I asked Ed to apply the "page 69 test" to his latest book; this is what he reported:
My novel is the debut title in a modern hardboiled detective series. Our hero, PI Frank Johnson, has left the bucolic fox hunt country in Middleburg, Virginia, and driven the short distance to posh, fashionable Potomac, Maryland outside Washington, D.C. Frank is investigating the disappearance of Carl Taliaferro, and this is a side trip to interview Carl’s affluent parents.Thanks to Ed for the input.
Frank’s visit with the Taliaferros becomes a pivotal scene. I wanted a bit more than another PI yarn. A major theme underlying Dirt-Brown is the stratified society entrenched in Middleburg and Potomac. Frank dislikes trafficking between the various castes while pursuing his case. Nonetheless after this exchange of terse dialogue, he realizes the mystery confronting him will be difficult and thorny to solve.
Page 69 to The Dirt-Brown Derby quoted in full:
“I’m Frank Johnson -- ”
“Soliciting is prohibited,” she said. The door flew toward me.
My hand obstructed its path. “No ma’am, you’ve taken the wrong idea. I came to speak to Mr. Taliaferro and yourself.”
“Concerning your son, Carl.”
“Who are you with? The Washington Post? My husband is retired and no longer active in those government affairs. Go away. Leave us in peace. Please.”
“No, I’m not the press,” I said. “I’m a detective. Only to talk, I promise you. Five minutes and no more of your time. You’ve nothing to lose except to get rid of me.”
Her tall, lithe profile tucked around the door. “Okay only you’d better make it snappy.”
Their circular two-story foyer was lit in brilliant harshness. My eyes flickered to deal with it.
“Wait in the kitchen,” she said. “I’ll go rouse my husband. The au-pair’s room is now his office.”
I sat at the oval oak table while noticing a copper tea kettle collection on shelves across the center aisle.
“Mr. Johnson?” A man’s baritone filled the room. “I’m Rusty Taliaferro. My wife said you came to talk about Carl.”
He was half a head taller than me even if with the stooped shoulders. He exuded gray sideburns, mustache, eyebrows, and longish hair. His teeth were capped or he wore dentures. A hearing aid clipped over an ear. A hawthorn cane aided in his balance. Man, I couldn’t wait to join AARP.
I handed him my license like a penitent driver does to a disgruntled highway patrolman. “Private agent. Mrs. Taliaferro, Emily’s mother, employs me.”
“Oh Lord.” His sigh was a pained one. “What the devil has her in an uproar now?”
“She questions the official disposition of your granddaughter’s death,” I said.
Rusty Taliaferro wrapped both palms atop his cane and lowered himself into an oak chair opposite me. “That fool woman will undo me yet,” he said. “What has she put you up to? Chasing down phantom killers? She has killers on the brain.”
“Well, she claims Emily’s riding mishap wasn’t accidental,” I said.
“Naturally, naturally,” he said. “What mom wants to believe their daughter fell victim to a random occurrence of ugly misfortune. We both loved Emily but we’re also resigned to accept what tragedy befell her. Life goes on.”
“I won’t belabor that point. Forgive my intrusion, but it has a direct bearing on my case. Did you ever entertain suspicions that your son’s death was anything but what the Coast Guard ruled it as?”
Among the reviews for The Dirt-Brown Derby:
A great protagonist, a suspenseful story, a wonderful sense of place. It's all here. An impressive debut by Ed Lynskey. He gets it right the first time out, the atmosphere, the characters. Watch out for this guy!PI Frank Johnson is slated to appear in the sequels Pelham Fell Here (Mundania Press, 2007) and Troglodytes (Mundania Press, 2008).
—Edgar, Shamus, and Anthony Award-winner Steve Hamilton, USA Today bestselling author of PI Alex McNight mysteries
There's a new thoroughbred in the noir world of private investigators. Ed Lynskey's The Dirt-Brown Derby is vintage crime — smart, crisp dialogue, a town full of dysfunctional characters, a carefully twisted plot, and a terrifically enjoyable read.
—Nero Wolfe Award-winner Linda Fairstein, New York Times bestselling author of the Alexandra Cooper mysteries
Ed's work has been anthologized by St. Martin’s Press and University of Virginia Press. His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and his poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly. His reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review and the Washington Post.
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