Thursday, July 2, 2009

Murder in the 'Burbs

That's Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime. If I had to write books like that, on a typewriter without my 'delete' and 'find/replace' keys, there would be one more death to talk about; not murder, but suicide.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records (not to be confused with the beer company), she is the best selling author of all time. Only the Bible is known to have sold more than Agatha's four BILLION copies.

According to Wikipedia,
almost all of Agatha Christie’s books are whodunits, focusing on the English middle and upper classes. Usually, the detective either stumbles across the murder or is called upon by an old acquaintance, who is somehow involved. Gradually, the detective interrogates each suspect, examines the scene of the crime and makes a note of each clue, so readers can analyze it and be allowed a fair chance of solving the mystery themselves. Then, about halfway through, or sometimes even during the final act, one of the suspects usually dies, often because they have inadvertently deduced the killer's identity and need silencing. In a few of her novels, including Death Comes as the End and Ten Little Indians, there are multiple victims. Finally, the detective organizes a meeting of all the suspects and slowly denounces the guilty party, exposing several unrelated secrets along the way, sometimes over the course of thirty or so pages. The murders are often extremely ingenious, involving some convoluted piece of deception. Christie’s stories are also known for their taut atmosphere and strong psychological suspense, developed from the deliberately slow pace of her prose.


Twice, the murderer surprisingly turns out to be the narrator of the story, and in four stories, Christie allows the murderer to escape justice (and in the case of the last three, implicitly almost approves of their crimes); these are The Witness for the Prosection, Murder on the Orient Express, Curtain, and The Unexpected Guest.


My latest, MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE, is the first in a series of cozy mysteries with an edge. It's a whodunit with no gore and, hopefully, lots of laughs. It's set in upscale suburbia with uppity neighbors and characters from a Catholic church at its core. Here is the first paragraph from the query:


Mapleton Falls is a perfect town where perfect families lead perfect lives. At least, that’s what newcomer Jenny Sampson thinks when she first moves in. But, when Jenny’s next-door-neighbor, Amanda Brennan, a beautiful, caring, doctor’s wife and mother of two, turns up dead in the entryway of her Georgian-style McMansion, Jenny finds herself muddled in the middle of a murder.


HERE GOES...

I've never done this before, but that makes it all the more exciting. Here's the first page to my new novel. I'd love to hear your thoughts...

MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE
Chapter One, Page One
I looked out and saw the assistant DA drive her old, beat-up Volvo into my long driveway. Finally! I ran out and gave her a hug. "Oh, god, Bree. I'm so glad you're here! I can't believe Amanda's gone. I just saw her yesterday. How could this have happened"


The picture I'd e-mailed her this morning showed five smiling women holding up champagne glasses, happily toasting the New Year. Standing on the end to my left, Amanda's sparkling blue eyes conveyed hope for the upcoming year. What could have gone so terribly wrong in only three, short months?

Bree put her arm around me and walked me back into the house. "Calm down, Jen. You need to tell me everything, so take a deep breath and get your thoughts together. "

"I know, you're right. I'm sorry. I've been a major mess since I got the news. Do you want a cup of tea? I made your favorite - chai with extra cinnamon."

"That's your favorite."

"I know, but you'll drink it, won't you?"

"Don't I always?"

I handed her a cup of tea in her favorite mug depicting Sally, Dick and Jane from kindergarten primers. "JANE KNOWS SALLY, SHE DOESN'T CARE TO KNOW DICK." I loved reminding her of her expansive sexual preferences.

"Okay," she said, pulling out a pad and paper. "Let's start from the beginning."
***

27 comments:

Beth said...

FUN! Snappy dialogue--I loved the "That's your favorite" bit!

I haven't read a lot of Christie's books, but read several back in high school. I always found them a good, solid read. I had no idea that she is the best selling author of all time. Amazing. You've got some catching up to do. ;)

DebraLSchubert said...

Beth, You think? I don't know, selling four billion books shouldn't be that hard, especially with the state of the publishing industry these days. Books are flying off the shelves. Glad you liked the first page. I'm really having fun with this one.;-)

Big Plain V said...

Off to a good start, Schube.

Your breakdown of Agatha Christie's plots was very ironic, because over the last couple days I've been researching 'writing mystery plots'.

I need some pointers from your genre -- can you point to any good resources?

Kelly said...

I have never read an Agatha Christie book! I should...
Love your dialogue and title. And you made me giggle a few times, too. This sounds like a fun mystery!!

WendyCinNYC said...

Sounds like a fun book! And just think, I can say I knew the next Agatha Christie when she was merely querying!

DebraLSchubert said...

Ray, Yes, go to cozy-mystery.com. It's a good reference for these types of books. Glad you liked the beginning - any advice?

DebraLSchubert said...

Kelly, A fun mystery definitely describes it. It's more character driven than plot driven, and the two main characters (Jenny and Bree) have a lot of great dialogue. Glad you enjoyed it!

DebraLSchubert said...

Wendy, You, of all people, can definitely say you knew me when! Come to think of it, I can say the same about you.;-)

Lilly said...

Oh that is so good, I want more. Interesting about Agatha Christie. I have never even read one of her books....maybe I should try one at least. I know my fathr used to devour them.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Very engaging, Debbie! I normally don't read fiction (sorry to all fiction writers), but you definitely got my attention. Nice!

DebraLSchubert said...

Lilly, Thanks! Agatha Christie is the bomb. Have you ever seen any of the movies made from her books? They're well worth a watch. Your dad's got great taste in authors.;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Linda, I'm glad you like it, especially if you're not a fiction reader! Have a Happy 4th!;-)

Pen Pen said...

Agatha was on of my first authors to read and be inspired to be like! LOVE her!!!

AND- Your writing voice is so fun!!
It reminds me of what I think u actually sound like in real life:) querky, witty, and one I'd like to hear more of!
I want a signed copy when it gets published!!! :)

DebraLSchubert said...

Pen-Pen, Agatha is amazing - what an inspiration! You're far too kind, and I'm thrilled you liked page one! I promise you a signed copy.;-)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I only give honest critiques so please forgive me if not what you are looking for. Engaged me except for the second paragraph as it confused me. Perhaps cut the first sentence after "glasses" as that will melt into the second, Standing. That way you keep it with just three characters and it is easier for your reader to follow. Too many characters too fast confuse me.

Your query paragraph sounds most interesting. Teach me how to do that.

And, per the previous post. I don't know if the Stone Pony is still there or not. I know the restaurant where I worked, that had been there for several generations, turned into a Perkins Pancake House.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I only give honest critiques so please forgive me if not what you are looking for. Engaged me except for the second paragraph as it confused me. Perhaps cut the first sentence after "glasses" as that will melt into the second, Standing. That way you keep it with just three characters and it is easier for your reader to follow. Too many characters too fast confuse me.

Your query paragraph sounds most interesting. Teach me how to do that.

And, per the previous post. I don't know if the Stone Pony is still there or not. I know the restaurant where I worked, that had been there for several generations, turned into a Perkins Pancake House.

DebraLSchubert said...

MJ, I completely agree with you. I've been contemplating zapping that sentence and almost did it last night. You are the "angel" I needed to tell me that hunch was right. As you can see, it's gone! Thanks for your honesty.;-)

Angie Ledbetter said...

Schube, you've done a great job of establishing some of the MCs, setting your "voice" and setting up the plot, all in an interesting way and with style. Yay!

DebraLSchubert said...

Angie, Coming from you, that means a lot. Thanks so much for your two cents!!!

Glynis said...

Agatha Christie books are wonderful. My mother allowed me to read one of hers when I was young, and I was hooked.

I loved your work, good luck with it.I am working on my first novel, and I hope my opening is as grabbing as yours.
http://www.glynissmy.com

DebraLSchubert said...

Glynis, Thanks for stopping by. How wonderful of your mom to introduce you to Agatha! And, thanks for your lovely words about my intro. Best of luck on your novel - I predict you'll love every minute of the writing journey!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I'm stopping quickly by - but now I'll have to come back and read *smiling* ---

I've never read Agatha C books - but I don't read mysteries ... but she is an Icon!~

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Oh, I'm glad it worked for you. I was afraid I had overstepped my bounds.

Best of luck with the agents. I'm cheering for you.

DebraLSchubert said...

Kat, Agatha is the Queen. I've got VK next up! ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

MJ, I posted this specifically for the purpose of getting insightful comments like yours. It reads more smoothly now - thanks!

Debbie said...

I like it. It engaged me even though that isn't my normal genre.

DebraLSchubert said...

Debbie, Yay! You should read a mystery every now and then. It's good for the soul.;-)

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