Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mysteries For Danielle Svetcov #11

TITLE: Dead Like Me
GENRE: Adult Mystery

Homicide Detective Kate Springer discovers she has something in common with the thirteen-year-old female victim in her latest case—the man the teenage girl cleaned house for is the same man who molested Detective Springer as a child.

Swiping a last tear from my cheek, I forced a smile which was becoming increasingly harder to fake. I nodded to the officer standing guard. Afraid to speak, my voice would hold too much emotion. I signed my name into his logbook.

“Two more miles to the north, and all of this would have been someone else’s problem,” he said, barely containing a yawn.

After a second nod, I ducked under the yellow crime scene tape strung between two ancient oaks, towering on either side of the driveway's entrance. Early this morning a call came in from Thonotosassa, a small city bordering Tampa on the northeast side. Just on the fringe of our jurisdiction. The body of a young Caucasian female had been discovered by a neighbor walking his dog.

Following the dirt driveway, I arrived at a vacant, single-story house. Scratch that. Make that a rotting, vacant house. The weather's so different in Florida compared to where I grew up in the burbs of Chicago. Up north the drastic temperature changes make paint peel away from the houses. Down here, the paint stays intact, but left unchecked a black mold can devour a home. Consequently, you got a place that looked like the one standing in front of me—as if some disease ate away at it from the inside out. I estimated the bungalow stood on three acres of land. Although there were neighbors on either side of the property, the trees surrounding it gave it a secluded feel.


  1. Logline: Is this a discovery she makes at the beginning or the end? If it's the beginning, we need to know what she will do with this information. If it's the end, you need to back up and show us that she wants to solve this case but this twist may make it impossible for her to think straight or whatever it is that makes it an obstacle.

    Good luck!

  2. Your title reminds me of something already in popular media, unfortunately. A tv show, maybe?

    I like your log line; it brings forth all kinds of complications. I do think that the sentence is a bit long, and the second part (after the em dash) reads somewhat awkwardly. Maybe this is cleaner: 'the girl cleaned house for the same man who...'?

    Your first novel sentence seems very out of character for a detective. IMO, there's just not enough info to justify her crying at this point. It is worsened by the fact that she then tries to smile. Why would you smile when you're standing over a dead body? I need something about why the detective is so emotionally touched by this body. Is it special, or is she always this emotional about her job? How does that work for a detective? I think it CAN work, but some context is needed. I'd definitely lose the attempt at smiling, though.

    I like all the setting info you have in this short, opening excerpt. Well done!

  3. Hi there! This is very well-written, and your log line is intriguing and would have me picking up the story to give it a try.

    I do have to agree with the comment above, though: this doesn't really fit with the female cops I know. It seems like a little too much to have her breaking down before she even gets to the crime scene. It's very realistic to have the job wear on her, especially with her past, but at the same time, it has me thinking that it'd be almost impossible for her to be a homicide detective if it got to her that much. I think that a more muted, guarded way to show her feelings as she heads to the scene would connect me to the character better.

    From there, though, you do a great job of setting the scene and the atmosphere. I'd read on!

  4. @Dea Dead Like Me was a TV show a few years back. But I think it can work for a book title as well.

    The log line is a good start but I feel like it's missing the hook. So she finds out it's the same guy and then... what is the story arc for the main character? I think you need to spell out how/what she is going to overcome with this case, rather than only stating what the case is. It just needs a little more to define the stakes I think.

  5. Everything looks pretty good. I agree that the logline needs more in the way of a goal and how she'll overcome the obstacle. I think you can also cut some wording--you don't need to say that she's both a thirteen-year-old female and a teenage girl.

    I was also caught off guard by her crying as she comes up to the crime scene. It doesn't feel appropriate if it's about the new case... if it's about something else, we need a clue so we're not attributing it to her being too sensitive to do her job.

    In the last paragraph, there's too much text-book style description of how different weather in different regions affects the exterior of old houses. Is it relevant or can you just say that black mold had devoured the home, eating away at it from the inside like an untreated disease?

  6. I've always wondered if you ever truly do become desensitized to death in these situations, especially when the victim is so young. And if you've got hormones going on that day too, then how on earth do you keep it all in? And should we?

    Then again, Kate may have been upset over something else that will come to light in the next few paragraphs. But I did like her sensitivity compared with to the officer who acted like the girl's murder was a disruption to his day.

    I also liked how the writer used house paint to compare the difference in climates. Most people don't know mold can devour a home (or a person). I thought it was an apt, and chilling, description.

    The logline, however, could use some work. It did catch my eye, but it seems kind of clunky. But good start on your intro!

  7. The logline fails to reveal what is at stake to the detective as the case progresses. I think this can be solved with an additional sentence and also reveal whether this is an internal (emotional) struggle or if this will be more external with physical threats--or both!

    Homicide detectives are stoic on scene and it gave me an unfavorable feel for the woman. I want her to have feelings, but professionalism dictates that she suppress them while investigating to better focus on the job at hand.

    This may sound trivial, but how did a man walking a dog discover the body when you have the detective going up to (and presumably) into the decrepit house and secluded environment?
    Love the mold description! Very visual.
    Good luck.

  8. The sad truth of a big city homicide detective is that they would be stoic on a crime scene. They are uber professional and I think her wiping the tear away is too much. If she has to cry then make it later, alone. I get the scene as in the surroundings but I don't get the most important part - the body. The context shifts to a more removed place of peeling paint etc. It's an interesting concept but I think it needs more focus.

  9. The log line was pretty good. There's a twist that makes your mystery interesting. I would maybe reword it a little & make it more concise.

    I like the excerpt with one exception. I would have liked her to take a deep breath, mentally shove down her sadness, etc... something other than having her cry in the first sentence. I feel like this makes her weak since I don't know her or what exactly it is that is making her cry. I had a difficult time identifying with her because of this. Also the description of the house went on a little long for me. Other than that, it's a great excerpt and I'd read on. Good luck!

  10. I wonder why in the logline she let a guy go who molested her. It doesn't make me think the MC is a very strong person. I mean, unless she accused him and went through a trial and he was acquitted. But, as you've explained it now, she just sounds like someone who allowed a creep loose to kill a 13 yo girl.I think it's important for the reader to have some liking of the narrator in order to want to go on. As you set it up, it just made me think she is a horrible and weak person.

  11. Hmmmm. Interesting log-line. But I wasn't a fan of the "tear" opener. You do recapture my attention with the landscape description, however. A few language choice hiccups. "Burbs" didn't seem appropriate. "Too much emotion" didn't feel quite honest enough. Also, I'm a little put off by the immediate declaration of the procedural style mystery. I'm a little tired of it; and while aspects of it are essential, the more it can be muffled/muted/background, the better (for me).

  12. Logline: Give more detail about getting to the end of the story.

    Beginning with the tear slowed this from the start. To me, the beginning is paragraph four at: "I ducked under the yellow..." OR at the fifth paragraph. As far as the description of the house I was torn. It slows the action in a way, but great visual. The term bungalow took me out of the visual and made me think cute and small. Make the heroine strong for now, we can see the vulnerable side after we get into the story. Keep going on this manuscript.

  13. Logline worked great for me. The set-up is interesting and the way you go on to set the scene really worked.

    I object to the tears at the beginning, unless she knew this girl personally. I also feel it's a disconnect from the rest of the story. Why are we focusing on the landscape if she's emotional and crying? Why not tell us why she's crying?

    But I would definitely read on. I would suggest you change the name though. There is a popular TV show from Showtime a few years back with the same name.