Time for the Pass Or Pages feedback reveals! We're so thankful to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. Shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week. You are awesome!
Entry #5: NOTORIOUS
The California gold-rush is on and it seems like everyone is running a game. While the wealthy build mansions high on the seven hills, the desperate trek to the Women's Benevolent Society for aid. The ones with legal troubles come to see the notary, Vespertine Clement. She never expected Mrs. Adler, the founder of the society, to summon her with a crisis. [KU1] A mob discovered a fallen woman the society aided [KU2] kneeling over the corpse of a man, blood smeared on her mouth and hands. The society's patrons are threating to withhold their donations. [KU3] [AT1]
Mrs. Adler gives Vespertine an edict to prove the woman innocent. [KU4] Accompanied by the amiably corrupt Sergeant Cuinn, she sets out to solve the murder. It may be unsolvable. The coroner refuses to cooperate with a woman. The accused cannot speak. Her uncle just wants her to settle down and blend in. If she fails, she'll lose her position and forced into a lifetime of professional domesticity.
Vesper tine believes [KU5] someone poisoned the victim before his throat was slit. With a chemistry text from her uncle’s bookshop, and some glass tubing borrowed from the dye makers, she arranges a test of her theory, with an audience, in the police station.
The test is a complete failure.
Caught in a covert battle between slavers and abolitionists, [KU6] she only has four days to discover what happened that night to save the Society from ruin and a woman from the gallows. [KU7]
NOTORIOUS is a completed 76,000 word adult historical mystery with series potential. Readers who liked The Agency mysteries by Y.S. Lee or the Sally Lockhart books by Philip Pullman [AT2] should enjoy this book.
[KU1] Vespertine never expecting to be summoned isn’t as strong as the murder. Cut right to the chase.
[KU2] This sentence felt a little bogged down in details and I had to reread to see if I was understanding the implications clearly.
[KU3] Does this mean the Society will go under without them? Make the stakes clearer. I feel like in this paragraph I’m being told what happens but not what it clearly means for the stakes and plot.
[KU4] This brought me back to the unclear stakes in the first paragraph. Is the woman being accused of murder outright and considered guilty, or do most still think she is innocent like Mrs. Adler does? And does Mrs. Adler truly think she is innocent or is she just trying to save the Society?
[KU5] I don’t know enough about the death or investigation to make sense of all the details about it or her theory yet. All I need to know is that her attempt to prove the woman’s innocence fails. This is another case of getting bogged down in descriptive details.
[KU6] Slavers and abolitions came out of nowhere and it’s not clear how they fit into the rest of the story.
[KU7] This is what I wanted spelled out earlier, that the Society would be ruined and the woman could hang for the murder. Lead in with these stakes instead of waiting until the very end to spell them out since this is what hooked me.
[AT1] Nice premise.
[AT2] Watch that comp titles won’t seem dated.
First 250 words:Vespertine examined the jagged handwriting on the visiting card once again for some hidden meaning. She ran her gloved fingers over the engraving and sniffed the paper. A delicate dab of her tongue [KU1] on one corner revealed nothing but the gritty pounce used to blot the wet ink. To all outward appearances, it was an announcement that Mrs. Adler would receive visitors this afternoon delicately inscribed with a border of acanthus leaves. In reality, it was a summons for an employee to attend her superior. What she could not find on the card was why she was summoned. She returned the note to its envelope, removed her glasses, and leaned back in the horsehair-stuffed seat of the hansom cab. [KU2]
The gold strike at Sutter's Mill five years ago had lifted the Adlers to wealth beyond Croesus. While the desperate might call on Vespertine, the notary of the Women's Benevolent Society, Mrs. Adler had resources enough to prosper without her. [KU3] The afternoon wind freshened and Vespertine pulled her wrap tight against her best dress. The cab slowed then tilted as it ascended Telegraph Hill.
[KU1] This feels a little strange for her to be using her tongue on the card.
[KU2] Being summoned isn’t carrying enough tension for me since it’s normal for an employee to answer to their boss. It makes me wonder why she is so suspicious.
[KU3] Made me wonder why she has Vespertine if she doesn’t need her.
Ann's Notes: N/A