Monday, January 01, 2007

Pg. 69: "Suspicious Circumstances"

Sandra Ruttan does “noir like a cheerleader with a coke seems to come naturally.”
--James Goodman

So reads the epigram to Sandra's blog.

Sandra's debut suspense novel, Suspicious Circumstances will be released in one week.

I asked her to put the novel to the "page 69 test," and here is what she reported:
When people ask what Suspicious Circumstances is about, what I say depends on whether they want the long answer or the short answer. One crime leads to another and another, but this isn’t a serial killer story. The reasons for one murder might not be the same as the reasons for another murder. It’s an intricate web, and the story is more about corruption, abuse of power and how people manipulate others for their own gain.

And in a city known for corrupt officials and police officers, it’s also about trust. My cop, Farraday, was burned by a reporter, so he isn’t happy about working with a journalist at the start of the story.

My initial thought was that I should look up page 96, because I have a habit of doing things backwards, but I did look up page 69.

Vern had asked for the mayor, but had been told Garrett was available. Others praised Walter Morrow, a man who’d take time out of his busy schedule to throw the opening pitch at a school softball tournament.

A mayor too busy to talk about a missing girl but with enough time to roll up his sleeves for a little baseball. Only in America.

Vern is a secondary character. However, for a book that focuses on corruption this is the kind of minor scene that’s essential. What does this scene show the reader? A missing girl isn’t a high priority for City Hall, and it’s probably a safe bet that if the mayor doesn’t care about this investigation he isn’t too concerned with other local crime, which might be part of the reason so many cases are going unsolved and the local cops have developed a reputation for turning a blind eye for a price.

I still wondered if page 96 would be a better indication of what the book was about, so I decided to take a peek. Farraday comes face to face with the reporter who burned him for the first time in the book.

Farraday… grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the way of the other police personnel starting to return from the crime scene.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“I came to see you.” The woman wrenched her arm free from his hold. “You didn’t come home last night.”

“I don’t have to explain myself to you.” Farraday’s back was rigid, his jaw clenched. “You have no business being here.”

“Here as in your house or your crime scene?”

Surprisingly, both pages connect to the underlying themes that form the framework for Suspicious Circumstances. I don’t usually skip ahead in books, in case I read a spoiler, so I’ve never chosen a book this way. As to whether or not these pages would entice people to keep reading, I think that depends on the reader, so you tell me: Did I pass?
Many thanks to Sandra for the input.

Among the advance praise for Suspicious Circumstances:
"Suspicious Circumstances has to be one of the most satisfying mysteries going that grips the reader from beginning to end."
--Clive Cussler

“Sandra Ruttan’s Suspicious Circumstances soars. It is complex, exciting, and elegant. In musical terms, it’s listening to Bach. I’m in love with Lara Kelly, the smart, strong, vulnerable protagonist. Her detective lover better move fast or I’m in there. A gripping adventure, a large cast of marvelous characters, and twists that follow turns. Read it. You’ll love it too.”
--Robert Fate, author of Baby Shark

Suspicious Circumstances twists and turns and twists again, leaving the reader breathless and unsure which end is up. And that's just the beginning. Ruttan's deft touch intrigues and satisfies, making her a powerful new force in the mystery field.”
--JT Ellison, author of All The Pretty Girls

"Secrets and lies, new murders and old, all unravel and unwind within the pages of Suspicious Circumstances to create a complex and compelling crime-fiction debut. Sandra Ruttan has a keen eye for description, a wonderful ear for dialogue, and an acute instinct for the nuances of characterization. "
--Anne Frasier, USA Today bestselling author of Hush
J.T. Ellison interviewed Sandra in the Winter 2006 issue of Spinetingler, as issue which includes Sandra's interviews with Jess Lourey, Mark Billingham, and Duane Swierczynski.

Julia Buckley interviewed Sandra at Mysterious Musings and Bethany K. Warner interviewed her for The Northwestern.

The two books that most haunted Sandra in 2006: Ian Rankin's The Flood and Anne Frasier's Pale Immortal. (Read the page 69 entry for Pale Immortal here.)

Click here for Sandra's interviews, short stories, and reviews.

Visit her lively blog and official website.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography
Alison Gaylin, You Kill Me
Gayle Lynds, The Last Spymaster
Jim Lehrer, The Phony Marine
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission
Sarah Katherine Lewis, Indecent
Peter Orner, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
William Easterly, The White Man's Burden
Danielle Trussoni, Falling Through the Earth
Andrew Blechman, Pigeons
Anne Perry, A Christmas Secret
Elaine Showalter, Faculty Towers
Kat Richardson, Greywalker
Michael Bess, Choices Under Fire
Masha Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile
Alex Beam, Gracefully Insane
Nicholas Lemann, Redemption
Jason Sokol, There Goes My Everything
Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile
Josh Chafetz, Democracy’s Privileged Few
Anne Frasier, Pale Immortal
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side
David A. Bell, The First Total War
Brett Ellen Block, The Lightning Rule
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice
Jason Starr, Lights Out
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom
Stephen Elliott, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up
Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood
Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind
Stanley Fish, How Milton Works
James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
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

--Marshal Zeringue