Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"A Season to Lie"

Emily Littlejohn was born and raised in southern California. She has called Colorado home since 2003.

Littlejohn applied the Page 69 Test her new novel, A Season to Lie, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
The sound of a car engine pulled my attention from the trash can. Finn met me at the front door. He looked tired. The shadows under his baby blues were dark and his normally immaculate clothes were rumpled.

"Sorry to drag you out on a Sunday," I said. "Late night?"

Finn yawned and shrugged at the same time. He ignored my question. "It's an active murder investigation. I don't want you to get all the glory. Did you go in yet?"

I shook my head. "Nope."
I read A Season to Lie's page 69 and it was great fun! At this page in the mystery, Detective Gemma Monroe has arrived at the rental property of Delaware Fuente, a famous author who has been brutally murdered at a private high school in her resort town of Cedar Valley, Colorado. The amount of snow on his car leads her to believe that the car hasn't been driven in a few days, which begs the question: how did he get to the school? Did he know his killer? As she pokes around the property, her partner Finn Nowlin arrives. The scene is a great snapshot of the ways in which the two detectives both complement each other and bring unique talents to the case.
Visit Emily Littlejohn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 19, 2017

"The Last Mrs. Parrish"

Liv Constantine is the writing team of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine.

They applied the Page 69 Test their new psychological thriller, The Last Mrs. Parrish, and reported the following:
Up to this point Amber’s plans have gone swimmingly, and her insinuation into Daphne’s life much easier than she expected. On Page 69 Amber meets Jackson for the first time and is unprepared and overwhelmed. She also sees that Jackson and Daphne’s pint sized daughter Bella might very well become a stumbling block for her. Daphne was easy. Now Amber needs to reign in her awe at Jackson and replace it with unemotional planning if she is to forge ahead with her plans. And somehow she needs to turn the spoiled and mistrustful Bella into her ally. She sees for the first time, that it’s going to take more than just scheming and raw sex appeal to make Jackson hers.

Page 69 is not representative of the book - it only hints at some of the truths to be revealed later.
Visit Liv Constantine's website and Valerie Constantine's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Dying to Live"

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Their mysteries are set in Botswana, each against a backdrop of a current issue in southern Africa. Their protagonist is David “Kubu” Bengu, assistant superintendent in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The third novel in the series, Death of the Mantis, was short listed for an Edgar and an Anthony, and won the Barry Award for best paperback original mystery of 2011.

The authors applied the Page 69 Test to Dying to Live, the sixth Detective Kubu mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69—it’s the start of a chapter, so it’s short:
Festus Moeng pulled his truck into the parking bay outside Gaborone’s 4x4 4U Car Rental, climbed out, and slammed the door, not bothering to lock it. He walked into the office and was pleased to discover that it was empty except for a bored-looking clerk, who glanced up at Festus and then returned his attention to his computer screen.

Festus walked over, spread his large hands on the counter, and announced, “I need some assistance here.”

The man looked up. Festus was pleased to see his expression become more respectful as his eyes scanned up Festus’s six-foot-six height with breadth to match. Still, the man held the home ground. “How can I help?” he asked casually.

“I need some information about a vehicle rented by a Dr. Christopher Collins.” He shoved a printout of an email across the counter. “Here’s the reservation confirmation. We need to know where the vehicle is now.”

The receptionist picked up the email and glanced at it. “And you are?”
Is the piece representative of the book?

Not really, and yet there are some clues here. Festus is a bully and will get his way. He’s looking for someone in the Kalahari, someone who is missing. Why the Kalahari? It’s a semi-desert area that covers a huge tract of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.  Easy to get lost in, easy to find previously undiscovered things in.

In fact, Dr. Collins is on the track of a plant, a plant purported to have remarkable properties—properties that can lead to healing and the extension of life.  One Bushman is thought to have the plant.  Such a thing would be valuable beyond belief to people who want it for themselves, people who want it for money, and even people who want it to save others.

The backstory is biopiracy—stealing the traditional knowledge of indigenous people for gain, but the theme of the book is greed and how it infects and challenges all the characters. There are the other Bushmen who suspect the plant’s existence but don’t have it, the witch doctor who claims to have it but does not, the anthropologist who is diverted to hunt for it, the drug company hunting for him, even our detective, Kubu, whose wife wants it to save her daughter.

Does the plant even exist? It doesn’t matter if people believe that it does.
Learn more about the book and authors at Michael Stanley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Deadly Harvest.

My Book, The Movie: Dying to Live.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"The Memory Trees"

Kali Wallace, for most of her life, was going to be a scientist when she grew up. She studied geology in college, partly because she could get course credit for hiking and camping, and eventually earned a PhD in geophysics researching earthquakes in India and the Himalayas. Only after she had her shiny new doctorate in hand did she admit that she loved inventing imaginary worlds as much as she liked exploring the real one.

Wallace applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Memory Trees, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Memory Trees starts with the main character, Sorrow, waking up after the first night she's spent in her childhood bedroom in eight years--and right away she finds that something is missing:
If she had been given a choice, she wouldn't have left them behind. But nobody had asked her. She didn't remember who had packed her things. Grandma, probably. Maybe Dad. Verity had already been hospitalized by then.

Sorrow pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes to chase away the sudden sting of tears. They were only things. Trinkets and toys. She hadn't even remembered them until just now.
It's a quiet moment, a girl alone in a bedroom that was once familiar to her, a beautiful summer day dawning outside, but even in this moment hints of tension creep in. What's missing from her bedroom is a collection of childhood treasures: found objects that were once incredibly important to her. A few paragraphs down the page she asks her grandmother where the objects have gone. Nobody knows, it turns out, and Sorrow is left wondering why something that had once been so cherished could have vanished not only from her otherwise untouched bedroom, but from her own memories.

Both the objects and the memories play a much bigger role as the story goes on, but page 69 is the first time they are linked together. In that respect it is absolutely representative of the book as a whole. It's a scene which builds the conflict between past and present, between what's remembered and what's forgotten, a conflict that is at the very heart of the The Memory Trees.
Visit Kali Wallace's website.

Writers Read: Kali Wallace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"The Vineyard Victims"

Ellen Crosby is the author of the Virginia wine country mystery series, which began with The Merlot Murders. She has also written a mystery series featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina, and Moscow Nights, a standalone. Previously she was a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, Moscow correspondent for ABC News Radio, and an economist at the U.S. Senate.

Crosby applied the Page 69 Test to The Vineyard Victims, the eighth Wine Country Mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Can you tell us what happened yesterday?”

“Did you see Jamie Vaughn’s car crash into your wall?”

“Was he speeding? Were you speeding?”

“Were two cars involved, yours and his? Did Jamie swerve to avoid your car, which was seen in a ditch by the side of the road?”

“Did you call 911?”

“Were you able to talk to him?”

“Did you try to save him?”

“Where were you when he crashed into the wall?”

“Lucie, can you describe your emotions as you watched Jamie Vaughn’s car go up in flames? Take us through it, please.”


Finally Quinn held up his hand as though he were negotiating for a truce. “That’s enough. Please, stop. You’re all talking over each other,” he repeated in a loud voice until everyone quieted down. “Lucie has a statement and that’s all she’s prepared to say.”

I found Pippa O’Hara in the crowd, which wasn’t hard given her blazing red hair and electric blue windbreaker, and tried to keep my face expressionless. “All of us at Montgomery Estate Vineyard would like to extend our deepest condolences to Jamie Vaughn’s family after the tragic accident yesterday that took his life. I have nothing more to say, other than like so many people, I am grieving the loss of a friend and a good man. Everything else you might want to know should be directed to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department and the Middleburg Fire and Rescue Department. Thank you.”

I turned to go inside when a voice drawled, “Lucie, Pippa O’Hara, News Channel 3. Why are you covering up what really happened to Jamie Vaughn?”

I spun around. “I beg your pardon?”
Years ago I heard Michael Connelly say that in every scene of every book he writes someone must want something that propels the story forward, even if it’s only a glass of water. I took that advice to heart because my fondest hope is to hear from a tired, grumpy fan who writes to tell me he or she stayed up all night reading my book because they couldn’t put it down.

On page 69 of The Vineyard Victims, Lucie Montgomery is finally forced to confront the press as the only witness to a fiery car crash that killed former presidential candidate Jamie Vaughn at the entrance to her vineyard. Lucie heard Jamie’s last words—
Tell Rick to forgive me
—and she begins to wonder if the crash might have been deliberate. Jamie’s family insists it was a tragic accident on a rain-slicked country road since Jamie had no reason to want to take his life. His wife and best friend explain that the mysterious “Rick” was a campaign donor who had a falling out with Jamie—so Jamie merely wanted to make amends.

In this scene Lucie doesn’t feel compelled to admit anything to Pippa O’Hara, the Channel 3 reporter.  But sooner rather than later she must wrestle with her own conscience: find out who Rick really is and risk destroying the reputation of a beloved and generous member of the community ... or do nothing.
Visit Ellen Crosby's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 13, 2017

"Greetings from Witness Protection!"

Jake Burt teaches the fifth grade in Connecticut.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Greetings from Witness Protection!, his fiction debut, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Greetings from Witness Protection! is actually one of the most pivotal pages in the entire book. Upon that page, the main character, Nicki Demere, meets the Sicurezza family for the first time. It's a momentous occasion for her, because she's been "adopted" by the US marshals to join this new family in order to better hide them from the criminals chasing them; as the title suggests, they're going into the witness protection program, or WITSEC.

In fact, the moment is so fraught for Nicki (who, as part of her acceptance into WITSEC has changed her name to Charlotte) that she spends the bulk of the page trying to stall for as long as possible; after all, the people she's about to meet will be her new family for all intents and purposes. I really like how Nicki/Charlotte's attempts to build up her courage add tension while allowing her to use her trademark sardonic humor to keep the reader engaged on her level. I also got to take a well-earned dig at one of life's most aggravating contrivances: the low-water-pressure drinking fountain. I'm convinced there's a level of Hell that's neverending desert, save for a single cruddy rest stop in the middle around which all the poor souls gather. There's table after table of garlic and olive tapenade, along with super-salty pita points. The damned can eat as much as they like. However, when they get thirsty, all they see is a lone drinking fountain, jutting from the tan-painted cinderblock wall. It works, but just barely, and the last billion or so people to use it all had plenty of that garlicy tapenade...

As for how Nicki gets along with her brand-new mother, father, and kid brother? Well, I will say it's not as dramatic as drinking fountain Hell...

...but it's not too far off, either...
Visit Jake Burt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"Wolf Season"

Helen Benedict is a professor at Columbia University and the author of seven novels, including the just-published Wolf Season, and her previous novel, Sand Queen, a Publishers Weekly “Best Contemporary War Novel.” She writes frequently about justice, women, soldiers, and war.

Benedict applied the Page 69 Test to Wolf Season and reported the following:
From page 69:
Louis drove them to his favorite refuge; a nature preserve called Myosotis, just south of Huntsville. During those nights in Iraq when the sleep was driven from him by doubts or heat, aches or illness, the deeds of the day burning into him like a branding iron, he would try to escape by walking through this park in his memory, forcing himself to recall every twist of its trails, landmark oak or hemlock; every hawk or bald eagle he had seen sailing over its lake. Myosotis, he knew, was Greek for forget-me-not.

Parking on the edge of a tree-shaded road, he led them down a pebbled path, a stream on one side, a mossy bank on the other, a wash of golden-green light trickling through the dense woods around them. It was a torpid August day, but here the air was leaf-cool and fresh, and as he gestured for Naema and Tariq to move ahead of him, he saw her lift her face and inhale.
This scene is a flashback to when Louis, an Iraq War army veteran, first gets to know Naema and her little son, Tariq, refugees from that same war. In some ways, the page does a good job of representing the novel, for nature is important in this story, as is the way war reaches out to entangle people, even in a little American town like Huntsville, New York.

The novel is set in this town of Huntsville, and every character – three mothers, their three children, Louis, and an active duty marine named Todd – are all affected by war. True to the title, wolves are in this novel, too, but if readers want to find out why, they will have to read it!
Learn more about Helen Benedict and her work at her official website.

My Book, The Movie: Sand Queen.

The Page 69 Test: Sand Queen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Wonder Valley"

Ivy Pochoda is the author of the novels Visitation Street and The Art of Disappearing.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Wonder Valley, and reported the following:
So page 69 of Wonder Valley is one of my favorite scenes—and it's like nothing else in the entire book. The novel bounces back and forth between the streets of Skid Row and the hardscrabble Mojave Desert. But this page take place in an upper middle class house in the somewhat fancy Beverlywood section of Los Angeles. It's a nice respite from the heat and the elements in the other chapters. But also, it its own way, demonstrates that the same alienation and longing that afflicts the more conventionally desperate characters, plagues Tony, the semi-successful but professionally and emotionally stagnant lawyer whose house it is. This page has my favorite line in all of my novel—when Tony's jaded daughter sympathizes with him by saying, "I feel you Daddy.... It's a grind, right?" The oblivious wisdom of teenagers always tickles me.
Learn more about the book and author at Ivy Pochoda's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Disappearing.

Writers Read: Ivy Pochoda.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"Even If It Kills Her"

Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels of suspense: seven Bailey Weggins mysteries, including Even If It Kills Her, http://newreads.blogspot.com/2017/10/even-if-it-kills-her.htmland five psychological thrillers, including The Secrets You Keep.

White applied the Page 69 Test to Even If It Kills Her and reported the following:
Well, I did the “page 69” test for Even If It Kills Her, and I have to say it was not only fun but downright uncanny. In some way the page really is a microcosm of the whole book, and I like to think that if viewed alone, the page would entice a reader to devour the whole mystery right to the shocking, twisty end.

Even If It Kills Her opens with true-crime author Bailey Weggins being implored by her college friend Jillian Lowe to find out who murdered Jillian’s parents and two siblings sixteen years ago. The convicted killer, it turns out, didn’t do it. Jillian’s former home is now up for sale and on page 69, Bailey tours the house, posing as a prospective buyer. While she’s there, she takes photos of the room Jillian’s sister was found in, and later those pictures provide her with a critical clue that points toward the real murderer.

The action on page 69 also reflects just how industrious and relentless Bailey is and also how willing she is to step back and view situations from a different angle, which is sometimes the only way to finally see the truth.
Visit Kate White's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 5, 2017

"Jade City"

Fonda Lee is the award-winning author of the gangster fantasy saga Jade City and the young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer and Exo. Lee is a recovering corporate strategist, a black belt martial artist, and an action movie aficionado. She loves a good Eggs Benedict. Born and raised in Canada, she now lives in Portland, Oregon.

Lee applied the Page 69 Test to Jade City and reported the following:
Jade City is the first book in an epic fantasy trilogy. While it has magic jade, gangsters, political intrigue, and martial arts battles, at its heart, it’s a story about a family—the Kauls. On page 69, we witness a conversation between two of the main characters, Hilo and his adopted younger cousin, Anden. Hilo is the Horn (chief enforcer and military leader) of the family clan. He thinks of Anden as his protégé and is grooming him to be a jade-wielding commander like himself.
“You have to pay attention this year and start thinking about which of your classmates you’ll want as your Fingers. Skill is important, but not everything. You want the ones who are loyal and disciplined. Who won’t start shit but won’t take any either.”

The combination of the adrenaline crash and Hilo’s words made Anden’s fingers shake. He took a drag on the cigarette. “Kaul-jen,” he started.

“Godsdamnit, Andy. Do I have to beat you up some more? Stop talking to me like that.” He threw his arm around Anden’s shoulders. Anden flinched, but Hilo pulled him in and gave him a fierce kiss on the cheek. “You’re as much my brother as Lan is. You know that.”
Anden is one of my favorite characters. 18 years old, mixed-race, and queer, he’s still a student but wants very much to fit into the clan of the powerful Kaul family. Despite his cousin’s assurances, he harbors doubts about his ability to do so.
Anden felt a rush of embarrassed warmth. He couldn’t help glancing around to see if anyone had witnessed Hilo’s outburst of affection.

Hilo noticed, and teased, “What, are you worried about them getting the wrong idea? ’Cause they know you like boys?” When Anden stared at him, stunned, Hilo laughed. “I’m not stupid, cousin. Some of the most powerful Green Bones in history were queers. You think it matters to me? Just don’t forget: Soon you’ll have to be careful about who you’re with, who might be eying you for your green.”

Anden sat down heavily on the stone retaining wall. […] “Hilo,” he said slowly, “what if I can’t handle jade after all? What if it’s not in me? I’m only half Kekonese.”
The overt and the subtle frictions between members of the Kaul family will have enormous influence on what happens throughout the story, and in this interaction, we get a sense that those relationships will be sorely tested. Hilo and Anden play a pivotal role together in the climax of the book roughly four hundred pages later, one that will forever change them both, so readers who’re intrigued by their conversation on page 69 won’t be disappointed.
Visit Fonda Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 3, 2017

"What We Reckon"

Eryk Pruitt is a screenwriter, author and filmmaker living in Durham, NC with his wife Lana and cat Busey. His short films have won several awards at film festivals across the US.

Pruitt applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, What We Reckon, and reported the following:
When we join our "hero" on page 69 of What We Reckon, Jack Jordan has joined Ben Matlin on a sojourn down South to Houston so they can score more Ecstasy to sell to college students. Jack has no idea how deep of shit he's in, as they make their purchase from the cross-dressing club owner, Beef Guidry.

In a fit of mish-mashed sexual tensions and misunderstandings, Jack is only pages away from realizing the true stakes of his bad planning.
Before Jack could speak, he was guided by the waist toward the framed photo of Ava Gardner. Two hefty lines of powder stretched across her lovely face. Beef waved his hands over the glass as if he were a model at a trade show.

"I'd better not," Jack mumbled. "I don't think cocaine will play well with the shit I done already took."

"Oh, this isn't cocaine," Beef tittered, "and it plays well with everyone."
Is it representative of the rest of the book? You bet your sweet buns it is. Hopefully there is enough tension and drug-fueled humor in the rest of the book that keeps pace with this scene in Houston, and the ramifications of what happens there will haunt our characters all the way until the final paragraph.
Visit Eryk Pruitt's website.

My Book, The Movie: What We Reckon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Enhanced"

Carrie Jones is the New York Times bestseller author of the Need series, Time Stoppers series, Flying series, Girl, Hero, Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, and Love (and other uses for duct tape).

Jones applied the Page 69 Test to  her new book, Enhanced: Flying Series (Volume 2), and reported the following:
From page 69:
Lyle.

My food doesn’t come across as appetizing, all of a sudden.

“Don’t mind her. She just lost her boyfriend,” China explains, motioning for Wharff to sit down and then making a motion for the server to come back to the table.

“Did they take him?” Wharff asks, swallowing the chair with his bulk.

“Take him?” I ask.

“Abduct him,” Wharff explains, grabbing a napkin and daintily spreading it across his lap.

I almost choke on my shake. “No.”

“Dead?” His eyes meet mine. The pupils are a bit wobbly. They jump around.

“No! He just — He just — ah...”

“He dumped her,” China explains for me in his lovely tactful way. “Or maybe not. I’m not a hundred percent convinced it was actually him. Or that it was an actual breakup. Or that they were technically dating.”

I stare at my food, somehow losing my appetite even more. “It was him.”

Wharff sips his water. All his actions seem slow and deliberate. “He is a fool then.”

“I’ve always said that,” China agrees.

“I’m not cool with talking about him when he’s not here,” I say. "It’s mean.”

“He dumps her and she’s worried about being mean? When he can’t even hear it?” Wharff places his glass on the table again, delicately. “That’s a whole lot of kindness in one person.”

“Too much, if you ask me,” China grumps.
This test is somewhat terrifying, but thank you so much for having me face my writer fears. The excerpt shows Mana’s awkwardness and confusion about what is going on with her friends’ behavior and more general confusion about what’s happening in her now topsy-turvy world where she suddenly has to deal with the reality of extraterrestrials and their place on the earth. This mirrors the journey of youths into the world of adulthood, and that need to find place and purpose in an ever-changing reality that becomes more complex as we gain knowledge and experience. At the same time, we get a glimpse of the dynamics of Mana and China, and her place as a young woman in a violent world.
Visit Carrie Jones's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Carrie Jones & Tala.

Writers Read: Carrie Jones.

My Book, The Movie: Enhanced.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

"Cold Spectrum"

Craig Schaefer's books have taken readers to the seamy edge of a criminal underworld drenched in shadow (the Daniel Faust series), to a world torn by war, poison and witchcraft (the Revanche Cycle), and across a modern America mired in occult mysteries and a conspiracy of lies (the Harmony Black series).

Despite this, people say he's strangely normal. Suspiciously normal, in fact. He practices sleight of hand in his spare time, though he's not very good at it.

Schaefer applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Cold Spectrum, and reported the following:
Cold Spectrum marks a turning point in the Harmony Black series, and the climax of a plot thread that began back in the first novel. For the last three books, our heroines have battled our nation’s occult enemies while chasing a more metaphorical ghost: a shuttered black-ops program, codenamed Cold Spectrum, with links to domestic surveillance and the illegal assassination of American citizens. No one knows exactly what Cold Spectrum’s purpose was, or why the operation’s members were hunted and murdered one by one, but it’s a secret that forces deep inside the government are desperate to keep buried.

And for the last three books, Harmony has lived in a world of black and white. Clear right and wrong, good guys and bad guys. But as her investigation gets too close, the blowback turns her entire world upside down. She and her partner Jessie are accused of a massacre and branded as traitors, and the organization they trusted – the organization Harmony has called home for years, and gave her a mission and a purpose in life – has turned on them.

Nothing is black and white anymore, and Harmony is forced to confront the fact that nothing ever really was outside the blinders she’s willingly worn her entire life. These are desperate times, and for her and her team to survive, she’s going to have to cross some battle lines.
I stepped outside. A pickup rumbled past, kicking up a cloud of dust, the sun starting to droop low on the bayou. A wet heat hung in the air, sticking in my lungs and making the shoulders of my blouse cling to my skin.

“Ma cherie,” said the syrupy drawl on the other end of the line. “Seems you’ve been making quite a stir.”

“Hey, Fontaine. What are you hearing?”

“Tales of intrigue and strife.”
Fontaine, a body-jumping bounty hunter in service to the courts of Hell, has been a constant shadow on Harmony’s heels. The loyal opposition at best, or an enemy waiting to strike. This time, though, he’s the only person Harmony can turn to. On page 69, she swallows her pride and calls him – both to press him for information, and to ask for a favor.
I paused. “So tell me about Caitlin.”
Caitlin is the right hand of a demon prince, and an active agent in the slow infernal takeover of our world. Any other day, she’d be Harmony’s mortal enemy. But the enemy of one’s enemy is…maybe, just maybe, a temporary and dangerous ally. And the powers behind Cold Spectrum are a threat to Harmony and Caitlin alike. Can Harmony brush shoulders with the forces she’s dedicated her life to opposing, and walk away uncorrupted?

Well, page 69 starts to ask the question. The rest of the book is the answer. Not a clean and clear answer, but as Harmony is learning, real answers never are.
Visit Craig Schaefer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 29, 2017

"Devils Within"

S.F. Henson was born and raised in the deep south. She graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Animal Science, which she put to great use by attending law school. Her law degree has gotten some mileage, though, giving her the experience to write about criminals and other dark, nefarious subjects. She lives beside a missile test range in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband, dog, two oddly named cats, and, of course, the missiles that frequently shake her house.

Henson applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Devils Within, and reported the following:
From page 69:
One day bleeds into the next. Fresh ink on damp paper. No one speaks to me. Not teachers, not students, not the black guy at the next locker, although he did smile my way a couple times. Not even Traitor talks, other than a few grunts. I’m invisible to everyone except my stinking social worker, who I wish would shut the hell up. All she does is babble about how good school is for me.

So I’m shocked to hear someone call my name on the Tuesday morning of my second week of school. I’m almost to the glass double doors when heels click on the pavement behind me.

“Nathaniel?” a woman says.

My blood turns to ice. Only people at The Fort and the media call me that. I told the social worker I wasn’t safe. Now it’s too late. I’ve been found.
The page 69 test works surprisingly well for Devils Within. It’s the first page of a chapter, so it’s short, but I think it says a lot about my main character, Nate Fuller. He’s completely alone. No one to talk to, no one who cares enough to even say hello. And he feels that loneliness down deep, drapes it over him, lets it swallow him up every day. He felt alone at The Fort, the white supremacist compound where he grew up, because he didn’t share the hate that flowed through everyone there. He thought escaping would change everything. It didn’t. He feels just as alienated away from The Fort as he did within it, maybe even more so because he’s now hiding from the dangerous, violent people at The Fort and there’s no one he can share his past with. A past that is eating at him, slowly nibbling away all his edges until he’s afraid there will be nothing left. That loneliness really comes through in this passage.

I find page 69 compelling (then again, I’m the author so I’m a little biased), but I think a reader who flipped to this page would be sucked in and want to read more.
Visit S.F. Henson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Devils Within.

Coffee with a Canine: S.F. Henson & Francie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 27, 2017

"The Rift Frequency"

Amy S. Foster is a celebrated songwriter, best known as Michael Bublé’s writing partner, and has collaborated with Beyoncé, Diana Krall, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, and a host of other artists. She is also the author of the novel When Autumn Leaves. When she’s not in a studio in Nashville, she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.

Foster applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Rift Frequency, and reported the following:
I think I might have failed this test! Oh no! The thing about The Rift Frequency is that it takes place in the multiverse. My main girl Ryn and her trusty sidekick (and possibly, maybe sidepiece lol) Levi travel to eleven different iterations of Earth. So, unless you knew that’s what they were doing, a reader could potentially be like, wait, what?.

On page 69, Ryn and Levi are on my favorite Earth, one populated by robots who look like famous people. The robots, called SenMachs are treating these two for radiation that they acquired on another, very toxic, uninhabitable Earth. This is one small section of the book where it’s pretty sci-fi  heavy and filled with some technical lingo. Levi’s holo-projection is naked- so my hope is that would be enough for a reader to be like genes? Compounds? Oh look, he’s got no clothes on, cool, let’s see what’s happening here!
Visit Amy Foster's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"The Texan Duke"

Karen Ranney wanted to be a writer from the time she was five years old and filled her Big Chief tablet with stories. People in stories did amazing things and she was too shy to do anything amazing. Years spent in Japan, Paris, and Italy, however, not only fueled her imagination but proved she wasn't that shy after all.

Now a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, she prefers to keep her adventures between the covers of her books.

Ranney applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Texan Duke, and reported the following:
Page 69 (hardcover) is a critical part of the book. It’s where Connor McCraight has to decide his next course of action. Does he choose Plan A or does he go with Plan B? He issued instructions to the family solicitor on that page, instructions that were going to change the course of his Scottish family’s future. As for Connor, he couldn’t wait to get back to Texas. First of all, it was familiar. Secondly, it was warmer. Much, much warmer.

As Connor thinks:
This was not his home. This wasn’t his land, for all that it was his father’s birthplace.

He’d been born on the XIV Ranch with his father and a grizzled ranch hand in attendance. As he’d been told, Matt Thompson had a lot of experience with pulling calves and it looked like he was going to have to use it in helping to birth the last of the McCraight brood.

His mother, as stubborn a woman as he’d ever met, had decided that she didn’t need anyone other than one of the maids with her. He’d been born ten hours later, the largest of the six McCraight children and — as his father would attest — the loudest.
In the end, it wasn’t a huge decision to leave Scotland. He didn’t want to adapt to a strange land, a strange culture, and an even stranger family.

His only regret about leaving Scotland was a woman named Elsbeth Carew, his uncle’s ward. Leaving Elsbeth might prove to be difficult.
Visit Karen Ranney's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Nightblade's Vengeance"

Ryan Kirk is the author of the Nightblade series of fantasy novels and the founder of Waterstone Media. He was an English teacher and nonprofit consultant before diving into writing full-time in 2015.

Kirk applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Nightblade's Vengeance (Blades of the Fallen, Book 1), and reported the following:
Opening up Nightblade's Vengeance to page 69 drops a reader right in the middle of a conversation between two men. The conversation is happening inside a prison, and one of the men, younger by many years, has been sentenced to death by his own people. Together, they are trying to understand how this young man's life became a pawn in a game between politicians.

Nightblade's Vengeance is the first of a new trilogy, and at page 69, much of the scene is still being set. However, the intrigue and mystery of the scene are fairly representative of the tone throughout the book. A kingdom, which has stood for ages, is poised on the brink of collapse, and the mystery at the heart of the story is crucial to the kingdom's fate.
Visit Ryan Kirk's website.

Writers Read: Ryan Kirk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 23, 2017

"Murders.com"

Margaret Duffy is the author of numerous bestselling books and has also worked for both the UK's Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Defence.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest Patrick Gillard and Ingrid Langley mystery, Murders.com, and reported the following:
From page 99:
We were directed towards a table by a window and Patrick immediately requested another in a corner of the room. A very slim chance perhaps but there is no point in offering yourself as a target to any particular member of the criminal fraternity who has a grievance.

‘The Met are bound to interview him,’ Patrick said when we were seated, gazing at the menu. ‘Kippers,’ he announcing before glancing across at me. ‘What are you having?’

‘You need to go back there and pin him to the wall by his ears.’

A husbandly frown. ‘Figuratively speaking, I hope.’

‘You’re perfectly entitled to,’ I persisted.

‘I’ll think about it.’

‘Or we could question Donna Black about her horrible brood.’

‘I think it would be preferable to undertake some surveillance first as I have an idea questioning them again will not yield anything new. And I’ll probably ask the Met to do that — but not this weekend.’

‘So your next line of investigation is what?’

Patrick was rescued from responding to my, on reflection, very unfair badgering of him so early in the morning by his mobile ringing. He left the table, and the dining room, to speak to whoever it was.
This extract from it is not particularly significant as things go but does demonstrate an impatient woman’s problem with a man intent on having his breakfast. I think people just reading this page might want to find out more about the characters and their relationship.
Visit Margaret Duffy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Forbidden Suns"

D. Nolan Clark is the pseudonym bestselling horror writer David Wellington uses for his science fiction books.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Forbidden Suns, and reported the following:
Finally!

For years, this site's editor has been kind enough to ask me to do the Page 69 Test for each book I’ve published. It’s always fun to do, but also frustrating. You see, my books are all about action—Forbidden Suns is the final book of a trilogy about starfighters wheeling and blazing in the cold darkness of space. It doesn’t get much more action-heavy than this series. Yet every time, I run to re-read page 69, and find two characters talking to each other in hushed, serious tones. Which does not a great Page 69 Test make. Even in books like these there’s bound to be some downtime, and usually Page 69 is the first chance my characters have had to catch their breath.

Not this time.

Page 69 of Forbidden Suns takes us right into the middle of a battle. A couple of desperate star pilots have been chased into the cold canyons of an icy moon. They’re vastly outnumbered and outgunned, with a pair of giant gunboats homing in on them while enemy fighters flock the skies. Our two heroes banter as they jockey for position, trying to break out of a deadly trap. Will they make it out alive? Or will they end up as glinting metallic wreckage at the bottom of some sunless crater, millions of kilometers from anything like warmth or safety?

We don’t find out by the end of page 69, so I’m not telling you here. What I will tell you is that this is the kind of stuff you find everywhere in Forbidden Suns. This third volume is non-stop fun. It also winds up the story started in Forsaken Skies. All secrets will be revealed! The storylines of all our heroes are wrapped up in one pulse-pounding conclusion! If you’ve read Forsaken Skies and Forgotten Worlds, I can guarantee you’ll want to check this one out. And if you’re a fan of hushed, serious conversation… well, there’s some of that, too. Though not very much. It’s mostly about the starfighters duking it out in space. Seriously. Page 69 is absolutely what this book is all about.
Learn more about the book and author at David Wellington's website.

The Page 69 Test: Forsaken Skies.

The Page 69 Test: Forgotten Worlds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Ghost in the Tamarind"

S. Shankar is a novelist, cultural critic and translator. Most recently, he was honored by a Fulbright-Nehru Award (2017-2018) and was appointed the 2016 Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown. Among other honors, he is the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i, where he is Professor of English.

Shankar applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, Ghost in the Tamarind, and reported the following:
On page 69 the reader will enter the India of the late 1930s and find the two main characters of the novel, Ramu and Ponni, at a time when they are not yet fully past childhood. They have just met under trying circumstances—a few days earlier Ramu had stumbled upon the body of Ponni’s murdered father, Murugappa, under a tamarind tree. Now, Ramu, just returned from Ponni’s hut, lies on his mat reminiscing about her and her dog:
How the drops of water had glistened along the curve of Ponni’s neck.

And Ponni’s eyes. Yes, her eyes. Ramu felt mortified when he remembered how they had flashed with amusement at him. Indignantly, he turned over, throwing himself onto his other side. The sheet slid away, uncovering his head. Immediately the mosquitoes returned. The dog that had stopped barking started up again. He was certain it was Insect. It sounded very much like Insect. What a name for a dog! You might as well name a cow Peacock, or a man Stone. Why would anyone deliberately misname something?
Ghost in the Tamarind is among other things a love story. Ramu is a high-caste Brahmin and Ponni a so-called “untouchable.” On page 69, we find ourselves at the very outset of this improbable but not impossible romance. I wish I could tell you that the romance is all smooth sailing but of course it isn’t, and that is how politics enters the novel as is hinted at in the paragraph that comes immediately after:
If he ever saw Ponni again, he would demand that she explain herself. He had said he could go wherever he wanted and no one could stop him. That had been greeted with amusement both by Chellappa and Ponni. What was so funny about that? He would ask Ponni when—not if!—he saw her again.
Chellappa is Ponni’s uncle. A radical firebrand, he is one of the many characters (not all of them benevolent) who undertake the education of Ponni and Ramu in the ways of a caste-ridden world—a world monstrously exacting about who can go where and why. With this world, that I set out to detail in as psychologically and historically realistic a manner as I know how, Ramu and Ponni come into terrible conflict in the decades that follow.

I approached The Page 69 Test with some trepidation. My ideal for Ghost in the Tamarind was to create one seamless tapestry of character, events, descriptions—a text in which the whole is reflected in the part. I cannot say how close the novel gets to this ideal, but my hope is page 69 illustrates that it does at least to some extent.
Visit S. Shankar's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"The Midnight Dance"

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for SocialMoms.com and ex-rocket scientist living in sunny San Diego with her husband and three children. With a BS in aerospace engineering, Katz first put her writing skills to use publishing four nonfiction books in the puzzle and game genre. She moved on to writing young adult fiction, her favorite activity. Other favorite pastimes include chauffeuring her kids around town, reading fantasy and sci-fi, baking yummy desserts, watching reality TV, and scrolling social media feeds.

Katz applied the Page 69 Test to The Midnight Dance, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
When it seemed like they must’ve gotten lost in the woods, that they’d been circling for far too long and Penny’s legs ached and her eyes had nearly closed with exhaustion, they suddenly burst out of the tree line onto the manicured estate grounds. Penny held her breath as she and Cricket made a mad dash across the drive to the door.

She hated that they were forced to return. Master held all the control and could change her mind on a whim. Perhaps he’d edit her memories of this very night. The thought stopped her in her tracks. Fear swept through her again, rooting her to the ground like one of the trees in the forest they’d just left. “Cricket.” Penny grabbed the edge of his sleeve to stop him.

“Yes?” He was all shadows and puffs of breath in the cool air, but his eyes still made her pulse stutter.

Her voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. “If Master reverts my memories again, makes me forget all that I learned today, will you please find a way to tell me? I—” She choked on the word. “I can’t bear to think of myself going forward, unknowing, letting him manipulate me. I have to know what’s going on, and we have to find a way out.”

Cricket nodded. “Of course. I promise.”
In reading through page 69 of The Midnight Dance I think it's a very valid representation of the book. In fact, it includes a pretty big spoiler for the beginning of the novel!

In this excerpt, we see Penny and get a sense of her despair at the things that are happening to and round her. We also see both other main characters (Master and Cricket) referenced. Cricket is the love interest and this scene is one of the first times Penny starts to acknowledge it.

We also get a glimpse of the setting and the estate grounds. The scenes just prior to this one involve Penny and Cricket traveling through the woods to the border where Penny tries to escape but is unable. She is forced to return to the school and is terrified that she will forget all that has happened.
Visit Nikki Katz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 15, 2017

"The Prague Sonata"

Bradford Morrow is the author of nine books of fiction, including the novels Trinity Fields, Giovanni’s Gift, The Forgers, and most recently, The Prague Sonata. The founding editor of Conjunctions, he teaches at Bard College and lives in New York City.

Morrow applied the Page 69 Test to The Prague Sonata and reported the following:
The Page 69 Test never worked better for any of my novels than it does for The Prague Sonata. On this page my protagonist, Meta Taverner, must make a decision that will dramatically affect the rest of her life. The year is 2000 and Meta has just turned thirty. As a birthday present—an admittedly unusual one—Meta’s best friend who works as a hospice nurse puts her in touch with Irena, a dying Czech who left war-ravaged Prague after World War II and resettled in Queens, New York. With her she brought one part of an anonymous eighteenth-century piano sonata in three movements, a manuscript her friend Otylie Bartošová had broken up in order to make it worthless to the Nazis who were confiscating—read: stealing—any cultural artifacts they could get their hands on. As Irena explained when Meta visited the old woman in Queens, Otylie kept one part for herself; gave another part to her husband, who disappeared into the underground resistance; and placed the remaining pages into Irena’s hands. Otylie’s assumption was that when the war was over they would all reunite and the sonata would be restored as well. But they never saw each other again.

After Irena passes the manuscript along to Meta, an aspiring musicologist who had to abandon her promising concert piano career due to an accident that injured her hand, the young woman must decide whether to leave behind her settled life with her lawyer boyfriend, Jonathan, and go to Prague in search of the missing movements. Page 69 is the portrait of her working through these questions toward a resolution:
The new, strange Meta went surreptitiously to the Cooper Station post office to renew her passport without a concrete travel date in mind. The normal, familiar Meta made sure that when Jonathan’s case was thrown out of court, she organized a private victory party for the younger attorneys in the firm at a local bar managed by a friend. Between giving piano lessons, she spent two days in her small kitchen preparing platters of hors d’oeuvres and elaborate finger foods for the celebration. After Jonathan left for work, the new Meta set about meticulously copying the sonata manuscript at her desk like some secular sofer writing out the Torah. And though she also had a friend make high-resolution scans of each page, which she then printed out on art paper that approximated the weight and color of the original, and even went to the unnecessary length of typing the composition into a Sibelius computer program, she knew that by writing it out in her own hand she would forge a more intimate connection with the heart and mind of its maker. Just as painters often honed their art by copying the masters, many composers copied out works of their mentors as a means of getting closer to the music, note by note, measure by measure. So why not she?
Further along on this page, the reader sees Meta devouring books on sonata theory and poring over unrecorded scores from the period, as neither she nor her mentor recognize the undeniably masterful and beautiful music set down in the manuscript. Simply put, she becomes obsessed with the task of trying to locate the other movements. The pivotal action that happens on page 69 shows our protagonist at the very beginning of a quest that will take her to Prague, Vienna, London, and eventually back to America’s midwest as she attempts to discover the rest of the Prague sonata, as well as her deeper self.
Learn more about the book and author at Bradford Morrow's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Diviner’s Tale.

The Page 69 Test: The Forgers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 13, 2017

"Gray Wolf Island"

Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now she spends her days as a magazine editor and her nights writing stories about friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates—you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding lightsabers.

Neithercott applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Gray Wolf Island, and reported the following:
Gray Wolf Island’s about a treasure hunt, but it’s not about a treasure hunt. It’s about friendship and guilt and grief—and I’m so pleased to see all of that (plus a hint at the plot) is on page 69.

In this scene, main character Ruby is asking her parents for permission to go on a treasure hunt on nearby Gray Wolf Island. It starts with Ruby’s mom acknowledging Ruby’s grief over losing her twin sister:
“I know how much she wanted this for you. I want this for you.”
From there, the scene moves on to Ruby’s guilt over [insert spoilery thing]:
I can’t look at her with all that love just spilling over, everything I don’t deserve puddling in the space between us.
And then it tackles the friendship—and the fact that at first Ruby is resistant to it:
My mom leans forward, squeezes my hand. “I would have hated to see you miss out simply because you can’t go alone.”

“I can go alone,” I say.

“No, you can’t.” I open my mouth, but she cuts me off before I can respond. “That was an order, not a challenge.”
In the final line, the page touches on what the book is about:
“We’re not camping,” I say. “We’re going to find the Gray Wolf Island treasure.”
I hope anyone who randomly flips to that page gets a feel for some of the themes and is intrigued by the plot—and whether they’ll find a treasure at all.
Visit Tracey Neithercott's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gray Wolf Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Death on Tap"

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. She is the author of the popular Bakeshop Mysteries.

Alexander applied the Page 69 Test to Death on Tap, her first Sloan Krause Mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Mac. Don’t do this.” I put my hands on my hips. “You know exactly who I’m talking about. I can’t believe you would bring her here—tonight. That’s low. Even for you.”

“Who, Hayley?” He pulled a silver lighter with his initials monogramed on the front from his back pocket and flicked it on and off.  “You look smoking hot tonight, Sloan.”

“Don’t use her name.” I folded my arms over my chest. “You’re smoking again?”

“No!” Mac flipped the lighter off and stuffed it back in his pocket. He moved closer, and lowered his voice. “I didn’t bring her. She followed me here. I made a mistake, but I promise I didn’t bring her. I’m trying to shake her.”

We both turned as Eddie’s voice became louder in the bar. “You’ve got some nerve showing your face here you little cheat.”

I brushed past Mac into the doorway to see what was going on.

Garrett and a staggering Bruin were holding Eddie. He reminded me of an overly carbonated bottle of beer about to blow its cap.

Hayley, the beer wench, chewed on an unlit cigarette. Eddie puffed out his chest like he was about to break free. She cowered and inched her way toward the door.

“That’s right, keep backing up. No one wants you here.” Eddie heckled her. His posture, like a boxer waiting to throw the first punch, baffled me. Why was he suddenly my protector? Or was there more to it? Could he have had a fling with her, too? There had to be something else between them.

As Hayley backed her way out of the pub, Bruin tried to pull Eddie away, but Eddie threw him off.  The motion made Bruin lose his footing. He swayed. The crowd gasped. Garrett caught him with his free hand. This was more drama than Leavenworth had seen in years. Everyone was completely captivated.
I have to admit that my palms were a bit sweaty as I turned to page 69. I love the concept of one page being able to capture the spirit of an entire book. But what if it didn’t? What if page 69 was a total dud, with sentence after sentence of rambling prose? What if there wasn’t a sliver of plot on page 69. Or worse, what if I hated it?

Side note—I’m not sure if this is true of all writers or just me, but sometimes reading my words months or years later tends to make me cringe. I fall down the rabbit hole of thoughts like, “Why did I say that?” or spiral through regrets on word choice and sentence structure.

Fortunately, as I timidly flipped to page 69 my fears were unfounded. Surprisingly I think this one small section gives the reader a solid sense of Sloan and her need to keep up her game face at opening night of her new pub, while internally seething that her soon-to-be ex-husband and the beer wench have crashed the party.

Cheers to that!
Visit Ellie Alexander's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 9, 2017

"Mr. Rochester"

Sarah Shoemaker is a former university librarian and currently lives in northern Michigan.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Mr. Rochester, and reported the following:
Page 69 is an interesting one in relation to Mr. Rochester, because it deals with Edward Rochester’s first attempt to return to his beloved Thornfield Hall after having been absent from there for several years, and, as well, after having been told by his father that the place would never again be his home. The pull of Thornfield Hall becomes a constant throughout the novel, and it is, finally, the test of what he would be willing to give up to win Jane Eyre.

This recurring theme underlies many of Rochester’s decisions. What makes this page particularly interesting is that up until this point, Edward (who is now close to seventeen years of age) has pretty much followed his father’s directing of his life, distant though it may be. It is his first step in becoming his own man. Henceforth he more and more often chooses his own way, though in general it is another five or six years before he fully turns his back on his father after a devastating discovery of how his father has misused him. It is as representative of the book as nearly any other page would be, because Mr. Rochester follows his coming-of-age and coming into his own as a full adult. By the time Jane Eyre meets him, he has become the product of this years-long development.
Visit Sarah Shoemaker's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mr. Rochester.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 7, 2017

"The Dark Lake"

Sarah Bailey lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Bailey applied the Page 69 Test to The Dark Lake, her first novel, and reported the following:
By page 69 of The Dark Lake, DS Gemma Woodstock is completely entangled in Rosalind Ryan’s homicide investigation. She is in deep, both personally and professionally, and is trying desperately to manage the emotions that Rosalind’s murder has unearthed. The entire town of Smithson, located in regional Australia, is on edge in the wake of Rose’s murder.

Rose was Gemma’s high school classmate and always had a sense of mystery about her. At the time of her death, Rose was a popular teacher at the same school they attended a decade earlier. She was attacked after the opening night of the school play and there is a lot of pressure on the small regional homicide squad to solve the case. Who could possibly have wanted Rose dead?

Page 69 opens in the middle of one of the book’s flashback scenes and Gemma is reflecting on a three-year-old murder case that she solved. Being a young female in a male dominated work environment, this previous case saw Gemma’s professional challenges brought to the fore but ultimately enabled her to establish herself as a credible detective.

Gemma questioning her abilities is a constant theme in The Dark Lake and looking back on the old case is a good way for her to remember that she has a strong record and needs to back herself.
I don’t know whether Robbie would have killed her that night but I know the part of me that had been dormant for a long time came alive as I stood in that room with my arm out, heavy with the weight of the gun, my body burning with the ability to make the badness stop. It felt incredible.
Solving the Robbie murder case introduced Gemma to Candy Fyfe, the local journalist who becomes the bane of Gemma’s existence. Candy and Gemma are very different and Candy forces a lot of Gemma’s insecurities about her femininity to the surface.
When I was sitting across from Candy in her boss’s office, her perfect dark skin glowing, she was all sisterhood and girl power, and I know I came across as cold and prickly. She was not a good enemy to make but I felt sick and anxious, increasingly panicked about what the last few weeks of my Robbie obsession had allowed me to ignore.
The Robbie murder case coincided with Gemma being pregnant with her son Ben. Falling pregnant was a huge disruption to Gemma’s career and put a strain on her relationship with boyfriend Scott. It also caused a lot of her colleagues to question her ability to continue as a detective.

Over two years later, Gemma is a still a detective and also a mother to two-year-old Ben.
At page 69, the investigation into Rosalind Ryan’s murder is only just getting started, but already Gemma is struggling to manage her intense feelings for Felix, alongside guilt about her faltering relationship with Ben’s dad, all while keeping her reputation intact and her past in the past, as old high school secrets linked to the case begin to bubble to the surface.
Visit Sarah Bailey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"A Hive of Homicides"

Meera Lester is the author of nearly two dozen nonfiction books and the proprietress of the real Henny Penny Farmette, located in the San Francisco Bay area. Raising chickens and honeybees, she draws on her life at her farmette as the basis of her Henny Penny Farmette mysteries.

Lester applied the Page 69 Test to her latest mystery, A Hive of Homicides, and reported the following:
On page 69 in A Hive of Homicides, the third novel in my Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries, two sisters of Paola Varela, who has recently been shot and whose husband was killed in the same shooting, ask for help from ex-cop and farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie. The police have questioned Emilio Varela, Paola’s brother who is being followed and is under a cloud of suspicion, but Emilio is taciturn. The sisters need Abby—Paola’s good friend--to help them convince Emilio to tell cops the whole truth.

Emilio Varela hates the way his brother-in-law Jake Winston (now deceased) has treated Paola. But Emilio is a keeper of secrets, and one of those secrets is keeping him from being forthright with the cops. His sisters believe he could extricate himself from the legal trouble but if he will just come clean about where he was at the time of the shooting.

It is on page 69 that the sisters first arrive at Abby’s farmhouse to beg for Abby’s help. The scene is both an emotional scene and an important juncture in the story since Abby’s response to the women results in drawing her deeper into the web of lies and deceptions that she must sort through to solve the mystery.

If a reader skips to page 69 to begin reading, I think he or she would continue reading to discover what Emilio is holding back and why he’s keeping a secret at great risk to himself. I believe the reader would also be curious about whether or not Abby is successful in drawing out the truth that either clears Emilio or makes him culpable in the death of his brother-in-law and the wounding of his sister.
Visit Meera Lester's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Murder of a Queen Bee.

The Page 69 Test: The Murder of a Queen Bee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"A Beautiful Poison"

Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction.

Kang's novels include Control and Catalyst.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, A Beautiful Poison, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“But I already read those,” Jasper protested.

“When?” Gettler asked, incredulous.

“I’ve been working here for over two years. I read them during my ... erm ... breaks.”

“While you were in college? A bit early for someone your age, eh?”

Jasper shrugged. “I’m impatient.”

“I see. And you’re a terrible janitor, if you were spending all your time reading.”

“Yes sir, I was.”

Gettler laughed. “Well, I worked”—(woiked—Lord, that accent!)—“the night shift at the ferry while I finished my PhD. Who am I to talk?” He pushed the books aside and waggled his finger. “One other thing.”

“Yes?”

“That dead girl.”

The grin on Jasper’s face melted away. “Yes?”

“Charles showed me the police file while you were dicing up that liver. Our office was not called for an autopsy. Dr. Norris can make a request to open the case, but it’s the police that have the final say.”

“Which means?”

“Which means our department can’t touch that body. And since you’re in our department now, you can’t either.”

Jasper wilted under his steady, icy gaze. What was the point of being here if he couldn’t find out what really happened to Florence? Or show the world that a kid from the Bowery could solve a Fifth Avenue crime?
The book is told in the POV of three characters—Jasper Jones, a poor man who was once rich; Allene Cutter, a debutante on the verge of an unhappy marriage, and Birdie Dreyer, gorgeous and slowly being poisoned to death by the radium she works with in her factory job. They each need each other for various reasons, and together, they are trying to solve murders even as people close to them begin to die unexpectedly.

I love this exchange between Alexander Gettler (a real historical figure—a toxicologist in the first Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York, which opened in 1918) and Jasper Jones, who is desperate to get his foot in the door and prove himself. Bringing Gettler and Charles Norris alive in the story was both humbling and quite exciting, and watching them interact with my fictional characters was delightful. Here, we get to see the parallels of Gettler’s life and Jasper’s, and the point at which they diverge in theirs goals and motives. Jasper is still ruminating about the cause of death of the first murder that appears on page one of the book.

It’s in the next page that we see Jasper’s choice—and you’ll have to read the book to see what it is!
Learn more about the book and author at Lydia Kang's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Control.

The Page 69 Test: Catalyst.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore"

Matthew Sullivan received his B.A. from the University of San Francisco, his M.F.A. from the University of Idaho, and has been a resident writer at Yaddo, Centrum, and the Vermont Studio Center. His writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and other awards, and has won the Florida Review Editor's Prize and the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Prize. In addition to working for years at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver and at Brookline Booksmith in Boston, he has taught writing and literature at colleges in Boston, Idaho, and Poland, and currently teaches writing, literature, and film at Big Bend Community College in the high desert of Washington State.

Sullivan applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, and reported the following:
I love that this scene from page 69 dives right into one of the main threads of the novel! In it, Lydia and David—the protagonist and her beau—are discussing the crate of books that Lydia inherited after one of her customers, a troubled young BookFrog named Joey, committed suicide in the bookstore where she works:
In her kitchen, Lydia nibbled the crust from her honey toast and waited impatiently for her overworked coffeemaker to finish gurgling. When she looked up, David was there in his towel, red from his shower, smelling of menthol shaving cream. He peered into Joey’s milk crate, which sat in the center of their breakfast table, where Lydia had left it the night before.

“More books?” he said, picking up Joey’s dusty Victorian story primer and turning it over in his hands.

“Can’t ever have too many,” she said lightly.

“Seriously. I like your whole book thing. Just having them around makes me feel smarter.”

“Now, if we could just get you to read them.”

“No need. It’s like free IQ points in every room. On every conceivable surface.”

“Glad to help.”

“Some would call you a hoarder,” he said. “But not me. I call you a collector.”

“That’s the spirit,” she said.

Lydia looked up the length of David’s arm and saw his clean, damp hair and the remnant glow of his shower, and felt the desire to rest her hand on his.
Lydia and David are meant to have a loving banter and a good chemistry as a couple. But as we see here, for all of his kindness, David doesn’t share or particularly understand Lydia’s bibliophilia.

Throughout much of this novel, I was attempting to raise a glass to books and book lovers, but also to use this particular passion as a glimpse into Lydia’s psyche. Beyond acting as her escape, books also act as reminders of her childhood, especially of the happiness she experienced with her librarian father in the years before The Hammerman murders derailed the trajectory of their life. Her early childhood acts as a perpetual Eden to which she is always trying to return. The Bright Ideas Bookstore is as close as she comes to finding that sanctuary again.

Spoiler alert: At the very end of the novel, Lydia ends up feeling more connected to her old friend Raj than to her boyfriend, David… something that has caused some discussion among readers (“Team David or Team Raj?”). The rationale here is that Raj was part of that bookish childhood bliss Lydia has spent her adult life trying to recapture, so he, inevitably, would be the guy who makes her happiest—and who she ends up with. In many ways, David may be a better fit for her, and Raj may be part of an unhealthy nostalgia, but to me there is an emotional truth in Lydia and Raj, in the end, arriving at some approximation of their peaceful life before The Hammerman.
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--Marshal Zeringue