Monday, August 10, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1269 would like feedback on the revision below.

Pawnbroker Flynn Christopher is a diamond and jewelry expert. When asked by a friend [he?] uses his expertise and knowledge to work with the FBI providing hands on training to undercover agents, whose unit is investigating the jewelry and pawn business. [A friend asks him to work with the FBI? I have a lot of friends, but I can't imagine any of them asking me to work with the FBI, unless they were being sarcastic. Something like:

Me: Some kid stole my newspaper but I chased him down and got it back.

Friend: Yeah, incredible. You oughta get a job with the FBI.]

[I can imagine a roomful of FBI agents who've been trained in bringing down bank robbers and kidnappers and serial killers having to sit through Flynn's Powerpoint presentation on how to tell the difference between a diamond and a cubic zirconia. He'd get heckled off the stage.]  

Now, a diamond once owned by Peter the Great is stolen from a Baltimore museum [This isn't the Smithsonian Don't they have a diamond owned by Lord Baltimore or Stringer Bell? I doubt you'd find a home run ball hit by Cal Ripkin in a St. Petersburg museum.] and the FBI sets up a sting using Christopher to recover the stone. Who better than a local pawnbroker with an FBI connection to help recover a purloined diamond? [Pawnbrokers are where you sell the diamond you stole in a mugging. You'd get a thousand times as much selling a museum-quality diamond steeped in Russian history to some rich Russian.] Meanwhile the FBI is running another operation in Philadelphia on Alexei Antonov, a ruthless ex Russian Colonel, that ends with two dead. Before he is caught Antonov returns to Russia where he steals untold millions in diamonds from a mine deep into the Ural mountains and smuggles them back to the U.S. The FBI once again sets its sights on Antonov this time using Flynn and his connection to over five thousand members of the American Pawnbrokers Association as the bait. Antonov needs an outlet that asks no questions and he thinks Flynn is tailor made to sell ANTONOV’S DIAMONDS. [There are over 5000 pawn shops, and the one Antonov chooses just happens to be the one whose owner is working with the FBI?] [If I stole millions of dollars in diamonds I'd probably take them to some Arabian sheik. What's Antonov's plan? Walk into a pawn shop with untold millions in diamonds and say, "What'll you give me for these?" Hoping the guy behind the counter doesn't lowball him with, "I'll give you 1.5 million, take it or leave it."? If you're pawning something worth millions to someone who doesn't ask questions, do you expect him to have that much money available?]


If investigating the jewelry business falls under the FBI's purview, wouldn't they have their own expert to train agents? 

Does Antonov have anything to do with Peter the Great's diamond? If not, I'm not sure why Peter's is in the query. Your main plot is that the FBI asks Flynn to help them get Antonov. Set that up with one paragraph. Then just tell us what they want him to do, what goes wrong when he does it, how he plans to recover from this setback, what happens if he fails.


Anonymous said...

EE got me to thinking about just what is being sold to whom.

Antonov steals "diamonds from a mine." Diamonds straight out of a mine are "in the rough" as we all know -- uncut and unpolished -- and I don't see a pawnbroker buying those things. Here's what I just found on diamond production, and the handling and selling of rough diamonds (only 20% of which are suitable for gems) is very high-level and borderline monopolistic:

Maybe I'm wrong about pawnbrokers or maybe you've got this all covered in the book, but if not you might need to change that mine in the Urals to some secret trove of gems or some object like the Maltese Falcon.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

According to my friend Mr. Google, FBI agents are trained in gemology at the Gemological Institute of America, because they do indeed sometimes have to be experts in identifying gemstones. Google tells me the GIA provides this training free to the FBI, but other people have to pay for it. Here's their website.

The writer can solve this issue by having there be some particular arcane bit of knowledge about some specific gemstone that he's got.

Anonymous said...

A few things:
This reads like you have two separate stories (novellas?) both featuring the same protagonist. Is there a reason both the diamond mine heist & the Peter the Great gem theft need to both happen in the same book? You might want to consider splitting them out.

My understanding of the diamond market is that even a rumor of untold millions in diamonds being stolen from a mine is liable to make the value of diamonds plummet. Diamonds aren't one of the rarer of the precious gems, and they're a market that's fairly carefully controlled by a small number of people/corporations (who are also going to have an interest in those missing diamonds).

This still has a number of believability/logic issues that need to be addressed (yes, we're willing to suspend belief, but only if there's enough solid ground to cling to). Maybe have Flynn moonlight as an instructor at that gem school mentioned above?

There's also a number of technical issues in the writing. I'm willing to put it down to your excitement to get another revision looked at by EE. An agent/editor will just put down the query and walk away. Triple check grammar, punctuation, spelling, missing words, etc

Mr Baskerville said...

The story sounds very exciting. But the query is still a bit confusing to me. As other commenters have noted, why is Flynn asked to help the FBI?

I was briefly confused by your protagonist being referred to as both Flynn and Christopher. Confusion due entirely to my goldfishesque attention span. Maybe consider keeping it as simple as possible for people who read many, many query letters every day?

Is there another FBI protagonist, who follows Antonov to the diamond mines? Or is all the action in the US?

InkAndPixelClub said...

I agree with the other comments: this still does not feel like a cohesive and plausible storyline. And I'm still getting no sense of Flynn as a character, which is the one thing that might make me suspend my disbelief about the story. I can buy a couple of goofy plot contrivances (though this story may still have too many) if I find the main character really likeable or interesting and want to find out what happens to him. I know nothing about Flynn beyond that he's a pawn broker helping the FBI, so there's nothing to distract me from how implausible the plot is.

Dumping the Peter the Great's diamond and focusing on the stolen Ural diamonds might help, but you still have to find a believable reason why the FBI needs Flynn to crack the case. Pawn shops are gong to have to be key to Antonov's scheme in a way that would make it legitimately difficult for the FBI to shut it down without the help of someone on the inside. "He's selling the diamonds at pawn shops" is not enough for me to believe that the FBI is completely stymied and needs Flynn's help. Giving Flynn a connection to the FBI prior to the case is a good start, but you still need to work out why he's so valuable to them on the first place and why Antonov's pawn shop related scheme is so ingenious that only Flynn can stop him.

Right now, Flynn seems to have no stake in any of this. He's just helping out. There's no clear benefit for him if he succeeds in stopping Antonov and no clear danger if he doesn't. That and his total lack of personality leave me thinking not "Wow, what an exciting story!" but "Why should I care?" All the international intrigue in the world can seem boring if there's no connection to the main character.