Friday, July 28, 2006

New Beginning 10

“Do we have a positive ID on the victim?” Detective Tess Chase asked her partner as they stood in the empty ballroom of the newest Las Vegas sensation, the Transylvania. Moments ago, chattering guests filled the opulent ballroom, enjoying the opening night festivities. Now, it was deserted, save for Tess and Barry. And the body.

“Sarah-Jane Robertson," Barry answered. "Worked here as a dancer.” They both turned to survey what was left of Sarah-Jane. At the front of the room, a velvet curtain the color of dying roses framed a small stage. In the center, a perfectly still body lay draped over a gleaming mirrored staircase. Her elbows were braced on the top stair; her back arched so that her bare breasts pointed at the ceiling. Her legs were splayed, revealing that she was completely nude, except for a glittering pair of silver high heels.

“No obvious cause of death.” Tess mused.

"I beg to differ," Barry said. "Did you get a look at those shoes? Payless is my guess. She died of shame."

"For God's sake, Barry, have some respect. The woman is dead." Tess let her gaze linger on the stillettoes, then said, "J.C. Penney."

Continuation: acd


Stephen said...

Her legs were splayed, revealing that she was completely nude

So if her legs had been together they would have concealed what? A very small thong? A merkin?

Anonymous said...

Ok, now THIS (expanded version) I might actually keep reading!

HawkOwl said...

Good one, Stephen. I knew there was something not right about the description, I just didn't want to look at it a second time to figure out what it was. LOL

Macuquinas d' Oro said...

“Moments ago” makes no sense. How long did it take to summon police, clear the ballroom, and the secure the crime scene? A half hour to an hour? And how long look did the chattering guests in the ballroom manage to overlook the naked dead body on the staircase? Well maybe if it was a convention of philosophers.…

“What was left of Sarah-Jane” confused me. I’m expecting at least a few body parts gone missing, but apparently all of Sarah-Janes is still on display. “Her legs were splayed, revealing…” has already been ably handled.

“No apparent cause of death” is not something Tess would ever MUSE. Nor can I imagine a CS detective ever uttering such an inane speculation about a body the MO has not even examined. I immediately think that this author has no idea about happens at real crime scenes and I am gone.

Kathleen said...

I agree about "what was left of Sarah-Jane". sounds like her body is whole to me. I know there is a metaphysical argument, but I still think the reader will expect something to be messed up with her body.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...The elbows being braced speaks of someone who's alive and has muscular control. As to the breasts pointing at the ceiling--Okay, I know this has a female protag, but did a man write this? Most gals know that when you lie on your back, the breasts follow gravity and slide a bit toward the sides of the body. Especially if this gal's some kind of exotic dancer--they'll be augmented and heavy. This gives me the impression she's wearing one of those pointy bras of Madonna's rather than being naked. There's no other way they'd be pointed at the ceiling.

Dave Kuzminski said...

I'm waiting for Miss Snark's thoughts on the shoes. ;)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Fake breasts would be pointing at the ceiling...they don't respond to gravity quite the way real ones do. I agree about the elbows braced on the stairs - that sounded rather improbable.

Anonymous said...

Most have already commented on the things I had to say. But I'd add "perfectly still body" seems totally redundant--aren't dead bodies by definition totally still?

It's opening night, so Sarah Jane didn't really "work here" yet-maybe she was hired to work there.

And Transylania is a cute name. Hope it means something to the plot (dracula? Rocky Horror?) and isn't put there without meaning (which would disappoint readers like me).

But, all said, since I generally like trashy detective fiction, I'd probably keep reading.

Anonymous said...

I also like trashy detective novels, so I'd probably keep going. I like the setting (Las Vegas, love the idea of a hotel/casino called Transylvania--nice touch!) and I like having the discovery of the body up front, so we can jump right in to solving the mystery. I'm expecting that vampirism will be a theme, although not necessarily that "real" vampires will come into play. Given the current popularity of vampire novels, of course, they might. But putting "real" supernatural creatures in a mystery doesn't feel like playing fair to many mystery fans.

The dialogue feels both obligatory and a little cliche. I don't know these characters yet, and I feel like they're merely saying the things detectives are supposed to say (in mystery novels). I'd like to see a little more of their personalities, right from the start, so I can decide whether I want to spend a whole book with them. What kind of mood is Tess in? What was she doing right before this scene? Does this murder "get at" her in some way a different case wouldn't? The issue of character is what would make me hesitate if I were picking this up at a bookstore. Don't let the crime overshadow the character who'll solve it, because it's the character we follow through the story.

I liked "a velvet curtain the color of dying roses"--thought it went well with the Transylvania setting--but I wondered why the ballroom would have a "small stage." Isn't everything larger than life in Vegas, especially at the city's "newest sensation?"

Anonymous said...

Chandler-Channeling Sonnet #43

The remains of Sarah-Jane
Sprawled along the stair,
Her plastic boobs uplifted
And all her body bare

Except for f-me shoes,
- Trashy, silver-heeled -
That yelled her job to any cop:
She’d previously peeled

For money, drugs or thrills
To her family’s shame;
Did they know already that
Their Jane was on the game?

At the new vampire Hotel,
Sarah-Jane had gone down well.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you want to use the name ‘Tess’? In mystery-readers’ minds, that’s a cue to the much more famous Tess Monaghan (created by the multi-bestselling author Laura Lippman) or the equally well-known Tess Gerritsen (multi-bestselling author). There are times when being mentally associated with better-known authors works to your benefit, but this is not one of those times. Not only will your neophyte detective inevitably be compared, to her almost certain detriment, to Tess Monaghan, but readers who hear idly about your Tess, and either ask a librarian or google for a detective story involving a Tess, will get hundreds of pointers to those other – multi-bestselling – Tesses and get sidetracked or give up looking long before they find your Tess. ‘Chase’ isn’t a sufficiently distinctive or memorable last name with which to fight up to the big leagues of name-recognition in this situation.

Compressed time-frames work on television, where a ballroom can be cleared of chattering guests and filled with cops/coroners in the commercial break. They don’t work in novels, especially in mystery/detective novels, for which most readers are cognizant of basic police procedure. Like sharks, readers will smell the tainted meat, and they’ll tear you apart over it every time someone mentions your book. If ‘Moments ago’ were replaced by ‘Not long before,’ I’d give this opening another page or two to hook me rather than assume the rest of the novel was likely to be filled with equally obvious (or worse) inaccuracies.

‘what was left of …’ is a murder-mystery cliché.

‘the color of dying roses’ doesn’t add anything to my mental picture. These flowers come in many hues. Dying roses of unspecified color make primarily a textural element (limp and drooping like the velvet curtains, or slowly curling up as they dry) or a scent feature (the odor of slow rot?) rather than a visual, as used here. Also, can one single velvet curtain frame the stage? I found that distracting, whereas ‘velvet curtains’ would have been invisible to me.

I’d believe ‘No visible trauma/wounds’ before ‘No obvious cause of death’. Any detective with more than two days on the job should know that cause of death is seldom obvious in the absence of the weapon, and that even visible wounds may not be the cause of death. Additionally, one detective stating the obvious for the other detective leads me to fear that the rest of the book will be filled with similar 'As you know, Bob,' dialogue.

‘No obvious cause of death,’ following ‘Moments ago,’ is a double whammy against the investigative credibility factor. On top of the above-mentioned roadblocks to getting my mental video and soundrack rolling (curtains and roses; dialogue), I’d probably close the book about now. Sorry.