Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Secret Agent #5

GENRE: Adult Legal Thriller

I found out about the death of Harry Miles by text.

My ex-wife and I were squared off across a table at a diner on the east side of Grand Rapids off the Beltline. It wasn’t one of those hidden gem greasy spoons, but it was convenient, and we had never frequented it during our time together.  Neutral ground.  I was winning our regular weekly argument when I received the text.  It threw me off my game.

“What is it?” she asked with a dose of actual concern when I didn’t respond to one of her barbs about my not being able to take care of some bills I had promised to cover.  She was right, of course, about the money being a problem, but that wasn’t really what she wanted to argue about.  She just couldn’t bring herself to argue about the other thing, and I didn’t want that, either.

I stared at the text.  It was from a blocked private number.  I had only picked up the phone out of habit.  That, and I knew that it would drive Michelle crazy.  The message from the unknown texter simply said, Harry Miles died today.  And then, as I watched, it buzzed again, and a new message popped up.  Just thought you should know…


  1. The first line hooked me, and I love how you circled back to it at the end of the first page. This is a solid read, and I get a sense of the relationship between the protag and his wife. I would keep reading.

  2. I like this. The first line is great. It's weird and sad and then by the end with the blocked number, it turns creepy and worrisome. I also like the interplay between the MC and his wife.

  3. I would keep reading, too. I like the pacing, the characters, and the setting. I'm not sure I find it creepy, but I'm definitely interested to know more.

  4. I'm liking the voice here, but think you should consider giving the line after 'What is it?' a good trimming. It's the weak link in an otherwise strong opening. So far this is my favorite entry. Good job!

  5. Love, love that first line.

    Excellent rhythm and pacing with the phrase "Neutral ground."

    I didn't like "It threw me off my game." It sounds like a line from a Raymond Chandler novel, and feels off with the rest of your writing.

    I'm intrigued by the mystery of "She just couldn’t bring herself to argue about the other thing," but I thought "and I didn’t want that, either." was weak, and lessened the impact of the first part of the sentence. Perhaps making it into its own sentence would be stronger.

    I agree with shortening the "what is it?" sentence.

    It's a great opening and I would definitely read more.

  6. Your voice is so strong and consistent and you set up your story so easily, I love this. You've got your dead body, you've got your complicated relationship, and you've got a mysterious secret (and possibly sinister?) texter. Great job. A.Wells

  7. Show us how it threw him off his game. Did he start sweating? Miss a question? Drop his coffee? Or did a spoon clatter to the ground making a scene? I think the question, "What is it?" should be followed by...I stared at the text. He could lie to her and make up something, "Oh, nothing, just forgot to feed the cat," I said, as I wiped the sweat slicked across my forehead. "You don't own a cat." Okay, you get the idea. I think there's a lot of stuff smooshed between those two lines. And doesn't everyone pick up their phone out of habit? I don't think you need to state this. Overall, I am intrigued! I love thrillers.

  8. What I liked most about this one was the first sentence and the last paragraph. It's the middle two paragraphs that need work.

    Sentences like "squared off across a table" confused me as to how exactly they were sitting, and and generic comments like "our regular weekly argument" made me want to know more specific detail, what were they arguing about? What is she wearing? What are they eating?

    The second paragraph felt to me like it needed the most work. I feel like you're telling me what happened rather than showing me the actual argument that they're having. I would rather have this come at me in dialogue, or possibly just cut this paragraph altogether - how important is the information in it at this stage?

    But the last paragraph definitely made me want to know who Harry Miles was!

    Thanks for entering!

  9. Thanks for the feedback! I wasn't intending "squared off" as a spatial placement, but as a phrase meaning "prepared to fight". Appreciate the notes!