I asked Michael to apply the "page 69 test" to White Tiger. Here is what she reported:
White Tiger is the story of two murders that take place in 1997. In order to solve them, the protagonist, Chicago Detective John Thinnes, has to solve a murder that took place twenty-four years earlier in Saigon, when he was an MP stationed there. To that end, he undergoes hypnosis, hoping to refresh his memory. The session, which concludes on page 69, yields little information. And the therapist, Thinnes’ friend Jack Caleb, tells him:Many thanks to Michael for the input.
“Properly done, hypnosis only works if you have a memory to recall.”
“That’s good, isn’t it? It means nothing happened.”
Page 69 is probably not representative of the book, which is memoir-meets-police procedural, because Thinnes, who is skeptical of therapy at best, would not ordinarily consult a psychiatrist of his own volition.
Page 96 gives a better feel for the book as Thinnes and his partner, Franchi, attend the autopsy of the second victim, discovered quite some time after his death.
Cutler finished his examination of the victim’s head, then started on the torso. He seemed to be working faster than usual. Duh! It still seemed like a week before he said, “We’re done.” He waited until they’d shed their protection and were out in the relative fresh air of the hall before he announced his findings. Cause of death: GSW to the head. Manner of death: Homicide.
“How do you know it wasn’t suicide?” Thinnes asked.
“I’ll show you.”
They followed him into an office that had an X ray viewing unit above a stainless steel counter, and waited while he fetched the films and put them up on the viewer. The hole in Ragland’s skull was obvious.
“It’s highly unlikely a suicide would shoot himself in the back of the head.”
The first John Thinnes/Jack Caleb mystery was The Man Who Understood Cats. It won the St. Martin's Press Malice Domestic Award for Best First Traditional Mystery of 1992, and received enthusiastic reviews from the New York Times Book Review and Kirkus Reviews. Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times Book Review and Publisher's Weekly recommended it and by as one of the best mysteries of 1993.
"Despite its misleadingly cute title, The Man Who Understood Cats is not a cuddly story," writes Marilyn Stasio. "[T]his dark, intelligent police procedural closely scrutinizes the psychological relationship between a burned-out detective and the smooth psychiatrist he suspects of murdering a client."
Some of the books and authors stuck in Michael's head?: Crime and Punishment, Mark Twain, Mary Stewart, Dick Francis, John D. MacDonald, The Count of Monte Cristo, Beau Geste, Zane Gray, Jack London, Conan Doyle, Brave New World, Catch-22....
Michael has a recent post titled "Paranoia comes with the territory" over at The Outfit.
It’s hard to read a newspaper or watch the nightly news without coming up with a story idea.Michael's most recent novel is Death in West Wheeling.
Our information-age society facilitates crime. Pfishing scammers prey on the naive, spammers on the desperate. Want to learn how professional criminals do it? Just go online. YouTube has videos that give step-by-step instructions on how to make and use dandy stuff--like burglary tools. They even offer safety warnings—always be careful to wear eye protection when you’re grinding the hacksaw blade to make your lock-picks.
Once your mind starts moving in a criminal direction, everything suggests nefarious possibilities.
When you know about scams and swindles, you get crazy if your credit card or bank statement is late. Never mind that the logical explanation is the Post Office is delivering your mail by way of Sydney, Australia. Once you know that banks and credit card companies keep serious rip-offs out of the news, you’re sure your mail’s been waylaid as soon as it’s overdue. The scary world we live in is all the more so if you’re hip to the criminal opportunities.
But the upside for crime writers—if you can live with the paranoia—is that the story possibilities are endless.
Previous "page 69 tests":
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale