Thursday, July 17, 2008

#89 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

Title: Dry Hole
Genre: Mystery

Dr. Francine Elizabeth Rach outdrove the arrogant bastard and his high-beam headlights as he chased her in and out of traffic southbound on Houston's Beltway 8. Looking ahead, she blasted her well-tuned Mazda 929 up the high-elevation Highway 59 overpass and backed off the gas only slightly as she approached the curve at the top, where he caught up, pulled alongside, and shot her in the face.

Had the brilliant Ph.D. geophysicist not been dead when her bright-red coffin spun out of control, flipped end to end, jumped the retaining wall, and fell to the roadway below in a ball of flame, she might have screamed his name.

Accident investigators took pictures, measured skid marks, interviewed shocked witnesses, and eventually credited Houston statistics with one more tragic, random, road-rage death.

They were right only about it being tragic.


  1. The first paragraph is a little heavy handed. "Dr. Francine Elizabeth Rach" seems forced and unnatural. Likewise "the brilliant Ph.D. geophysicist" needs to be simplified.

    However, I loved the imagery and the general set up.

    I would read more.


  2. For a minute, I thought she was an "undead" when you said "if she wasn't already dead..."

    Needs some tightening up.


  3. Maybe.

    The first paragraph has a lot of extra details going on there. Like - why mention her middle name? And why not just say she stepped on the gas and sped her Mazda (leave off the model name) up over the hwy.

    Something else that occurred to me is it seemed like she was playing chicken with him - she outrove him and wove through traffic.

    But it IS a good set up as mentioned above.

  4. I agree with the comments about the set-up. It's enough to keep me reading for a few more paragraphs to see where the story goes.

    I do think you can trim down some of the extra details in the opening paragraph. Like the middle name as mentioned above, and you have three instances of numbers there.

    I like the closing line!

  5. If you could cut out at least half of the unnecessary details, I'd be willing to read more. But as it stands, no.

  6. Sorry the voice doesn't work for me. Here's why. If the good Dr. is dead, who's telling this story and how does the narrator know the Dr is being chased, that she's brilliant, and that she would have screamed "his" name.

  7. Sorry no.

    In so short a piece you have filled it with details of her car (well-tuned, mazda, bright-red), and the highway (southbound, beltway, high-elevation, hwy 59, curve).

    Presumably you can't be in her POV since she got shot in the face, but choose a POV. The only suitable one would be the killer's (since the cops can't know the details of the chase).

    I suggest you include some insight into his character, feelings about the victim, or enjoyment (or distaste) for his task.

    Something that pulls us right in, without jeopardising his identity (presumably you wish to obscure this).

    "she might have screamed his name." might be a good place to end a scene in the killer's POV.


    Good luck

  8. Tentatively yes. I feel the rage and high tension of the scene, but the details were confusing. The way you start the second paragraph, it sounded like Elizabeth was road raging WHILE in her coffin. And, if somehow that's the case, we need to know the details about that at that moment, not later on. Plus, if she's dead, then who is out narrator? If she's a sprit or ghost or something, that needs to be stated somewhere as well.

  9. Yes.

    I think some of the comments are a little pedantic; as an opening piece I think it's accomplished its purpose.

    However, I think it would be a stronger opening if the first paragraph was cut entirely with subsequent editing where appropriate (e.g. "she might have screamed the name of the man who killed her). A dead woman at the wheel of a car who is then suggested to not be dead at all would certainly have me hooked.

  10. I agree about the excessive details and the confusion about the POV (is this book going to be 3rd person omniscient?). BUT I do think you have style & sass & a ton of potential here. :)

  11. I'd read more. You left me with a bunch of questions--so I would have to read just to get my answers. Like the others, I did get a little confused here and there though.

  12. No. The car chase turns me off, and I'm not sure what to think of the opening being in Francine's voice when she dies at the end of the first paragraph. I'm assuming she isn't coming back alive, since this isn't Fantasy or Horror. Would it work to open in the other driver's head?

  13. Yes, I'd like this and keep reading. I want to know who is narrating...

  14. As it is, no. It's too much detail jammed into here and I was confused and lost about what was going on.

    Good luck,


  15. Not hooked.

    The descriptions left me confused. The first para ended with her slowing down and getting shot. Then, the next para started up with her careening off the highway.

    And ditto the 'undead' comment someone else made. I was really confused.

    I think the details about the MC seem forced and thrown in like Ph.D, geophysicist, and using her title and full (including middle) name at the start.

    Now on it's own, the premise of a geophysicist being chased and gunned down is intriguing but it's lost underneath all the awkward contruction of this opener.

  16. Man, this is a tough crowd, isn't it?

    Sure, each of us might have handled details differently, but geez! The author caught our attention, gave us a cool little murder scene in a very few words. If I picked it up in a bookstore, I'd turn the page.

    My only hesitation is that the author promises the murder is both road rage and not random; the author is giving him (or her) self a bit of a challenge. The arrogant bastard murderer, whose name the victim knew, sought her out to be the victim of his road rage? How is this possible? Isn't road rage sort of spontaneous by definition? We wonder, we turn the page, hoping the author can fulfill that bizarre promise.

    If we turn the page and there's Adrian Monk grimacing at the wreckage, we're in business. So sure, I'd keep reading. If the author has lied to us on this page, however, we will hate him. Or her.

    And we've all got cars, too...

  17. Yep, hooked. Sure, the first paragraph is a little heavy and I'd rather see the identifying details moved down (maybe the accident investigators also clucked about the loss of a brilliant scientist) but you know, this works. It gets you into the story and this kind of POV is not unusual in mystery--assuming of course that we turn the page and meet our MC. Well done here, I'd keep going for sure.

  18. Sorry, no. I might just be easily confused, but who's dead and who's driving?

  19. Maybe. Feels a little overwritten/crammed as it is, but if that was cleaned up, sure, why not.

  20. Overall, yes. I was drawn in and would probably continue if I was in a bookstore. A few comments: I don't know about "arrogant bastard" - I feel like that line would be more effective as "bastard." "Arrogant" seems odd for someone you are trying to outrun as they try to kill you. 2nd - you could lose the PhD part. Her title makes it clear to us what degree she has, and the geophysicist part makes it clear what her job is.

  21. Sorry, didn't work for me. Beginning is too overwritten, but did like the last line "They were right only about it being tragic."