#60 Crapometer

Genre: Romantic Suspense

On Thursday, Isabelle, a librarian, runs into Sam, a NYC detective, and they argue about the incessant noise of her car alarm. This sets the tone for their relationship: mutual attraction tempered by frustration. Isabelle, a newcomer to NYC, has complete trust in the goodness of mankind, but is reticent to let people, especially men, get close to her. Sam, who has warm relationships with people he knows well, has seen too much violence and crime to trust the general public.

Ok, I’m sorry, but I hate her. HATE HER. Car alarms are the bane of civilization. Mayor Mike wants to ban them. I totally agree. If this dame has a car alarm, I hate her.

Later that evening, Grace Weldon, the President of the Council for the Preservation of New York History, is murdered at the Van Roemer House, a historic museum located in the Williams River Park. While walking her dogs the next morning, Isabelle finds the body wrapped in a carpet. Sam and Aisha, his partner, are the detectives investigating the murder.

If you set this in a real city, NYC, why are you making up parks that don't exist? We have a very nice one here very suitable for bodies. We call it Central Park.

The primary suspect is Grace's husband, although the detectives are interested in Edward Ridgely, the curator of the museum, who is out of town on vacation. Later that week, two girls riding in the park find the body of Coral Jennings, who has a connection with both Arthur Weldon and Edward Ridgely.

While Sam and Aisha work on a coded letter found in Jennings's apartment, Isabelle uses her skills to investigate the connection between the murders and the museum. Sam and Isabelle attend a fundraiser at the museum and snoop around the house. Both Ridgely and Weldon are in attendance. At the party, two men meet in a secluded corner to discuss the removal of certain antiques from the house, the two murders, and the investigation.

Yea, that's where I do my best criminal schemeing: public parties.

After a follow up visit to the Jennings crime scene, Sam discovers DNA evidence, but does not have enough probable cause to request a sample from either of the two main suspects. Sam and Aisha continue their investigation which leads them to Arliss Weatherfield, the interim President of the CPNYH, and Martha Vanderleer, a long time member of Council. During an interview, Martha tells Aisha that Grace's grandmother used to be the Van Roemer housekeeper when the family was still living in the house.

Arliss returns home early from a trip to surprise her lover. Her lover, however, surprises her because he planned on using her absence to steal a necklace he had given her. The necklace is part of the inventory stolen from the Van Roemer House. When he finds her home, he murders her and stages it to look like a random burglary.

When the body is discovered and it is determined that Arliss's husband has a rock solid alibi, Sam and Aisha are called in. They find DNA evidence at the crime scene, which matches the DNA from the Jennings murder.

Based on her research, Isabelle believes that there is a secret passage in the Van Roemer House and during a field trip discovers the hidden entrance. She returns later that afternoon and investigates. While she is in the house, it is locked up and she sneaks through the attic to the entrance into the curator's section of the house. Snooping through a desk in Ridgely's study, she finds pictures of antique furniture and jewelry. She is caught by Ridgely. His plans to murder her and dispose of her body are interrupted by a phone call, so he ties her to a chair, to deal with later.

Boy, you'd think this guy had never seen a B-movie before. You never leave anyone tied up to deal with later.

Ridgely meets with his partner at the storage locker where the stolen antiques are being housed. The partner decides that Ridgely is a risk he is unwilling to accept and murders him. He then goes to the museum to deal with Isabelle and destroy any evidence tying him to the murders and stolen property.

Sam, following up on Isabelle's phone message, rescues her and decides to hide her at his parents' house so she can't get further involved in the investigation. Isabelle is told she can not leave the house unless accompanied by one of his family members. Isabelle and Sam are followed to his parents’ house and Ridgely's partner places an accomplice on the street to watch the house.

The next morning, Isabelle joins Sam's sister on a shopping trip. While browsing through an antique store, Isabelle notices a man outside who was in one of the pictures she saw at Ridgley's. She leaves the store to confront him, feeling safe on the crowded streets. The man pushes her into a waiting vehicle.

She deserves whatever she gets for being stupid. Sadly, I think she's the "heroine" so she gets to live.

Sam's sister tracks him down at Ridgely's murder scene to tell him what happened to Isabelle. Meanwhile, Isabelle secretly uses her cell phone to dial 911 and give them information on her location. The cops eventually track her down to a storage facility in Queens. After a confrontation, Karl Marxsen, Ridgley's partner, is wounded and Isabelle is again rescued by a pissed off Sam.

Yea, I’d be pissed off too. First she has a car alarm, now she needs rescuing all the time.

Sam and Aisha connect the details of the investigation and determine that Grace's grandmother left a diary that mentioned antiques being hidden in the house during the stock market crash in 1929. Grace made a list of the antiques, which was accidentally mailed to Ridgely. Ridgely, realizing the importance of the list, located the secret room where they were hidden and contacted Karl Marxsen to help him sell them. Marxsen murdered Grace when she found him at the house removing the antiques.

Ridgley murdered Coral Jennings because she saw him in NYC when he was supposed to be out of town. He murdered Arliss Weatherfield because she messed up his plans to get back the necklace.

Sam’s and Isabelle’s plans to finally make love fizzle when Sam realizes that Isabelle still doesn't trust him. At this point in their relationship, Sam expects Isabelle to have overcome her trust issues. Isabelle's friend, Sophia, and Sam's sister, Reilly, conspire to get the couple back together and Sam and Isabelle live somewhat happily ever after. While this is a romance and "happily ever after" is expected, it is also a contemporary and relationships take a lot of hard work and are filled with ups and downs.

You’ve fallen into the “event list” trap here and given us no real sense of character. People are dropping like flies here; the body count is a little high for anything I’d call romantic suspense.

And you’ve got nothing fresh here: victim tied to chair, accidental lists, jewel robberies, yawn yawn yawn. One of the the things you’ll hear agents say about what they look for is “something that surprises me”. This doesn’t.

I'm really really tired of weak ass women who need to be rescued all the time.
Plus..there’s that car alarm.


Rhonda Stapleton said...

If she's so trusting of people, why does she need a car alarm? lol

Anyone notice we have an awful lot of librarians in these synopses? Apparently, it's a more exciting career choice than I ever thought. damn.

Rhonda, who is not a librarian

Kathleen said...

Thanks Miss Snark, you've pointed out several areas I need to work on. I think I'm trying to make this story a romance (hence the rescuing of the heroine) when it really isn't. I hate weak heroines myself, so it pains me to find that I've written one!!

About the park...the house and park is really Van Cortlandt. So can I say that in a novel or should I change the name of the historic house? I thought I should change the names to protect the, er..., innocent.

Bernita said...

It's not the occupation, Rhonda, but the mentality.
Cause, not effect.

We stored all the porn next to the furnace in the little room we called "the Hot Box."

This TSTL heroine sounds too dumb to be a librarian. A librarian would have rescued herself.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, she's too dim to be sale-worthy in this age of Xena, Buffy, Lara Croft, Jinx (Die Another Day), and Joanne from Caine's Weather Warden series.

I once sold a story with a heroine also named Isabelle. She shortened it to Izzy and part of the action had her tackling an alligator a la Steve Irwin. *That's* someone you want on your side in a murder investigation in the 21st century.

Speaking of names, the writer has at least three starting with the same letter: Arthur-Aisha-Arliss.

Get a phone book and pick out different first letters, O Would-Be-Scribbler, I couldn't keep 'em straight.

bordermoon said...

Why the devil is the "heroine" a librarian? It seems to have nothing to do with the plot. And does she like, you know, have a JOB at the moment, as she seems to have plenty of spare time to run all over the place.

By the way, I'm a librarian, and let me tell you, trust in the innate goodness of mankind flees into the night pretty fast in this profession!

And I'm with Miss Snark on the car alarms. I hate them -- no one ever even checks when the damn things go off, so what good are they? Come to that, if Isabelle is so hepped on the innate goodness of mankind, why does she have a car alarm? Wouldn't she have it deactivated? Come to that, why does she bother with a car in NYC????

And NYC is not a generic city, it has very specific geography. Use it.

Dhewco said...

LOL, I am trying to picture my local kindly old librarian in these situations. It's not easy to do.


Rick said...

Miss Snark, you are right about car alarms (and I live in a smallish beach town). They are a crime against civilization, and the presence of one should be a presumptive defense for vandalizing the car.

Trix said...

Re "If you set this in a real city, NYC, why are you making up parks that don't exist? We have a very nice one here very suitable for bodies. We call it Central Park."

I once set a novel in NYC - to great hoots of laughter from New Yorkers. Then I tried the "fictious American city" approach - just as dismal a failure. I finally gave up and just used my own home city (Canadian) and hey - no one seems to mind the foreign laws, slang, weather, etc.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

I thought all cars come with alarms buiilt-in? The new ones at least.

Audiate said...

If she's so trusting of people, why does she need a car alarm?
LOL! That was the first thing I thought!
Surely some kind stranger would keep an eye on the car for her...

SAND STORM said...

Note to self...the "unalarmed" Ms Snark will not need rescuing.

and a nod to one of the best lines I've read in a while.
"We have a very nice one here very suitable for bodies. We call it Central Park." LMAO:)

Mad Scientist Matt said...

Also, you might want to be more specific in the synopsis about what sort of DNA sample the killer leaves at every crime scene. Blood? Semen? Severed body parts?

Sonarbabe said...

I must admit, about half way through the synopsis, I'd forgotten that this was supposed to be a romance. From the synopsis alone, I get the feeling that this is a suspense/thriller with romantic elements. Two completely different things. However, since I haven't read the manuscript, I can't say for certain. I agree with Miss Snark on one crucial thing. The body count is a bit too high for romances.

Just my $.02

bordermoon said...

Kathleen, "rescuing the heroine" is not necessarily a required incident in a romance novel. Really it isn't. Do you read romance (I ask because your believe that the heroine must be rescued leads me to think you don't)? Because if you don't, you really should before writing in the genre. (And don't rely on memories of romances you read, oh, say, twenty or thirty years ago, because the genre has changed radically since SWEET SAVAGE LOVE came out.)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I have to second bordermoon's comments. Today's romance heroines don't generally need rescuing. In fact, the Hawaii Book and Music Festival is taking place on Oahu in April and my RWA chapter is involved in the planning. When asked to present panel topics, the first one we came up with is "No Swooning Allowed: The Evolution of the Romantic Heroine." :)

If you want your story to be romance, your heroine can be proactive. But it really sounds like you don't have the romantic elements here anyway. Don't force yourself to go where you don't really want to. :) It's a cliche, but follow your heart.

I saw "Walk the Line" last night and the part that really stuck out to me was when the record guy is telling an auditioning Johnny Cash that he's heard that song a million times before and sung just like that too. And then he asked JC what song he'd play if he'd just been hit by a car and was dying and could only sing one song. So Johnny starts singing 'Folsom Prison Blues' and it's all scratchy and not perfect, but it was different and he felt it deeply. The rest is history, of course. :) I really liked that scene.

bordermoon said...

Oops, sorry, that should be "your belief that the heroine...", not "believe". My bad; apologies.

Kathleen said...

Holy Sh1t!!! 16 comments on my poor attempt at a synopsis. Some comments are more helpful than others.

I realize that there is much wrong with this story. Especially when I noticed I had left every romantic moment out of the synopsis. I can see that when I tried to force "romantic" situations into the text, I ended up with a heroine TSTL. Instead of trying to fit the heroine into the hero's world, I should have tried to fit him into hers.

Also, I live in NYC, although not in Manhattan. I have a car and drive it regularly. My friends and neighbors have cars. Manhattan is but one borough in NYC.

Actually, I feel like I'm getting defensive here and that wasn't the reason I submitted my synopsis.

So, for those of you who submitted useful critiques, I appreciate you taking your time.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Sorry, Kathleen, if my comments seemed critical. I realize that the synopsis and the book can be entirely different, and I'll just bet your heroine isn't a swooning flower in the book. Since you don't like passive women, you probably wouldn't write one. :) You just sounded like you didn't really want to write a romance in your comments, so I was going on that. Believe me, I ain't no synopsis expert! I have enough trouble with my own and I certainly understand how a synopsis can give people a different impression than intended. :) Aloha.

Kathleen said...

Dear Miss Snark,
You (and the above snarky comments, yikes) have energized me to get off my a**. I've decided to throw out the antiques and hidden jewelry and the TSTL heroine.

So, suppose I base my story on some historical truth. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington stayed at Van Cortlandt House while he planned the Battle of New York. The current Van Cortlandt family hid the records (deeds etc) for NYC in the family vault for the duration of the war.

The land where Gracie Mansion now sits was seized by GW during the War because the family was loyal to England (and it was a strategic spot). After the war, the Walton family came back to reclaim it.

Now for the fiction...several records were lost in the transfer from the VC's back to the city, including the one for Gracie Mansion. So, when the family reclaimed the land, they did so without a legal title.

The bad guy find the missing documents and forges documents to prove that his family was the rightful owners of the land.

So, Isabelle, the stilletto wearing, kick ass, heroine allows Sam to assist her as she uncovers the conspiracy, which includes a bad guy from the Mayor's office who is willing to kill to keep this from coming to light.

I think I'll keep the sex, cause it is fun, but I'll stop calling it a romance.

I think this might work...all though it involves major rewrite. The big question is: can I use the names and history or do I have to change them?

bordermoon said...

Kathleen, synopses, as we all know, are a total horror to write. You get about three minutes to impress the reader of your synopsis, and you don't want them stopping to think. You're also dealing with that pain-in-the-butt reality that is so irritating for writers: "life just is, art has to convince".

Sure, NYC has several boroughs, but if you just say "NY", people =usually= think "Manhattan". I used to live in Brooklyn, and when people asked where I lived, that is what I said. And certainly many people in NY -- especially the outer boroughs -- have cars. But it's just one more thing that sounds odd in the synopsis. (And the insurance and parking -- oy! As for driving in the city -- you're a brave woman!)

I like the idea of a using NYC history as a plot motivator -- the only think I wonder is would it matter if someone's ancestor 200 years ago had owned the land Gracie Mansion's on? I have no idea, but it could make for one heck of a court case.

Kathleen said...

oh and by the way...the bad guy from the mayor's office is in charge of the effort to ban car alarms city wide.

In the final scene of the book, there is a firey crash on the Brooklyn Bridge and the bad guy and every document relating to banishing car alarms is burned.

A fireman on the scene reported that he heard a low "beep, beep, beep" as the car became completely engulfed in flames.

Bernita said...

Bordermoon, there have been a number of such cases,such as the Anneka jans situation (Staten Island.)
It's my impression the courts eventually tell the applicants to go away and stop wasting time.