Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pg. 69: "An Unquiet Grave"

An Unquiet Grave is P.J. Parrish's latest "Louis Kincaid" mystery.

P.J. Parrish is actually the nom de plume of the sisters Kristy Montee and Kelly Montee. I invited them to put the novel to the "page 69 test."

Kris wrote back with the results, introducing her findings with an excerpt from the page:
As Charlie Oberon staggered closer into the light, everything came into focus. His bloody sweatshirt. A woman’s lifeless, naked body. Charlie’s long fingers pressed into her thighs. Arms hanging limp, shreds of dark wet leaves stuck to them. Her hair...long, blond and thick with blood.

“She won’t wake up,” Charlie cried. “She won’t wake up.”

Louis broke into a run toward him.

You know the bromide about putting a body in the first chapter? This is the first dead body in our book and it comes at the end of chapter eight.

I remember when we were writing this book, Kelly and I were concerned about its slow opening. See, our books are tagged “thrillers” so there’s this pressure to grab the reader by the throat early. And in the earlier books of our Louis Kincaid series, we had someone dead by chapter two, often in a sort of “Six Feet Under” prologue.

But then came this story. And we knew the voice telling it had to be more measured. So to talk about page 69, I have to back up to page 1. The story opens with a gentle image: Louis looking at white Christmas lights on the palm tree in the yard of his Florida home:

A stiff breeze was blowing in from the gulf, moving the fronds and sending the lights bobbing and dancing like fireflies on a hot summer night.

Fireflies. July Fourth. Michigan.

But there were no fireflies here. It was November, not July and he was in South Florida.

His mind was playing tricks on him.

Not exactly pulse-pounding, right? But in that one quiet image and especially that last line is the theme of the whole book.

Here’s the setup: Louis gets a call from his foster father Phillip asking him to come home to Michigan. Phillip has been tending a friend’s grave at an abandoned insane asylum for 15 years and the cemetery is being moved to make way for condos. But when the casket is dug up, it is filled with rocks. Phillip asks Louis to find out what happened.

What follows is a deeply personal story about families and abiding love, and the havoc secrets can wreak on both. It is also about the thin line between sanity and madness.

Yes, there is crime, death, the grisly exhumation of a notorious serial killer’s grave, and a terrifying chase through the dark tunnels beneath the asylum grounds.

As for page 69: Things have been quiet for Louis up until this point. But now, when Charlie Oberon, a retarded man who is the asylum’s last remaining patient, stumbles out of the woods cradling the body of a dead nurse, the roller coaster has crested the first hill. The reader, primed by the slow build, is ready for the white-knuckle ride that follows.

Sometimes slower is faster, even in thrillers. And sometimes you have to trust that readers will know that.
Thanks to Kris for the input.

Read an excerpt from An Unquiet Grave.

Among the praise for the novel:
"Bestseller Parrish's gripping and atmospheric new Louis Kincaid novel is a quality read that will remind many of Dennis Lehane. Parrish manages to make would could be a formulaic plot fresh, both through her gift at creating sympathetic main and secondary characters and through her skill creating suspense and sustaining a mood. The author's ability to raise goose bumps puts her in the front rank of thriller writers."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"An Unquiet Grave is a wonderfully tense and atmospheric novel. The seventh novel featuring Louis Kincaid keeps the reading guessing until the end."
--Miami Herald

"An Unquiet Grave is a standout thriller. It is an intriguing and atmospheric story set largely on the grounds of an abandoned insane asylum, a haunting location that contains many dark and barbarous secrets. With fresh characters and plot, An Unquiet Grave, is suspense novel of the highest order.
--Chicago Sun-Times
An Unquiet Grave was recently named a Michigan Notable Book for 2007, joining Elmore Leonard and Steve Hamilton as the only other crime writers’ works thus honored.

The Louis Kincaid mysteries have earned several Edgar, Anthony, and Shamus Award nominations.

Ed Gorman has profiled P.J. Parrish, and Elaine Flinn had Kris and Kelly "On the Bubble" at Murderati.

Visit P.J. Parrish's blog, Cabbages and Kings, and the official P.J. Parrish website.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Tyler Knox, Kockroach
Andrew Rehfeld, the Concept of Constituency
Laura Wiess, Such a Pretty Girl
Jeremy Blachman, Anonymous Lawyer
Andrew Pyper, The Wildfire Season
Wendy Werris, An Alphabetical Life
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know
Meghan Daum, The Quality of Life Report
Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin' Man
Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost
Paul Collins, The Trouble With Tom
John McFetridge, Dirty Sweet
Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero
Bill Crider, Murder Among the OWLS
Zachary Shore, Breeding Bin Ladens
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Matt Haig, The Dead Fathers Club
Lawrence Light, Fear & Greed
Simon Read, In The Dark
Sandra Ruttan, Suspicious Circumstances
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