Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Northwest Wind
GENRE: Adult Crime

Tom’s in trouble. Winnie’s eyes flew open. She tore out of bed, ran to the window and grabbed the binoculars on the ledge. He’d left their cottage a few hours ago, in the darkness-before-dawn, before the bay heated up and the whitefish ran for the bottom.

Focusing the binoculars, she turned her head as he’d taught her, keeping her body steady, scanning in sweeps near his favourite shoal.


The bent jack pine by their dock announced a growing north-westerly.

Follow the wind, she heard him tell her, the wind decides everything. She scanned again, searching further east.


Then she saw it, just as she’d seen it in her dream—his sailboat illuminated by a ghostly light from the bottom of the bay. Even in the running waves, every detail was sharply focused: the overturned hull, dove-grey with white trim, the waterlogged sail, the tiller sticking up like a twig. No one clinging to the hull. Her eyes frantically swept the water. No life-vested swimmer kicking for shore.

She rushed to her cell phone, telling herself to call the cops.

No! You’re culpable. You chased Tom out there.

In the bay now, every wave was wearing a whitecap. Tom’s skiff was almost out of sight, beyond Cameron Point. There is a day and an hour, her father used to say. What about a minute, she’d wanted to ask him, a split-second? The empty skiff told her that she’d found it, the split-second that dictated her life was ruined.


  1. I love the tension in this and the decision she must make that the entire book hinges on. There's also a paranormal bent which makes me both curious and a little cautious in seeing how that aspect plays out in a crime novel.

  2. The details and the scene setting in this are great. I agree with Lanette re the tension, and the paranormal bent. I really like her remembering to follow the wind, and then spotting the upturned hull. The story takes off. The only thing that doesn't ring true for me is why she wouldn't call the cops, just because they had an argument. I don't know if I'd believe that. I would think somehow there would have to be something more than her chasing him out. But the writing is really fine.

  3. You had me totally enthralled. I could picture it all clearly and was feeling her anxiety. Right up until the "No! You're culpable" line. I immediately thought oh no, this is going to be one of those stories where the character makes ridiculous, non-logical decisions to push the plot where the author wants it to go.

    I might read another page, just to confirm what she was going to do, but if she doesn't call for help I wouldn't turn the next page.

    Also - if she was going to ring someone, wouldn't it be the coast guards, not the cops if his boat has overturned?

  4. I was a little confused at the beginning, but then I was really engaged! So, imho I would maybe try and clean up the first line. It can do more for you. That being said, the tension here is great. I would definitely read on!

  5. I think this is a solid opening. I really liked this line: "In the bay now, every wave was wearing a whitecap." It's different and descriptive without trying too hard. I liked how the setting was so easily woven into the narrative. Nice work.

  6. I loved the tension and the descriptions. Nicely done. Is this paranormal? I'm not sure if the voice she's hearing now in her head, or remembering things he told her in the past, or in her dream. I would still read on.

  7. The writing and the description is clean and compelling, but the page broke down for me where it did for the other commenters--first, why the cops, not the Coast Guard? If she wouldn't know the Coast Guard's number, she could have simply been calling for "help."

    Second, why did she decide not to call ?

    And one that hasn't been commented on above, why is her life ruined? Will she be jailed for his death in some way? Or is it ruined because he's probably dead? I don't necessarily need to know this on the first page but "life was ruined" is pretty dramatic and a turn off for me.

    Which second is the split second? The one where the boat overturned? The one where she decided not to call the cops?

    Some other things--is the "him" who told her to follow the wind Tom?

    Also, with the dreams, I agree that it would be interesting to see if there's paranormal here. If not, maybe something other than the specific dream of the crash should wake her up. Or else it will seem like cheating.

    I'd probably read on just to figure out why she didn't call the cops and what happened to Tom, but I'd be prepared to ditch at the next dramatic life in ruins statement.

  8. Well-written, tight, good tension! Great interplay of action and thought. Really like your descriptions--bent jack pine, tiller sticking up like a twig, every wave wearing a whitecap.

    I’d put the first and last lines in separate paragraphs and delete “that” in “that she’d found it” in the last line. Maybe reword “the split-second that dictated her life was ruined” to “the split-second she knew her life was ruined.” If the next pages give a believable reason (or hint) why this is so, I’d read on.

    Agree with Pam about the weak motivation for not calling the cops, and with K.C. about calling the Coast Guard, or whatever you call it in Canada. (Am I right? The "favourite" gave me a hint and then I googled jack pines to narrow it down.)

    Well done!

  9. Ok - this is not my genre at all, but I was hooked instantly at the first 3 words - wow!

    This has great flow, great tension and tone - I'm not sure I can offer much to critique, but that may be because I've spent a great deal of time around the ocean and I am so drawn into this merely by the scene, which you set up very nicely. Well done and good luck!

  10. Oo, tension, tension, tension! I love this.

    The only critique I have to offer is that I don't know what "There is a day and an hour, her father used to say" meant. I assume it meant "for your death," but then she talks about how her life is ruined--and isn't Tom dead? Maybe I'm being too dense and/or literal.

    It definitely drew me in!

  11. The opening lines read somewhat melodramatic and gimmicky. Unless there is a supernatural element to this story, it feels too convenient to open it with Winnie randomly realizing that something has happened to Tom. This is similar to the "waking up from a nightmare" opening that many readers deplore these days: too convenient, too foreboding.

    Now, if there's something else that *hints* to Winnie that something's amiss, and she runs with that idea to check on Tom, just in case... then we can have a more natural build in suspense, and in dread.