Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #9

TITLE: My Education in Crime
GENRE: Adult Crime / Mystery

The crowd around the baggage carousel was three deep, but I'd found a position just behind a short man in a good haircut and tailored suit. I was satisfied he was traveling on business. The rules were; no students and no grandmothers. Only business travelers. Only people who could afford the loss.
I made one more check of the porters and the lone police officer in the baggage claim area. None were paying any attention. In 2003, Baggage Claim was the last official use of the honor system in American life.

Pretending to watch the luggage coming down the conveyor, I studied my businessman, waiting for a tell.

My mobile phone—a Palm Treo 750, which I loved—was in a pocket of my cheap Old Navy jacket, the phone’s battery in another. Not because I didn’t want to be startled by an unexpected call, though that was also true, but so that there’d be no way that any sort of law enforcement would ever be able to prove—based on cell tower records, at least—that I’d been anywhere near the airport during a rash of laptop computer thefts.

The tell showed. When business-guy spotted his bag, his posture changed, his breathing relaxed and he eased just a little closer to the belt of passing Samsonites. I figured he owned one of the suitcases that had just appeared all jumbled together, probably the black roller. It matched the laptop case leaning against his leg, and besides, he wasn't the duffle bag sort.


  1. "Baggage claim was the last official use of the honor system in American life" is a great line. Do you have to specify 2003, though? Unless the story has to happen in the early 2000s, I know a lot of agents like contemporary novels to happen "now-ish" so they remain relevant for a while, unless the time period is essential to the plot.

    Do we need so much detail about the phone? I don't particularly need to know what type it is, and if he left the phone at home, he wouldn't have to worry about cell tower records at all. We already know he's a thief and that he's been stealing luggage lately, so you don't need to establish that any further.

    I also think you can cut "I was satisfied he was traveling on business," because your rules make it clear why he's targeted this man, and technically he doesn't know it's a businessman and not just one of those people who like to look nice while flying.

    A semi-colon also isn't the correct punctuation here: "The rules were; no students and no grandmothers"

    Overall, though, I'm interested to learn more about the thief! Good job.

  2. I think you have something good here with a story about a thief. I was a little confused at first with where you were going with this, especially the part where the MC was waiting for the "tell." I wasn't sure if the MC was supposed to get some sort of mysterious package from a go-between or what exactly was going on until it was revealed the MC was a thief.

    I'm also going to agree on the wordiness of talking about the phone. A little too much info. In thrillers, a lot of info isn't overly necessary so that the action can move faster. Maybe just think of tightening up some of that paragraph. Over all, I'd be interested to see where this goes!

  3. I agree with Sarah and Mary - it could use tightening, especially in regard to phone details, and 2003 is not needed here unless the year is relevant in other ways (e.g., 20 months after 9/11). Fascinating character, good setup, story questions that need to be answered. (And a weak book title.)

  4. I like how you set the scene and the moment in time and gave us a ton of information about the MC with describing him. I don't mind the details about the phone and the cell towers, I think a professional thief would want to know these things if he was thorough.

  5. I'm hooked on the thief character...and I agree that the cell phone and the talk of 2003 are extraneous details...I want to get right to the theft! A good set up that makes me want more.

  6. Why 2003? I’m sorry to lead with that observation, but it was all I could think about. What is it about the early 2000’s that is necessary for this story? There isn’t a huge distinction between the world now and in 2003 other than, as you point out by referencing a palm pilot, technology, and I worry you will have to spend more time in the manuscript describing old tech to readers who aren’t familiar with it, then actually advancing the story. I worry it will trip readers up. It’s one thing to set a narrative before a moment of huge cultural shift, like 9/11, for example where the zeitgeist is notably different, but why 2003? I realize this may seem like a small detail to focus on, but I can guarantee you that it will be one of the first things to pop into editors’ heads. Otherwise, you’re writing is solid and confident and I enjoyed the tone. I’d also advise to get out of the character’s head a bit, I want to get to the attempted theft or heist or plant sooner.

  7. I agree with the other comments. Definitely interested, but the year and details of the phone raise questions. Good Luck!