Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mysteries For Danielle Svetcov #26

TITLE: Uncertain Justice
GENRE: Mystery

After Austin, Texas, Assistant D.A. Elyse Grove resorts to prosecutor office cutthroat tactics to get her first high-profile homicide, the more she looks into her prize case, the less she is convinced of the guilt of the defendant, a Junior Leaguer of a certain age who has much to gain by her husband’s death. Another young, up-and-coming assistant D.A. talks her way into becoming Elyse’s second chair for the trial, and they become embroiled in a competition for the attentions of the same police investigator, until the second chair’s secret addiction promises to blow the case wide open.

I parked down the street from the flashing-light entourage on Barton Skyway Drive, wondering what justified this many emergency vehicles. A blast of heat, like the 425-degree oven that heated up my frozen pizza earlier, hit me once I stepped out of the car. I wanted to cast off the linen jacket, but my outfit needed dressing up with authority.

As my heels tapped across the reflections of blue and red on the road, I scanned the body types of the police milling outside the mansion. No Sergeant Jackson Barnes, although he’d told me he’d meet me outside to explain. All the men were, in comparison to him, “shambly,” a word my high school friends and I had made up to describe baggy outfits around shapeless bodies. I sighed inwardly, disappointed, then mentally kicked myself. I was no longer in high school, although the dating life did reduce me to that. Just when I thought I’d finally escaped it, I was starting all over again.

And I was at a crime scene. Time to pay attention. An officer was winding police tape around the perimeter of the neo-classical columns of what could only be called a mansion. He did his best to ignore my approach. This was not the kind of neighborhood where people gathered around a crime scene, although I had seen a couple of bobbled heads in windows.

Marching past prompted his response. “Ma’am, you’re going to need to step back.” He wiped the sweat from his brow.


  1. Shortening the sentences of the logline would punch it up a bit. As it is, they just run on and lose impact.

    I'd cut the line about the frozen pizza, and just say 'an intense blast of heat hit me as I stepped out of the car.'

    I like the writing more than the logline, and there's some good stuff here.

  2. I agree, there's some good writing here--and it sounds like an interesting premise.

    A couple of comments:
    I agree the log line is a bit wordy. You might be able to tighten it (e.g., "they become embroiled in a competition for" could change to "they compete for")

    I actually liked the frozen pizza bit because it tells us a lot about the character, but you may want to move this later in Chapter 1. It was a bit jarring in the first paragraph.

    Good writing, interesting story. Nice job!

  3. Logline: This first line is WAY too confusing. You need to focus on the fact that your main character wants to win a high-profile case. Aside from that, tell us what is stopping her from winning the case. It sounds like she wants attention (not sure if this mean romantic attention or not) but I don't see how that relates to her goal or what blowing the case wide open even means. Is this a good thing? A bad thing?

    Good luck!

  4. Potentially dramatic scene to start with yet I know more about the visuals of where she is than much about her. Is this her first big crime scene? She is a ADA that had to be called to the scene and therefore to wonder what justified all the police and paramedics doesn't make sense. She'd know before she got there. As a professional woman, she would have gone through 4 years of undergrad then 3 years of law school so it seems that her first thoughts would not be of high school. Secondly, her focus on what the police men looked like and whether or not they were sexy makes her seem a bit flighty and incompetent. Most ADA's I know have supreme focus and have the full respect and attention of the police with whom they have worked before. I know what you are trying to set up but I think the cliches might tear down the story.

  5. You lost me at frozen pizza

  6. Logline definitely longer than prescribed: Just putting a comma after the first sentence instead of a period does not actually make it less of a sentence. But I find the character introduced in the narrative quite appealing. The frozen pizza line strikes me as just the sort of thing that might pop into one's head -- also even the shambly look of the men.
    I would definitely read on to see what happens to this woman.

  7. The log line is interesting, but I think there's too much information there. The part about the two DAs fighting over the attentions of the cop (romantically, I'm assuming?) was too much. Ditto that on the other DA's addiction. I want to know more about your mc, instead.

    The opening: I have a bit of a hard time believing that this DA, on her first case, is looking for the hot cop rather than worrying about what is going on. She must have some idea that there's been a murder?

    When she snaps her attention back on the crime scene, like it's hard for her to do it, she lost some empathy points from me.

    You've managed to get a lot of characterization in the first 250! Nice!

    Good luck.

  8. The story sounds interesting and intense... but the logline was pretty wordy and hard to follow-- too many adjective combinations and over sharing. Do we really need to know the Junior Leaguer is "of a certain age"? Really all I need to know here is that the MC's not convinced the defendent is guilty and why it's a problem. I'm also not sure why the other chair's addiction has an impact on solving the case. Cut back on a lot of description and provide more substantive information about the actual plot. Right now, this sounds like a girl fight over the the investigator with a court room as the setting.

    The narrative is better, but I found myself turned off by the prosecutor's (that's who this is, right?) focus on her school-girl crush rather than her job. I realize you're trying to call out that she likes him and that she's also annoyed with herself for getting distracted, but it just makes me not take her seriously as a prosecutor (especially a cut-throat one).

    I'd rather see more subtle cues to lead me toward wondering whether she has a crush and a little more initial focus on why she's really there.

  9. I found the log line confusing and difficult to follow.
    For me the voice felt really young. I'm guessing she's the assistant DA in the log line? If so, I'd think she'd talk more about college or law school than high school. Also she was a little too flippant about arriving at a crime scene. I expected her to have more respect and be more professional.
    There were some really good moments your the writing.
    I hope my comments help. Good luck!

  10. I agree - to an Assistant DA who has gone through 7 years of college, high school must seem like the Jurassic Age to her so why would she think of it. She sounded very very young and unsuited to her job. A murder scene and her thoughts are who's a hot cop? Really?

  11. In defense of frozen pizza - I rather liked that line! I think saying 400 degree oven works maybe better than the ultra-precise 425 but that is SUPER NITPICKY.

    I do agree with others that reflecting back to high school seems off, but if she's references what she and her girlfriends currently say, that works. The pizza and friends references make her seem young and new to the job, like a girl not quite used to the stilettos she now fills (or more practical low heels) so if that's the vibe you're going for I think it's on the right track. As others pointed out, the logline needs reshaping, but that's a craft in and of itself! Look for some good examples online or from the back of your favorite books.