#80 Crapometer


Prudence Peters has spent thirty years in the travel business and the last twenty-three as a leisure travel agent and manager for a national agency. She is a single woman, just turned fifty, extremely well traveled, long-divorced homeowner, who is used to taking care of herself as long as she stays employed.

The industry has been in slow decline because of the Internet for years and now seems on the brink of a major crash. Her week from hell begins on a Monday morning conference call with her State supervisor, Claudia Gage, demoting all five managers in the state of Oregon. If that isn't bad enough, one of the five offices will be closed down completely and the remaining offices will have to layoff one agent each. It is also the week for agent reviews, and later that day Claudia arrives with the additional bad news for Pru that her job is up for grabs. Everyone in the company is free to apply too.

That afternoon, instead of being laid off, one of Pru's agents, Meg Schultz, is fired and Pru and her agents are left with the stunned dread of things to come.

The rest of the week piles trauma after trauma, so that Friday morning Pru arrives with two offices closed instead of one and the news that Meg was seen arguing with Claudia in the Gresham office parking lot on Wednesday. That afternoon Pru gets a call from Meg's Mom saying that Meg didn't come home the night before. No one Pru calls has seen her, so she tells Meg's mother to report her missing. During her calls, she finds out most agencies are laying people off and not hiring, adding more stress to Pru's prospects should the company replace her. That evening she leaves for Vancouver, BC for a manager's meeting and decides to stay one more day and make a weekend out of it. It may be her last trip for a long time. At the airport she sees Claudia returning from her own meeting in LA looking stunned and anxious.

Monday morning Pru finds a police detective waiting for her at the front door of the office. She assumes it is about the disappearance of Meg Schultz. It is, but Claudia Gage was murdered Friday night.

Prudence Peters is a reluctant amateur sleuth in the story. Not interested in tracking down Claudia's killer, her priorities are to save her job and protect her office from closure and the jobs of her agents. However if Meg's name isn't cleared, all the offices in Oregon could be closed to protect the company's reputation from what one memo calls 'a postal employee'. The company becomes another antagonist in the story as it tries to back peddle by suggesting the firing of Meg was all Claudia's idea. Pru's regional manager arrives from LA to direct damage control causing more problems as they reveal hidden company agendas.

Pru tells herself she is only trying to find Meg to help her clear her name.

The same detective, Jacob LaFoure, is handling both cases. (Something Portland Police detectives do.) He is perfectly willing to let Pru check out all sorts of details that she has quicker access to than he does, thereby saving him loads of time in the missing person case. But soon her search for details lap over into the murder investigation and she and another agent find the body of Meg Schultz in her car parked in the long-term parking lot at PDX.

As the story progresses we meet the agents of the travel agency, the regional director, Claudia's husband Matty Stein, who is also a travel agent, and the manager of Matty's agency. All have major agendas that impact on both cases.

You leave me high and dry with no solution to the plot and I’m going to call you at 7am my time (and YES I know what time it is in the City of Roses) and yell at you till you confess whodunit. Don't think I won't. I have your phone number; it's on your query letter.

This is a good synopsis. Crisp, clean, with motivation and an explanation for how the amateur sleuth is realistically involved in murder.

However, if you fail to complete the plot, you’re toast.


Anonymous said...

One minor note, mentioned at least in part because it's a mistake I see so often.

Unless the travel agency is trying to sell tickets to whoever issued them, "back peddle" should be changed to "back pedal."

Anonymous said...

I like this! Unlike Miss Snark, I don't want to know how it ends. I'll find out when the book comes out.

Anonymous said...

And I'm pretty sure Miss Snark was an upper-level editor in an earlier life. Nobody's this good at it without having done it for a hundred years. (Maybe this has already been revealed and I missed it).

Unknown said...

One thing I learned during this exercise is that you MUST give up the goods at the end of a synopsis and reveal one's 'surprise' ending and NOT end with a cliff-hanger.

Miss Snark said...

Hi Bonnie, newp, never been an editor.
Agents are like jacks of all trade, we have to be sorta good at a lot of things. You'll notice people who are BETTER at copy editing catch things I don't. And BETTER at diagnosing catch some problems in synopses I don't see.

My publishing background is from the other side of publishing, not editing.

Thanks for your kind words though!!!!

Feisty said...

I think Miss Snark was a stand-up in her former life.

Bernita said...

Do it, Miss Snark!
This book sounds like a treat.

Existential Man said...

whatsa matter whit chou guys? it's common knowledge around town that Her Snarkiness was a groupie love-slave for Dino, Desi, and Billy in her previous life... Happy New Year to you, Miss Snark, and all the Snarklings!

Kitty said...

Prudence Peters is a great character name.

Dave Kuzminski said...

No, Miss Snark, please don't reveal you were a... a... bean counter at a publishing house! Aaaiiiieeeeee! (I would have used more vowels, but Vanna White cut me off.) ;)

Cheryll said...

Well, this IS the 'Net...Miss Snark could be any number of -- um -- interesting things. However, one is supposed to judge a tree by its fruits...and boy, does she have the fruits!

Thank you, Miss Snark, and may your New year provide many justly deserved rewards.

Anonymous said...

Isn't getting a phone call in the middle of the night from a literary agent screaming "What happens next? I gotta know what happens next!" the stuff of a writer's dreams?

Anonymous said...

It would be great to have an agent wake you demanding to know the end but in real life, it wouldn't happen. Agents are too busy and too harried to show us the ropes. As the Snarkster points out, if you don't include the ending you're toast. Which is why her advice is so valuable. Thanks, Miss S, enjoy 2006!

Stacy said...

I just came back from my vacation, and I see that I have a lot of reading to do. The crapometer looks as though it will give me some insight that will help me in my editing - seeing what the experienced reader picks up on a first reading. So, good for me and fun too. Yippee.