode Thirteen, and reported the following:
From page 69:
After a few seconds, she will let the device record all night, which will be played back the next day to look for electronic voice phenomena. The voice of spirits.

Jessica: Can you tell me what your name is?

She waits.

Jessica: Do you know what year it is?

Waits.

Jessica: Do you dream?

A piece of plaster falls from the ceiling onto the floor. She looks around nervously.

Jessica: We’re friends. Are you friendly?

The wall rustles again. It sounds like chuckling.
When I took up the Page 69 challenge, I was very curious what I’d find. I have to say it’s a good representation of what readers will find in Episode Thirteen, for several reasons. In this horror novel from Hachette, a team of paranormal investigators who have their own reality TV show venture into a haunted house hoping to capture evidence of the supernatural. They get far more than they bargained for.

It’s an epistolary novel, meaning it’s presented as a collection of documents—in this case, video transcripts, journal entries, emails, and the like—that combine to tell a complete story about what happened to the team. On this page, we conclude a brief chapter that is a video transcript. In this scene, Jessica, one of the investigators, engages a dusty room using an audio recorder to get electronic voice phenomena, or EVP. This is where an investigator asks questions, waits a few seconds, and then plays it back later to see if any words show up on the recording that the human ear didn’t detect. Any entities in the house don’t answer, however, though Jessica begins to get nervous.

In my view, this little slice captures the epistolary flavor of the novel, the common use of gadgets in ghost hunting, and the psychology involved in believing you may be interacting with something powerful and creepy that you can’t see. It also foreshadows the ominous point that if spirits exist, they may not be interested in playing along with the living but instead playing their own game.
Visit Craig DiLouie's website.

The Page 69 Test: One of Us.

The Page 69 Test: Our War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 27, 2023

"Trashed!"

Martha Freeman worked as a reporter and teacher before becoming a full-time writer of books for young readers, including the Edgar Award–nominated Zap!, Born Curious, The Secret Cookie Club series, Who Stole Halloween?, and Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question, which School Library Journal called “accessible and exciting” in a starred review. She also collaborated with NASA astronaut Mark Kelly on the Astrotwins books.

Freeman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Trashed!, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Trashed, main character Arthur, age 11, is on his way to wipe down shelves and organize stock in the toy section of the junk (or vintage) store his family owns. Enroute, he compares himself to his best friend, Veda, who helps out in the store sometimes:
If you had asked him what he admired about Veda, he would have told you he admired her for being a loyal friend and interesting to talk to. He would not have told you that he admired her for being brave and trying new things but he did.

In short, Veda was adventurous, and Arthur worried that he was not. If that was true, would there be only the familiar and the comfortable forever? Maybe he’d be working in the store forever.
I hope this is a succinct statement of Arthur’s predicament. It may sound like coming-of-age, but that’s not quite right. Instead, what Trashed depicts is more of a kid-style midlife crisis. Arthur has a stable homelife, friends, enjoyable work and even a supernatural sidekick. Yet he feels trapped, and he’s not sure he’s got what it takes to bust free.

At the end of the page, Arthur and a co-worker, Randolph, are discussing a third co-worker who is training for an ultramarathon.
“It’s cool what Jennifer Y’s doing, huh?” [Arthur] said. “I can’t imagine running that far.”

“I wouldn’t run that far,” Randolph said, “not unless I was being chased.”
Again, Arthur thinks he comes up short in comparison with someone hardier. Also, that last image – taking flight– aligns with his desire to bust out, escape, while the conversation as a whole reveals his anxiety that he isn’t up to it. Later pages reveal that in fact Arthur is being chased, not literally but by circumstances. How he responds is the rest of the story.

True confession: I sometimes pull one of my own books off the shelf and read a random page. Usually I do this when I am working on something new and seeking reassurance that, darn it, I’ve done this before and can do it again. Happily, I can report that I did not cringe on re-reading page 69 of Trashed. If this is a test, I passed! Since I am in the midst of another project and duly freaking out, I am grateful for this reassurance.
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Strudel's Forever Home.

The Page 69 Test: Zap.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

"Burrowed"

Mary Baader Kaley writes stories for children and adults with quirky characters whose huge hopes and dreams drive them into impossible situations. She loves the sound of spring crickets, the colors of the fall, and shady porches in between. She spends summers healing her soul over a small Midwestern lake upon a rickety pier, while smiling into the sun. On any given day, you’ll find her laughing with family and friends, binge-watching shows, reading while sneaking bites of chocolate, or warming her bones by a campfire.

Kaley applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Burrowed, and reported the following:
Page 69:
The room sways and my head aches. I find I can’t move an inch without falling. Jet, jet, jet. I slump over the bed.

“You’ve lost your senses.” Maven Ringol grabs my arm and guides me back into bed, covering my feet with the sheet. He averts his eyes as if he’s uncomfortable. “I’m sure it’s our medmaid being clumsy, but I’ll check on the sick girl. In the meantime, Undertech Jalaz promised to stay nearby. Might I send him in?”

I nod, and try to smooth my wispy hair.

But when Maven Ringol slides the door open, Maddelyn stands on the other side hugging something under her arm. Before he can react, she jumps up with a growl and clocks Ringol in his temple with the hard object. The clunk of it hitting his skull makes me flinch.

He collapses to the floor. A hat, had he worn one, might have buffered the blow.

“You’ve hurt him!” I shout, but then I stop. Maddelyn’s skirt runs crookedly across her waist and her blouse hangs untucked. She’s carrying a lidded, pint-sized jar filled with a dry powder. The bridge of her nose bends, swollen from when I tripped her earlier. “Stop this. It’s the mold, Maddelyn. You’re not yourself. We can treat you.”

“Now you’ve done it!” she says in a voice not quite her own, hoarse and low. “You’ve put it to Gelia that I’m crazy in the noggin.” Her head jerks twice and she pants as if she’s been running.

“I’ve not said anything to Gelia. Please Maddelyn…” I implore.

With her chin to her chest, she looks up through her lashes with empty, stony eyes.

“What?” She jerks her chin sideways. “Did you think a dull ba’rm could find me?” She never uses that term “dull.” She considers the slang term used by cruel Subters for Omnits too derogatory. At least, she used to.

Maven Ringol murmurs from the floor, and his hand goes to his temple. I breathe a quick sigh; at least he’s moving.
If a potential book-buyer were to take Burrowed and flip to page 69, I’m happy he or she would find this excerpt as a read-don’t-read test. Zuzan, our main character, is recovering from injuries inflicted by her best friend, Maddelyn. Maddelyn has turned delusional and attempts to harm the people she loves the most, and on page 69 she’s back to finish Zuzan off. While this isn’t the overall gist of the story, there are a few elements in this passage potential readers will discover. Firstly, it shows how fragile this underground community of people are: Maddelyn is susceptible to an exaggerated reaction following simple exposure to mold. She’s also holding a jar of another substance harmful to everyone living underground. Finally, several of the primary characters (Zuzan, Maddelyn, Maven Ringol, and a mention of Jalaz) appear in this scene, and the curious page-flipper would gain a small understanding of how they relate to one another.

While it would be challenging to discern the dystopian setting and the great divide caused by the genetic plague from this one page, I’m willing to wager that if they like the page, they’d flip to the back cover to find out a little more about the story. I know I would. For now, I’m off to my to-be-read pile to choose my next read, depending on what I find on page 69.
Visit Mary Baader Kaley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 23, 2023

"Don't Open the Door"

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Allison Brennan believes life is too short to be bored, so she had five children and writes three books a year. Reviewers have called her “a master of suspense” and RT Book Reviews said her books are “mesmerizing” and “complex.” She’s been nominated for multiple awards, including the Thriller, RWA’s Best Romantic Suspense (five times), and twice won the Daphne du Maurier award. She lives in Arizona with her family and assorted pets.

Brennan applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Don't Open the Door, and reported the following:
From page 69:
In the kitchen, she put down the two bags and let out the breath she’d been holding. She then inhaled deeply, exhaled, getting her bearings. These last two days had been emotional. Regan had been even-tempered since she was a kid, and that had helped her learn to remain calm in stressful situations. Charlie was right; she was good in a crisis. But being calm and rational made these complex memories and emotions more difficult to deal with, because there was nothing rational about any of this. She’d much rather be in the middle of an active shooter situation where her training and muscle memory would kick in, than standing in Tommy’s kitchen with memories of him, of her son, of her ex-husband, of her previous life, all punching her skull, fighting for attention.

And Regan, standing there alone, unsure how to fix anything.

Regan unloaded the groceries. She noticed a New York strip steak that hadn’t expired. Tommy loved to grill. There were fresh vegetables. She would eat them, think about Tommy, about their friendship and what might have been had life dealt them a different hand.

She closed the refrigerator as if closing her emotions. She couldn’t find the truth if she allowed the past to creep in and drag her down.

Then she saw a picture of her, Tommy and Chase, taken a few years ago at a Marshals family picnic. She stared at it, trying to feel that past happiness that had been her life — content, satisfied, successful in her career. Her marriage wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad. She had many friends, a home, a son. Her family. Imperfect, but hers.

Now gone.
The Page 69 Test mostly works for Don’t Open the Door. While this is the middle of a “quiet” scene where Regan is both ruminating on the past and working through Tommy’s investigation through his personal notes, it gives us a snapshot of what the story is about: Regan Merritt is in the home of her dead friend, struggling with her emotions, remembering her past and all that she has lost in the last year. I also think it shows Regan’s personality and character well: that she is calm, logical, good in a crisis, deals better with action than emotion — and that she is now facing something she feels ill- prepared for.

More than anything, I think this page leads to questions: what happened a year ago that shattered Regan’s life? How did Tommy die and why is she alone now in his house? Will she be able to find the truth, and what is the truth? I would hope that if someone turned to this page, they would want to read on, to find these answers.
Visit Allison Brennan's website.

My Book, The Movie: Don't Open the Door.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 20, 2023

"City Under One Roof"

Born in Missouri, raised in Hawaii and having lived in Guam, California, and Japan, Iris Yamashita was able to experience a diversity of culture while growing up. She studied engineering at U.C. San Diego and U.C. Berkeley and also spent a year at the University of Tokyo studying virtual reality. Her first love, however, has always been fiction writing, which she pursued as a hobby on the side.

Yamashita submitted her first screenplay to a competition where she was discovered by an agent at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) who offered to represent her. Her big break came when she was recruited to write the script Letters From Iwo Jima for Clint Eastwood. Letters was named “Best Picture” by both the National Board of Review and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. It received a Golden Globe award for “Best Foreign Language Film” of 2006 and was nominated for 4 Oscars including “Best Picture” and “Best Original Screenplay.”

Yamashita applied the Page 69 Test to City Under One Roof, her debut mystery novel, and reported the following:
On page 69, we’re in a flashback with the protagonist, Cara Kennedy, a detective investigating a brutal murder in a small, isolated town in Alaska. She’s remembering a trip to the wilderness with her husband, Aaron, and her six-year-old son, Dylan.
Cara finally felt content and at peace, away from the murder cases and the gray pall that she felt while in Anchorage. They spent the first day on breathtaking hikes, where every vista was postcard perfect. It was still early in September, not the optimal viewing time for the aurora, but still, thanks to a coronal hole, neon green lights floated across the night like Christmas ribbons gifting the star-filled sky. It was moments like these that reaffirmed Cara’s love for Alaska and all its cathartic beauty.

On the third morning, Dylan wanted to look for snowshoe hares, so Aaron traipsed out with him early, carrying his camera gear and tripod, while Cara opted to sleep in. She withheld her instinct to worry when they didn’t return for lunch. She had already tried to call Aaron’s cell but wasn’t surprised when it went straight to his mailbox. Dead spots in the wilderness area were to be expected. She left a message anyway and sent him a text for good measure. Then she began preparing grilled cheese sandwiches and hot tomato soup for them, expecting them to walk through the door at any moment.
This page happens to be in the middle of a flashback, so it doesn’t take place in the isolated and claustrophobic building where most of the book is set. However, it does give some back story to the protagonist, mentions “murder cases” in Alaska and hints of an impending mystery or disaster, so in that sense, I suppose it gives a reader a good idea of what to expect.

Cara’s voice is just one of three in the book, so I would still hope for readers to take a look at some other pages to get a sense of the other voices as well. Amy Lin, who is a teenaged resident of the isolated town and whose mother runs the local Chinese restaurant is the second voice. The third voice is from Lonnie Mercer, a resident with a mental disability who keeps a pet moose named Denny and wears a different colored beret every day.
Visit Iris Yamashita's website.

Q&A with Iris Yamashita.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

"Murder Book"

Thomas Perry is the bestselling author of thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Jane Whitefield series, The Old Man, and The Butcher’s Boy, which won the Edgar Award. He lives in Southern California.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Murder Book, and reported the following:
I think that a browser looking at page 69 of Murder Book would get a fair taste of the sort of book it is, although the most important and omnipresent character, Harry Duncan, isn't on the page. Duncan is a former cop and organized crime expert who has been hired as a consultant by the U.S. Attorney of the northern district of Illinois to perform a scouting mission to see why so many of Chicago's career criminals seem to be turning up in a rural region of Indiana. Is it the start of something big, or not?

By page 69 he's come to a small Indiana town along the Ash River and discovered what looks to him like the very early stages of an organized crime syndicate. He has been the target of an extortion attempt within an hour of his arrival, and later staved off an attempt by three brothers named Clark to sell protection to the female owner of the most popular local bar. His method has been to make the three look hopelessly stupid and incompetent, throw them out and get them arrested, so nobody will be afraid of them.

Page 69 occurs at the end of a scene. Russell, the organizer of the criminal group, has just talked with his second in command, Mullins. What Mullins has suggested is to call in a professional killer and have the three Clarks killed, and then replace them. Russell likes the idea, so he calls his mysterious backers in Chicago and takes credit for it, because, as he tells himself on page 69, "Talented underlings could grow into talented rivals."

Most of the page is about the first of the three Clark brothers getting released from jail. The eldest, Jerry, is the most annoying, so he'll be let go first. The second would be the youngest, Steve, because he's likely to be the peacemaker between Jerry and the middle brother Dennis, who is suspicious that his brothers are trying to turn on him. We see Jerry walking out of the jail in the middle of the night dressed in clothes from the police station's Lost and Found box. As he reaches the deserted street, about to begin a long walk home, he hears a car gliding up the street behind him. Then he hears the hum of a car window rolling down. "There was a musical voice, the voice of a woman who knew it would surprise him. 'Hey, Cutie." And the page ends. I think most readers will know right away what she must be up to.

I think it's a fair representation. The book is a prolonged contest between one very cunning detective and an array of people who are extremely violent and rapacious, and some of whom are adept at their schemes. Page 69 shows these people reacting to Harry Duncan's resounding defeat of the Clark brothers. The Clark brothers failed? Kill them and get somebody else. The book is fast-paced, a war between people who know that the fighter who strikes first is usually the one who gets to go home.
Learn more about the book and author at 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.

Q&A with Thomas Perry.

The Page 69 Test: Eddie's Boy.

The Page 69 Test: The Left-Handed Twin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 15, 2023

"The Nightmare Man"

J. H. Markert is a producer, screenwriter, husband, and father of two from Louisville, Kentucky, where he was also a tennis pro for 25 years, before hanging up the racquets for good in 2020. He graduated with a degree in History from the University of Louisville in 1997 and has been writing ever since.

Markert applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Nightmare Man, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Still parked outside the Bookmans’ house, Blue leafed through the pages of The Scarecrow and found the next murder in the book before even starting the car.

“Here it is.” She jabbed her fingernail into the page like a dagger. “Read it.”
On page 69 of The Nightmare Man, detectives Mills and Blue (Father and Daughter) sit in a car having just left questioning the horror writer Ben Bookman on a recent murder that mirrors one he’d written about in his most recent novel. The next victim in the novel is eerily similar to the character of Detective Mills, a widower and older man, and his daughter Detective Blue wants to make sure he understands the danger he might be in.

For this book, the Page 69 Test absolutely works! The browser should get an instant idea, as far as suspense and horror, of what the book is about.

It also happens to be about the time of a nice plot twist.
Visit J.H. Markert's website.

Q&A with J. H. Markert.

My Book, The Movie: The Nightmare Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 13, 2023

"The Game is A Footnote"

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. Delany is the recipient of the 2019 Derrick Murdoch Award for contributions to Canadian crime writing. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the newest novel in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, The Game is a Footnote, and reported the following:
From page 69:
He looked like he might argue, but then he sighed, leaned back in his chair, and let it go. Not for the first time, I got the feeling that the board members of the Scarlet House Museum had learned to pick their battles with the strong-willed Robyn.

Ethan bent his head over his laptop and typed away.

“Dave gave me an overview of the events of last night on the phone, but I’d like to hear again what happened,” Robyn said. “Dave, you go first, and then Gemma, please.”

When we’d finished, both of us keeping it brief and including a minimal amount of drama, Craig said, “Scared the life out of me. One minute everything’s calm and peaceful, and the next it sounded like the end times had arrived.”

“Hardly calm and peaceful,” Jayne said. “There was a storm going on.”

“Yes, but that was outside. I mean in the barn. In the house.”

“Could the storm have been what upset the animals?” Robyn asked.

“I wouldn’t have thought so,” Dave said. “They’re used to coastal weather. But you never know. If one of them got a fright and scared another . . . it all builds from there. Since helping out here, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected when working with farm animals.” He turned to me. “Except for the time I volunteered in Africa, I spent my career as a dog and cat vet. Totally different kettle of fish, those.”

“Were you and Craig together when the animals woke up?” I asked him.

The men exchanged vacant glances and half shrugs. Dave spoke first. “It’s difficult to be sure. It was dark and late, the storm building, and I might have been snoozing on and off.
The eighth Sherlock Holmes bookshop mystery, The Game is A Footnote, fails the page 69 test rather spectacularly.

On this page the characters are having a meeting in which they are discussing a previous night’s incident that had animals in the barn upset.

Meetings are not exactly the stuff of high drama. Someone is even typing at his computer, presumably taking the minutes!

Unfortunately, the page doesn’t mention that at the same time as the barn animals were causing an uproar, a suspected ghostly presence was wreaking havoc (or did it?) in the historical re-enactment museum in which much of the drama in the book is set. The meeting has, in fact, been called to discuss exactly what happened in the old house at midnight as a thunderstorm raged outside.

But this page presents none of the drama, confusion, and terror of what happened previously. It is, in fact, rather blah, and appears to be an unnecessary summing up of previous action. (It even says the events are told with “minimal amount of drama.”)

Of course, in a good mystery novel, nothing is ever just a retelling. A very important clue, and the catalyst for all that flows from here on in the book, is presented in this page. But, again in true puzzle mystery fashion, it is sort of slipped in among the rest of the conversation. On its own, it appears to mean nothing particularly interesting.

The characters are not well presented on this page either. There is no mention of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop, or a hint that our protagonist, Gemma Doyle, is the “Sherlock Holmes” character in the series. Meaning, she is my interpretation of the Great Detective as a modern young woman. That does not come out from a simple reading of page 69.

In short, page 69 is a poor example of the rest of The Game is a Footnote.
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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.

--Marshal Zeringue