Thursday, December 2, 2021

"A Counterfeit Suitor"

Darcie Wilde is the award-winning author of stylishly adventurous historical mysteries and romances, including the Rosalind Thorne Mysteries, a Regency-set series inspired by the novels of Jane Austen, as well as the Regency Makeover Trilogy. She has also written, under the name Sarah Zettel, Locus and Philip K. Dick Award-winning novels, including Fool's War, a New York Times Notable Books of the Year selection.

Wilde applied the Page 69 Test to her new Rosalind Thorne Mystery, A Counterfeit Suitor, and reported the following:
From page 69:
…Russell Fullerton also breached the crowd. His long legs carried him forward far faster than Rosalind, encumbered by her evening gown, could manage. He strode directly up to Sir Reginald, but he addressed himself to Alexi. Rosalind was too far away to hear, but she could easily interpret what he said. He was apologizing for his friend’s behavior. He would take charge of him now. The countess would not be inconvenienced again.

Alexi hesitated, clearly caught between his mistress’s instructions and the reassurances of this gentleman. Sir Reginald straightened himself up as much as he was able and assumed a swaggering air.

In the end, Alexi took the path of least resistance. He stepped back from Sir Reginald, bowed, and headed away toward the salon and, presumably, to Countess Lieven’s private box.

With every fiber of her being, Rosalind wanted to turn and run, to hide away and pretend this choice was never hers. She felt how alone she was. She felt all the fear, anger, and loss of the girl she had been.

But she could not run. She straightened herself. She set her features into an expression of gentle concern that was the furthest thing from what she actually felt. Free of the crowd, she was able to move smoothly forward. There would be no more scenes.

Of course the two men saw her. She had nowhere left to hide. Fullerton turned first. Then her father. “Ah! She returns!” Sir Reginald tugged at his jacket lapels. “The youngest of my poisonous brood!”

Rosalind bit the inside of her cheek, hard. She reached deep into her mind and her heart for a fund of old memories she had believed she would never need again.

She remembered when she loved this man without reservation and believed that he loved her.
Page 69 of the latest Rosalind Thorne, A Counterfeit Suitor, gets straight to the emotional heart of the book. Readers of the series will know that Rosalind’s deadbeat, drunken, father — Sir Reginald Thorne — abandoned her and her mother when Rosalind was still a teenager. Since then, he’s been cared for by Rosalind’s older sister.

On page 69, Sir Reginald has escaped, and vowed to revenge himself on Rosalind. Unfortunately, he also has help from Rosalind’s enemy, Russell Fullerton. On this page, the softness of the action belies the intensity of the conflict, both internal and external. What we see most strongly is Rosalind’s long buried anger and emotional conflict as she is forced to confront her father, and try to get him away from Fullerton. The ongoing dilemma between the wish to acknowledge private feeling, the need for immediate action, and the unyielding requirement to maintain public appearances is also on display.
Visit Darcie Wilde's website.

Q&A with Darcie Wilde.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

"Flight Risk"

Joy Castro is the award-winning author of the post-Katrina New Orleans literary thrillers Hell or High Water, which received the Nebraska Book Award, and Nearer Home, and the story collection How Winter Began, as well as the memoir The Truth Book and the essay collection Island of Bones, which received the International Latino Book Award. She is also editor of the anthology Family Trouble and served as the guest judge of CRAFT‘s first Creative Nonfiction Award. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Salon, Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, Brevity, Afro-Hispanic Review, and elsewhere. A former Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University, she is currently the Willa Cather Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Castro applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Flight Risk, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When we returned two weeks later [from our honeymoon in Paris]—plumped up by French food and wine and too many trips to Ladurée, thinned down again by long walks through the city and long nights in our suite above the Seine—[my mother-in-law] Helene’s fury had diminished to a simmer, but she was still tight-lipped when we met. I’d robbed her of the showpiece wedding of her only son.

“Give her time,” Jon said. “Let her stew. She’ll get over it.”

But she didn’t. Jon, she rapidly forgave. But I remained a pariah, a thief, and her suspicions of me grew.

Her manners were so impeccable that I, coming from a brusquer world, often failed to sense her hostility. At the society functions she threw, I sometimes felt like a character in a Henry James novel, the naïve and bumbling young American amidst the worldly old-money Europeans with titles and references I couldn’t descry—though I wasn’t hunting a husband, and no one was actually European. I hated those awkward evenings. But Helene was perfectly polite. Strategic, too. To Jon, she said only innocuous things about me or complimented some bland achievement, easy to praise—my career, some art piece, a casserole I’d labored over—so that when I came to him, worried about this or that slight, a double-edged comment, he could say, quite honestly and innocently, “She really likes you, Isabel. She really liked that wine you gave her. Really, sweetheart. You need to relax. It’s all in your head.”

I stopped asking Jon about it, and Helene and I drifted along in an uneasy truce. She’s Jon’s family, I told myself sternly. My family now. And sacrifices are what you make for family. So I brought casseroles. I sat at the Turner family table with Audrey and Sophia and their families at holidays, and I laughed lightly to deflect questions about when we were going to have children of our own. At Christmas and Mother’s Day and her birthday, I brought Helene exquisite and tasteful little gifts. But I began to make excuses not to see her...
To an extent, the page 69 test works very well on Flight Risk, because it captures the class-based family tensions between Isabel, the protagonist, and her mother-in-law Helene, a wealthy, old-money Chicago socialite who doesn't think Isabel's good enough for her son. The novel also chronicles Isabel's spiral into paranoia due to the marital tensions, and we begin to see that here, when Jon defends his mother's actions, making Isabel doubt her own interpretations. (For me, anytime a man tells his wife, "It's all in your head" in fiction or film, a serious gaslight alarm starts flashing.)

This page also raises the question of children, which connects to the book's larger themes, because it explores the issue of making fertility choices in an era of climate crisis. This selection also shows us how Isabel, though she's Latina from a background of poverty, thinks through the lens of literature she's read, as when she mentions Henry James. Flight Risk is, in a way, akin to James's The Portrait of a Lady, but updated for the 21st century, with a quite different set of moral challenges. Her ways of seeing have been sculpted by her education, and this has distorted her ability to get at the truth of her own feelings and experience.

Ways in which this page 69 is less representative include the fact that it's very interior and ruminative; there's little action. It largely tells rather than shows. Yet much of Flight Risk is very active, taking place outdoors or in conversation (or conflict) with other people. In Chicago, Isabel and Jon converse at dinner parties and galas, and Isabel talks on the phone to the prison warden, who informs her that her mother has died while incarcerated, and to her bitter Aunt Della, who tries to discourage her from returning home. But Isabel then flies back to West Virginia alone, drives deep into the mountains, and reencounters multiple people from her past. She treks alone through a forest, breaks into a locked house, and more. So in that sense, this page is unusually contemplative and reflective. For most of the book, by contrast, Isabel really is in flight. She really is at risk.
Visit Joy Castro’s website and Twitter perch.

Q&A with Joy Castro.

My Book, The Movie: Flight Risk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 28, 2021

"The Night of Many Endings"

Melissa Payne is the bestselling, award-winning author of The Secrets of Lost Stones and Memories in the Drift. For as long as she can remember, Payne has been telling stories in one form or another—from high school newspaper articles to a graduate thesis to blogging about marriage and motherhood. But she first learned the real importance of storytelling when she worked for a residential and day treatment center for abused and neglected children. There she wrote speeches and letters to raise funds for the children. The truth in those stories was piercing and painful and written to invoke a call to action in the reader: to give, to help, to make a difference. Payne’s love of writing and sharing stories in all forms has endured. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three children, a friendly mutt, a very loud cat, and the occasional bear.

Payne applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Night of Many Endings, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I think this man has overdosed.” Her teeth chattered while she spoke, making her words come out in fits and starts. “We need to lay him all the way onto his back.”

Vlado did just that and Nora was grateful to not be alone anymore, even if it was with someone who knew less than she did about how to save someone from an overdose. The class had been helpful, but it had also been calm and relaxed, nothing like reality. In reality, it was the hard grass biting into her knees, the stink of a trash bag split open by her side, the screeching cries of her aunt, and the splashes of ambulance lights across her brother’s zombie face.

She fumbled with the package, the tiny edge of plastic slipping from between her wet fingers until she cried out with frustration. “Damn it!”

Vlado took the box, opened it, pulled out the device, and without a word, handed it back to her.

She fit it into her hand, thumb on the plunger, two fingers on either side of the nozzle that wobbled in the air with a shaking that skittered through her muscles. She didn’t want this man to die. Not when she could do something to save him. Why was he here, near death and alone? Did he have a wife who cried for him? A son? Did they scour the streets like she did, feel the futility of searching for one person in the widening hole inside their chests? She would not let him die, but she was terrified that she was too late.

She slid one hand under his neck to tilt his head up, inserted the nozzle into his left nostril until her fingers touched his nose; then she pushed the plunger.
When I flipped to page 69 of The Night of Many Endings, it was interesting to discover what was unfolding in that particular moment. Would it be a pivotal scene between Nora, the kind librarian and Marlene, the elderly woman who sees the worst in most people? Or would it be about Lewis, the homeless addict who has come back to Silver Ridge to see his granddaughter one more time before he dies? Or would we meet Jasmine, the teenage girl with a secret? Or Vlado, the security guard who’s more interested in books and who loves Nora from afar?

In some ways, the scene on page 69 encapsulates the heart of this story. In this scene, Nora has discovered Lewis overdosed outside the library during an epic winter storm and administers a nasal spray that can reverse an overdose. Despite the fact that he is homeless and an addict, Nora sees Lewis as human first. She wonders about the people who love him, his wife, his kids, if they’ve searched for him the way she’s searched for her own drug-addicted brother. Nora wants to know Lewis’s story.

And that is the central theme to The Night of Many Endings; the only way we can truly understand or know someone is to learn their story first. During the night stranded together, each of these five characters learn about each other and in turn, find themselves changed because of it.
Visit Melissa Payne's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Melissa Payne & Max.

My Book, The Movie: The Secrets of Lost Stones.

The Page 69 Test: The Secrets of Lost Stones.

Q&A with Melissa Payne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 22, 2021

"You Sexy Thing"

Cat Rambo (they/them) is an American fantasy and science fiction writer whose work has appeared in, among others, Asimov's, Weird Tales, Chiaroscuro, Talebones, and Strange Horizons. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, where they studied with John Barth and Steve Dixon, they also attended the Clarion West Writers' Workshop. Their most recent works include And The Last Trump Shall Sound (co-written with James Morrow and Harry Turtledove), the fantasy novel Exiles of Tabat, and the space opera You Sexy Thing. They live, write, and teach somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. “Cat Rambo” is their real name.

Rambo applied the Page 69 Test to You Sexy Thing and reported the following:
From page 69:
Niko knew immediately what had happened.

“That son of a three-sided crystal gave us the wrong password!” she said. “Look, Ship, we do want to get you back to your owner. But we need to get to a place where we can track him down and arrange the exchange. He owes me a great deal of money.”

“Is the transaction witnessed?” the ship asked.

“Witnessed back on TwiceFar,” she said.

There was a pause. “TwiceFar systems are currently offline,” the ship finally said Niko could swear she heard suspicion in its voce.

“That is because the whole place was blown up by an Arranti, for who knows what reason!”

“That seems most unlikely,” the ship said.

“You saw the Arranti yourself!”

“I witnessed an Arranti in the vicinity, but was unable to discern what was causing damage to the station itself.”

“That’s what Arranti do!”

Sane species avoided the Arranti, one of the oldest, most powerful races, who were obsessed with the same that their species played They would not divulge the rules to outsiders -- although it was apparently specified that you had to be an Arranti to play -- and over the centuries, while many scholar had devoted themselves to trying to figure it out, only guesswork and wild theories served so far. The game -- and its participants -- were wholly unpredictable, and while the station had been destroyed as a move, apparently it could just as easily have been transformed, or
This page is the beginning of Chapter 8, so it at least starts in a coherent way, even if it does drop off mid-sentence at the end. Does it give a reader a good sense of the book? I think so -- this passage features two of the book’s main characters, captain Nicolette Larsen and the ship that gives the book its title, You Sexy Thing. These two must work together for the common good, but neither finds it easy at times.

It also showcases something that is one of the book’s strengths, as well as the most fun to write, the dialogue back and forth between characters. The ship is a character that let me be funny and I really enjoyed writing the humorous moments that come throughout. The action is serious, the peril is deadly and real for the protagonists, but those moments of humor give the reader a space to breath and enjoy, and to get to know the cast of characters.

What else does it do well? It provides a glimpse of the world of the book, a place full of space stations and mysterious alien races playing their own unguessable games. Space opera requires a vast backdrop, full of glitter and stars, and while this passage may not show the glitter, it does show some of the scope of things in both distance and time.

What doesn’t it do well? It doesn’t show the rest of the characters -- and since the book is about an ensemble, that’s a lack. I guess readers curious about that will have to pick it up!
Visit Cat Rambo's website.

Q&A with Cat Rambo.

My Book, The Movie: You Sexy Thing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

"Lonely Hearts"

Lisa Gray is an Amazon #1, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She previously worked as the Chief Scottish Football Writer at the Press Association and books columnist at the Daily Record Saturday Magazine. Her novels include: Thin Air, a Washington Post and Wall Street Journal bestseller and Amazon.com’s third-bestselling Kindle eBook of 2019; Bad Memory, a Wall Street Journal bestseller and longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize; and Dark Highway.

Gray applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Lonely Hearts, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Lonely Hearts is the first page of chapter eight so there’s less text than on a regular page. It opens in Larchmont Village, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, which is described as “a strange mix of charming and hip.” It’s clear from this page that my main character, Jessica Shaw, is looking for someone or, rather, she’s searching for a car that will lead her to that person. “There was a kind of intimate feel about the neighborhood and the search for a single car no longer seemed quite so daunting.” By the end of the page, Jessica is pretty sure she’s found the old vintage vehicle in question.

I wasn’t convinced the Page 69 Test would work but I think in the case of Lonely Hearts it does. Setting is a big part of the book and I like to write in quite a descriptive, cinematic style so that the reader can really picture where the action is taking place. I believe this particular page captures that element quite well. Even though this scene isn’t the most dramatic or suspenseful, it also shows exactly what my private eye, Jessica, does best—find people.

The owner of the car, a woman by the name of Glo Goldson, was a friend and neighbor of the missing person that Jessica has been hired to track down. The information that Glo provides turns out to be key to Jessica’s search so Page 69 is the beginning of a chapter that turns out to be crucial to the whole storyline.
Visit Lisa Gray's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 15, 2021

"The Left-Handed Twin"

Thomas Perry is the bestselling author of over twenty-nine novels, including the critically acclaimed Jane Whitefield series, Forty Thieves, and The Butcher’s Boy, which won the Edgar Award. He lives in Southern California.

Perry applied the Page 69 Test to his new Jane Whitefield novel, The Left-Handed Twin, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Left-Handed Twin is about 2/3 of the length of an average page because it's the opening page of Chapter 7, but there are complexities, both seen and unseen, in that space. In it Jane wakes up before dawn in an old house in a small town in Central New York belonging to Stewart, a forger who is Jane's favorite supplier of false identification for Jane's "runners," people who have good reason to believe they're about to be murdered, who come or are sent to Jane for help in disappearing.

She's just had a dream in which Harry Kemple, a gambler who came to Jane for help years ago and was murdered because Jane made the mistake of trusting a man who claimed to be Harry's friend, comes to talk. In the dream Jane and Harry try to puzzle out whether Jane's latest runner, Sara Doughton, is genuine or an imposter sent to entrap Jane. She said she'd been sent to Jane by her L.A. lawyer Elizabeth Howarth, an old college friend of Jane's who knows about her secret profession. At the moment when Jane wakes, she thinks "Why didn't she [Elizabeth] call first?"

It seems odd. Jane hasn't been out of Sara's presence since the first day, and Jane is now only carrying throw-away phones, so Elizabeth can't call her if she wants to. Jane decides to call Karen Alvarez, another L.A. lawyer and mutual friend and ask her to try to verify Sara's story or disprove it. On page 69 we're reminded that Karen Alvarez is someone who has asked Jane to save an innocent client, and later helped Jane make a convict disappear from a criminal court where he was testifying.

I think page 69 is fairly typical of The Left-Handed Twin. The situation is new, but old readers will know Jane's move is characteristic. Dream is a common way for Senecas to bring back what they've already observed and interpret it. Harry has visited Jane's dreams before, and serves as a reminder that if Jane makes a mistake, it has consequences. Jane's attempt on this page to clear up a detail in Sara's story that doesn't feel right is the way she operates. Jane generally believes Sara, and her eye for relevant detail is what keeps Sara alive. But Jane can never forget that each time she leaves home to give another person a new life, she's trying to rob murderers of their victim. There's very little that's more dangerous than that.
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.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 13, 2021

"The Dare"

Lesley Kara was born and grew up in Chelmsford, Essex.

On moving to London, she worked as a secretary before completing an English degree and PGCE at Greenwich University.

She then became a lecturer and manager in Further Education.

She is an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course and now lives on the north Essex coast where she writes full-time.

Kara applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Dare, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I tiptoe downstairs and rummage in the bottom of my bag. I need to get this pregnancy test done and find out one way or the other.

The light’s been left on in the study, so I go in and sit on the leather swivel chair to read the instructions, trying my best to ignore the faint but lingering scent of coconut. Ross’s Mac whirs into life. I must have accidentally leaned on the keyboard as I spread the leaflet out.

I stare at the screen, my eyes stuck fast to the headline of an all-too-familiar news article. So this is why he was so long coming to bed. He’s been googling the accident.
NETWORK RAIL SAFETY UPGRADES TOO LATE FOR “OUR ALICE”

The distraught parents of 13-year-old Alice Dawson, killed by a train on an open crossing that traverses the Garleywood Public Footpath in Garleywood Tippet, have told of their heartbreak at losing their precious daughter.

“Alice’s death has devastated our family,’ says Mick Dawson….”
It’s an interesting exercise to look at just one page of a novel to see what it might reveal about the book as a whole. Reading page 69 of The Dare again, it strikes me that while it might introduce a casual browser to the main character Lizzie, it doesn’t reference anywhere that she suffers from epilepsy, an important fact that permeates the entire novel.

It’s clear from this page that Lizzie thinks she may be pregnant and that she’s about to do a test to find out one way or the other, but then she is distracted by what she sees on her fiancé Ross’s screen - a news article about the tragic death of a thirteen-year-old girl called Alice Dawson. Someone turning to this page without knowing what preceded it, or without having read the novel’s blurb, would not be aware that Alice was Lizzie’s childhood friend, and that Lizzie was there at the time of her death. Nor would they be aware that Lizzie cannot remember the details of what happened because she suffered a major seizure which affected her memory, and that sometimes she wonders whether she might have been responsible for her friend’s death.

What is obvious from this passage, is that Ross wants to know more about what happened. He’s interested enough to search online for old news articles rather than asking Lizzie direct. Prior to this scene, Lizzie has just told Ross what happened for the very first time and she’s only done this because of a visitor who came to their housewarming party. (It is this visitor whose coconut scent still lingers in the study). Maybe this is why Ross is so curious. Or maybe he doesn’t believe that Lizzie is entirely innocent!

The novel is told through two separate timelines: one, as in the case of page 69, is Lizzie as an adult woman, confronted with the trauma of her past, and the other is Lizzie as a thirteen-year-old girl, both before and immediately after Alice’s death. So in some ways, this page gives a snapshot of the two narratives and as such, could be said to do a reasonable job of capturing the essence of the novel.
Visit Lesley Kara's website.

Q&A with Lesley Kara.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

"The Collective"

USA Today and international bestselling author Alison Gaylin has won the Edgar and Shamus awards. Her work has been published in the US, UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, Romania and Denmark, and she has been nominated for numerous awards, including the Macavity, Anthony, ITW Thriller and Strand Book Award.

Gaylin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Collective, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Collective finds the main character, Camille, teetering on a precipice of sorts. After hearing that Gerard Krakowski – a neighborhood vigilante who fatally shot an unarmed young man and was cleared of the crime – has died in what appears to be a shooting accident, she’s private messaged the young man’s mother, Rachel Ruley, telling her that she sees it as justice. Camille and Rachel belong to Niobe, a private Facebook group for grieving mothers let down by the legal system. And, though she doesn’t personally know Rachel, Camille is hoping she’ll hear back so that she can get a sense of how she feels. While Camille sees that Rachel has read her letter, she doesn’t hear back. “She has nothing to say to me, and that’s fine,” she says, midway through the page. At the bottom of the page, though, Camille goes to her professional website and checks her email: “The second email is from what looks like a meaningless series of numbers. Spam, I think. But then I notice the subject line: Justice.”

Though not the most dramatic or violent scene in the book, page 69 captures the moment that truly sets the plot in motion. The “justice” email contains the link that ultimately leads Camille to the dark web – and to the shadowy group of grieving and angry mothers known as the collective.

From here on in, Camille becomes tangled up in this group, which at first seems like a safe space in which these women can voice their revenge fantasies – but soon appears to be something far more powerful, and dangerous. If I reveal too much more, there will be spoilers, but I will say that in the case of The Collective, the page 69 test definitely works!
Learn more about the book and author at Alison Gaylin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Into the Dark.

The Page 69 Test: What Remains of Me.

The Page 69 Test: If I Die Tonight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 8, 2021

"The Mother Next Door"

Tara Laskowski’s debut suspense novel One Night Gone won the Agatha Award, Macavity Award, and the Anthony Award and was a finalist for the Lefty, the Simon and Schuster Mary Higgins Clark, the Strand Critics, and the Library of VA Literary awards.

Laskowski applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Mother Next Door, and reported the following:
From page 69:
"I tried to Google her online, and I couldn't find her," Bettina said.

"Good," I said.

Karma was a bitch.

I stood, paced the room. Outside, a car pulled onto the cul-de-sac, but it drove by Bettina's house and then ours, headed toward the pipe stem. When it passed, its headlights illuminated the dogwood.

That swaying branch wasn't a branch. There was something in the tree.

I put on my flats and stepped outside, into the front yard.

"Don't you think it's weird?" Bettina asked. "She's not on Facebook or anything either. I can't find any trace of her."

"Did you really think she'd become a big star?" I asked. Whatever was in the tree was thin and white, whipping around, bashing into the truck. I walked over, reached up to grab it, but it flew just out of reach.

"Jackie's been gone all these years," I said, balancing the phone between my ear and shoulder as I stretched up again. "There's been no trouble. Why now? It doesn't make any--"

My phone fell into the grass. I'd finally gotten a grip on the thing in the tree.

The white was lace. A dress. A doll.

"Kendra?" Bettina's voice, tinny and high, sputtered from the phone on the lawn. "What's wrong?"

I turned it around. And that's when I saw the face.

I bit my cheek and felt a salty warmth in my mouth.

Blood.
I was a little nervous to look at page 69, because I was pretty sure the test wouldn't work, but I'm actually surprised that it has a lot of relevance to the overall themes and plot of the book. The Mother Next Door is a story about a group of mothers with a secret, and they spend a lot of the time trying to figure out who knows about their secret and is trying to expose them. In this excerpt, we see a little of that paranoia brewing between two of them. But you also get a sense of self-righteousness and entitlement here, too (that "Good" is very telling), which definitely colors a lot of the decisions this group of women makes. They are worried, but they don't want to show it.

The past is coming back to haunt them ("Why now?"..."Jackie's been gone all these years..."), and I like that this particular page shows the beginnings of their "investigations" to root out the problem and stop it before it gets out of hand.

Here you also get some description of the cul-de-sac where nearly entirely all of the book is set. Hints of creepiness, because it's Halloween season and everything is dying. And the doll hanging from the tree provides a sense of menace as well--is it a Halloween prank? Or something more?

So yes, overall, I am pleased to say that I think The Mother Next Door passes the Page 69 Test!
Visit Tara Laskowski's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 5, 2021

"Other People’s Things"

Kerry Anne King is the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of Closer Home, I Wish You Happy, Whisper Me ThisEverything You Are, and A Borrowed Life. Licensed as both an RN and a mental-health counselor, she draws on her experience working in the medical and mental-health fields to explore themes of loss, grief, and transformation—but always with a dose of hope and humor. King lives in a little house in the big woods of the Inland Northwest. She also writes fantasy and mystery novels as Kerry Schafer.

King applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Other People's Things, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Ash sniffed. “Sounds like a total asswipe to me.”

“You’re just jealous.”

“You’d better believe I’m jealous. I’ve been supplanted!”

“What do you expect? You aren’t buying me diamonds.”

“Just fix it, Nickle. I guess I need to meet him.”

Later, when I told Kent that I needed him to meet my best friend, he’d teased, “Am I not enough for you?” Then he kissed me until I forgot all about Ash and everything and everybody else. An hour later, snuggled up to him in bed, I brought the topic up again.

“Seriously, Kent. Ash is important to me. We’ve been through a lot together. Maybe we could just meet for coffee? Or lunch, even, if you’ve got time.”

“No,” he said, running a hand up my arm, onto my shoulder, then down to stroke my breast. “If she’s that important to you, we’ll take her out for a nice dinner.”

His hand made it hard to focus, and I shoved it away, laughing and sitting up to evade his caresses. “Nice dinners aren’t exactly Ash’s and my thing. She might be more comfortable—”

“But nice dinners are our thing,” he’d said, drawing me back down beside him and trailing his fingers down the center of my belly. “Trust me. There is not a woman on the planet who doesn’t want to be wined and dined.”
This scene highlights one of the relationship dynamics in Other People’s Things—the smoothly controlling behavior of Nickle’s soon-to-be-former-husband, and the way he has always tended to gaslight her—but the page 69 test is only about 50% accurate for the book. This scene doesn’t bring up the central problem—the compulsion that drives Nickle to move other people’s things from one place to another, and the question of whether her Object Relocation Program is a gift or a curse. Still, it does hint at Kent’s personality and the way he tends to drive a wedge between her and her family and friends. The page gives a taste of relationships dynamics, but doesn’t reveal the mystery and touch of magic that infuses most of the book.
Visit Kerry Anne King's website.

The Page 69 Test: Everything You Are.

The Page 69 Test: A Borrowed Life.

Writers Read: Kerry Anne King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Shoot the Moonlight Out"

William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. He’s the author of five novels: Gravesend, which was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France and shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in the UK; The Lonely Witness, which was nominated for the Hammett Prize and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière; A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, an Amazon Best Book in 2019 and winner of the Prix Transfuge du meilleur polar étranger in France; City of Margins, a Washington Post Best Thriller and Mystery Book of 2020; and, most recently, Shoot the Moonlight Out. All are available from Pegasus Crime. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Boyle applied the Page 69 Test to Shoot the Moonlight Out and reported the following:
Page 69 of my new novel, Shoot the Moonlight Out, is the end of a chapter where Lily Murphy—recently returned to southern Brooklyn from college in Pennsylvania—has retreated to her room in her mother's new apartment. She's just back from teaching a writing class in the basement of her childhood church and has received an ominous, threatening message from her ex-boyfriend. It is June 2001. Lily is adrift. In her room, she puts on a CD—Nina Nastasia's Dogs—that she bought because it was on her favorite employee’s recommendation shelf at the record store in her college town. An excerpt: "She's been listening to it [Dogs] a lot lately. It fits her mood. She opens her window, sits on the bed, and the noise from the street competes with the music. Horns, voices, sirens." Though it's a short page at the end of a chapter, I think this scene gives readers a pretty good idea of the whole work. Melancholy and worry. City noises. Music. A character searching for something and running from something. A feeling of dread. Some hope, too. Lily and her perceptions of the world are central to the story. If readers opened to this page and read just a few lines, they'd have, I think, a glimpse into the heart of the book.
Visit William Boyle's website.

The Page 69 Test: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

The Page 69 Test: City of Margins.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 1, 2021

"The Reckless Kind"

Carly Heath earned her BA from San Francisco State University and her MFA from Chapman University. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Heath teaches design, art, theater, and writing for various colleges and universities. She currently lives on the West Coast and tends a menagerie of rescued farm animals.

Heath applied the Page 69 Test to The Reckless Kind, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Reckless Kind features one of my favorite scenes in the book. It takes place in the doctor’s house after Erlend’s boyfriend, Gunnar Fuglestad, has been attacked by the cowardly little miscreant, Nils. Erlend’s father arrives and demands that Erlend go to Nils’ family and apologize for the vengeance Erlend had unleashed on Nils’ face (Erlend beat him up really badly, breaking Nils’ jaw and nose). Erlend, of course, refuses. Near the end of the page, Erlend says:“I’m not leaving Fuglestad.” And that, really, is Erlend’s thesis statement in the whole book—whatever happens, he’s committed to Gunnar through everything.

What’s interesting about the page 69 test in regards to The Reckless Kind is that the book is dual POV and though Asta is more of the main character and has more page time throughout the book, page 69 lands on a scene where Asta is watching the other POV character—Erlend. She’s observing him do something she’s been yearning to do for so long—explicitly defy parental authority. This scene does a very good job of conveying what the book is about—knowing what’s right, sticking to your convictions even when the forces of authority are pressuring you to submit. It also happens to be a scene where all three characters are featured together and the main conflict that will emerge between them is hinted at: Gunnar’s guilt over being the cause of a rift between Erlend and his parents.

This is the scene that will inspire Asta to (in a few pages) resist the parental authority figure in her life. Indeed, the themes seeded and the choices made on page 69 develop throughout the rest of the book, so—yes—page 69 is an apt microcosm of the whole work. Certainly the “energy” of the work is there—that feeling of standing up and saying “no” which is a crucial vibe of the book.
Visit Carly Heath's website.

--Marshal Zeringue