Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Secret Agent #46

GENRE: Upper MG Contemporary Mystery

The store, with its sun-dappled aisles lined with glowing jars of beets and pickles, was not the place for a reunion, if Saskia could even call it that. Nor was it the right occasion. After a whole summer stocking inventory, Uncle Peter had left her in charge for the first time, and she needed to focus on customers, not old neighbors.

And definitely not a former best friend (emphasis on the “former”) who’d moved away to a different school, and stopped writing to Saskia altogether. Nope. Chloe Lim might have walked into the store thirty-two minutes ago with her little brother March in tow, but she could not expect to walk back into Saskia’s life as if the last three years hadn’t happened.

Saskia splayed her fingers across the cash register, glancing at the side where the Lims had settled into their old positions. Most people would have the social graces to leave once the small talk— hi, parents dropped us off, now live ten blocks away, starting at Hadfield High too, umm—died. The Lims, however, were content to linger in silence, oblivious to Saskia’s irritation. Chloe, face masked by a black helmet of hair, bent unmoving over some detective novel, and March was equally absorbed gluing stamps into his album. At least they were keeping to themselves.

The wind chimes sounded. Customer. Saskia snapped her attention to the entrance. Despite the summer heat, the customer wore a battered fedora and a trench with bulging pockets. He wasn’t a regular.


  1. I think you nailed the inner thoughts of Saskia - don't come back around pretending to be my friend, why are they hanging around, etc.

    You also hooked me with the fedora guy walking in - but be careful of cliche characters - the Sam Spade looking mystery man needs to be fleshed out later.

    I would definitely keep reading.

  2. If could be just me but I like learning about characters by them talking and reacting to others, and not with total inner dialogue. The story started when he walked in.

  3. Love the writing, pacing, and voice. I also thought the entrance of mysterious stranger was well-placed - not too soon, but soon enough. The only thing I was a bit confused about was the "old positions" the Lims settled into. It felt like they were all in a small grocery store, and I wasn't sure why two kids would just hang out inside and read/mess with a stamp album.

  4. Interesting lead in. I would keep reading.

  5. I like the last sentence and would consider making it the first sentence. If you keep the structure with introducing Saskia first, make the first sentence zingier by transplanting the part about the "former best friend" in place of "if Saskia could even call it that." That will bring out the tension right away. I like the title, and I'm intrigued by the hint of backstory.

  6. Ooo! I like this. You do a nice job of setting the scene, establishing characters, infusing emotion. I would definitely keep reading and would be happy to see more of this. Who is this man that just walked in and how will his entrance affect the tension between Saskia and Chloe?!

  7. You've really hooked me in here with your voice and you've done a great job at establishing characters.
    The lat line ensured for me that I would keep reading. I want to know more about this customer who is not a regular!

  8. Well written scene, but I think what you have here is YA, not MG. Middle grade kids don't work in a store or start high school.


  9. First of all, I love the title – intriguing.

    Secondly, your choice of words describing your setting is spot on. You hook the reader right into the scene.

    Love dappled aisles with glowing jars…wonderful!

    The easy way you slide backstory into front matter is a gift.

    Tension between old friends is apparent and immediate and the way you introduce the circumstance and the dress of the mysterious stranger hoks the reader for the whole train ride.

    I’d definitely want to read more.

  10. Love your idea, but it's more YA than MG in some parts. A MGer wouldn't be in charge of a store. There needs to be more action and dialogue mixed in with telling.
    Something else to consider: The first sentence is hard to follow and a bit run-on. Maybe split it into two sentence, e.g., The grocery store, was not the place for a reunion. If Saskia could even call it that.
    I agree with others that the story starts when the man in the fedora enters the store.

    Good luck revising! It could be a cute story.