Crapometer #7

Genre: Mystery (60,000 words)


At the bottom of the patient's sink, from an open can of dog food, sprouts what appears to be a small human finger. Flight nurse Katie Kleer's next breath sounds like a plugged vacuum cleaner, a backwards scream. She lifts the can; it slips and falls to the floor.

The house mutt runs up, skids to a stop, buries his snout in the can. Katie reaches to retrieve it, pulls back when Fido snarls and snaps.

Katie's paramedic team member is attempting to start an IV. Katie kneels beside them, hoping the patient can corroborate her discovery. The patient lurches, sits up, wallops the paramedic with a forearm. The paramedic falls into Katie and they topple like human dominos.

The patient dies.

Fido finishes his meal, snorts and sneezes crabwise out of the room.

Katie drops the can into a biohazard bag. Someone's finger has ended up as dog food., and the police need to know about it.

"Katie, you're bleeding," the paramedic says.

During the commotion, Katie was impaled by an IV needle but never felt it. She was born with a rare hereditary condition, a glitch in her nervous system that renders her impervious to physical pain.

Back at the hospital, pilot Jim Higgins finally asks Katie for a date.

Katie has to do something about the finger she saw. Sixteen years ago her five year-old sister disappeared while in her care, and she still carries the guilt. She takes traveling assignments and posts Jenny's age-enhanced photos all over the country. In her heart she knows Jenny is still alive. But, if she can find out who that finger belonged to and--if foul play was involved--help bring closure and justice to another brokenhearted family, she is determined to do so.

The next morning she drives back toward the patient's house, finds the dog dead on a roadside drainage culvert. She performs a "field autopsy," but is only able to retrieve flecks of purple fingernail polish from the dog's stomach. A neighbor sees her, phones the police, and Katie is arrested and charged with misdemeanor malicious killing and mutilation of an animal. She is released on her own recognizance.

After a shaky start, her date with Jim Higgins goes well. But Jim tells her of a nurse who lost her license over a similar animal abuse case. Now Katie is more determined than ever to solve the mystery behind the severed finger. She traces the dog food to Kessler's Meats in Hallows Cove, Florida, and arranges for a nursing assignment in nearby Jacksonville.

Bill Driscoll works third shift at Kessler's. The rendering plant takes what most people would consider garbage and turns it into useful products--candles, cosmetics, livestock feed, dog food...

It's not the kind of work Bill wants to do. He wants to make his fortune raising ostriches. What he wants most in the world, though, is to get the love of his life back. He has been in love with Sonya Shafer since the first day he met her, way back in kindergarten. Things were going great until his former employer, Ron Kuhlman, fired him. Things with Sonya went sour after that.

Bent on revenge, Bill lures Ron to his car for a little fun with a young blonde named Darla Bose. He drugs them, takes them to Kessler's and dumps them into a giant grinding pit. He never imagines anything as big as a finger will make it through the processing.

With some research and leg work, Katie learns that Ron and Darla have been missing for several months. In an effort to get inside Kessler's, she meets and befriends Bill Driscoll. He immediately starts guiding her in the wrong direction.

Guitarist Peter Daniels is in love with Sonya Shafer. He wants to marry her and pursue a career in music. He has no idea the danger he's in.

Sonya feels blessed to have Peter. Her first love, Steve Morrow, was hit by a truck in ninth grade and has been in a vegetative state ever since. But Steve is learning to talk again. He longs to force the words "Bill pushed me" for the world to hear.

Bill has a lot of work to do. First, he needs to make sure he's never caught for the murders of Ron and Darla. Who would be a likely candidate for a frame job? Lori Barbera, the QA manager at Kessler's. She was caught having an affair with Ron a few years back. She has access to Kessler's 24/7. It's quite believable that Lori caught Ron with his new young lover and, in a jealous rage, made dog food out of them. And now, since Lori knows that Katie Kleer is on to her, she'll have to kill Katie too.

Katie thinks Lori Barbera is guilty. Bill tricks her once again and lures her to a remote area where she thinks she's going to rescue her long-lost sister Jenny. Katie is drugged and bound in the trunk of Bill's car. Beside her is Peter Daniels.

Katie manages to escape, separating her own shoulder. She has the opportunity to run, but Peter is near death and Bill is going to poison tons of cattle with Mad Cow. Only Katie can save Peter and stop Bill.

She enters the labyrinth of the rendering plant. She doesn't have much time.

Bill hauls Peter to the grinding pit. He knows Katie's sense of loyalty won't allow her to leave the plant, and he's expecting her when she arrives. He pulls a pistol and takes aim.

Katie whizzes a piece of glass toward him. It misses, but nicks a hose and pressurized water acts as a conduit.

Katie watches as Bill is electrocuted.

In the end, Katie learns a valuable lesson. Her sister's kidnapping was not her fault. Katie learns to forgive herself.

This is not a mystery. This is a horror novel. There’s a very big difference from my perspective since I could only sell horror to about three places and I can’t stand reading it.

This is another thing I look for in a synopsis: does the synopsis match up with the genre listed in the query letter. In this case, it doesn’t and I’d send you a letter saying “sorry, I don’t do horror novels and that’s what this is”.

One of the other things I look for in a synopsis is whether events seem to be thrown in to make the plot work. This synopsis seems to have a lot of that. It’s hard to cover context or connections in a synopsis but it’s important.


Jude Hardin said...

Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Miss Snark.

The novel truly is a mystery--a traditional whodunnit, with the violence implicit, as Hitchcock might have done it. I obviously didn't convey that in my synopsis, though. I'll work on it.

Thank you once again for the time you spent on these. You rock!


Bonnie Calhoun said...

Yo, Captain, I hope you make it to print, this is my kind of story!

mapletree7 said...

I'd call this more of a thriller than a horror story.

Miss Snark said...

"Thriller" usually means some sort of "save the world from imminent destruction" kind of plot. This is more personal. The severed hand and dead dog made me think horror but it sounds like the writer will be revising to show it's less horrifying.

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks for the comments!

Anonymous said...

I read ficion in all genres (excepting Westerns), and I can tell you right now that this would not satisfy fans of the horror genre. Maybe that makes it "bad" horror; I tend to think that it makes it not horror at all, but mystery/romance with elements of violence too graphic for Miss Snark's liking. I don't mind the violence, but create a less male-dependent heroine, please.

Anonymous said...

Was SILENCE OF THE LAMBS a mystery, a horror novel, or a thriller?

It was a mystery, augmented with horror and thriller elements. IN THE DAY OF SLAUGHTER sounds like the same.

I'm an avid reader of the bible, so I know that the title comes from the epistle of James. Most readers probably don't know this, so a title change might be in order.

The female protagonist seems strong enough to me, maybe over-the-top strong and independent.

I would read this.

Anonymous said...

The heroine can't feel physical pain, however, this is a debilitating condition and such people can never lead normal lives as they accidently damage themselves beyond repair. Read the opening chapters of "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever" by Stephen R. Donaldson (The Ilearth War is the first book), to see a character like this explored.

My concern is that this, if not handled intelligently, will distract from an otherwise fine book.