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