12.16.2006

HH Com 76

Zoe Chandler can’t wait for her Australian vacation. Her trip to the Great Barrier Reef is supposed to be the trip of a lifetime. But the weather is cold, the wind is vicious, and Zoe’s new turquoise bikini, purchased specifically to match the water, goes unnoticed under her heavy sweater. Shivering and seasick, Zoe spends the trip back to shore clutching a
brown paper bag. Just as she’s ready to celebrate her safe arrival, she spots a body floating behind the boat. The body belongs to a member of her tour group, and when a second person turns up dead, Zoe decides to try her hand at a little detection. Between spying, sightseeing, and flirting with a tall, dark, and handsome stranger, she’s suddenly too busy to worry
that there might really be a murderer on the trip. It’s all a game until Zoe’s best friend is poisoned after drinking Zoe’s coffee. Now it’s personal, and Zoe’s determined to find the killer.

She’s got plenty of choices, with a stiletto-heeled stripper, a sweet southern poodle-owning debutant, a harried mother, and her cheating husband, not counting the mysterious stranger that appears to be following their group. A stranger who knows far too much about
certain people. The good news-Zoe manages to identify the killer. The bad news-she doesn’t figure it out until they’re face to face on the edge of a cliff. Will this be her favorite trip? Or her last?

bingo.
We have a winner on Isle 76

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

come on miss snark, this one's a formulaic snoozer

Anonymous said...

sounds like a nancy drew mystery

e

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's well-written but I don't get why this isn't been-there, done-that compared to some of the others that you've dismissed.

Oh yeah, it's all subjective.

BernardL said...

With this many dead people, I believe the Aussies would have their Navy out in force, escorting this tour cruiser into port. The probability of any of these interesting folk ever doing anything in the following two weeks, from anywhere other than an interrogation room, is slim and none. I am unhooked by this well written piece, but maybe this cruiser is on its way to Gilligan's Island for the plot continuation. :)

MichaelPH said...

Congratulations Winner!

elaine said...

OK, can someone explain to me why this one is a winner?

Certain plot points don't add up. She's "trying her hand at a little detection," which means she's suspicious that the deaths aren't accidents...yet it doesn't occur to her that that means there's an actual murderer around. Is she stupid? It all just sounds so trite and shopworn.

Anonymous said...

stiletto-heeled stripper...poodle-owning debutant

Seriously, though, it sounds like an okay mystery to me.

A Paperback Writer said...

It's the poodle and the stillettos, isn't it?
Still, I'd give it a try and read it, although it does sound a wee bit Nancy Drew.

Anonymous said...

"tall, dark, handsome stranger" (isn't cliche?)...and "mysterious stranger"...and another "stranger"...

Spare me.

Anonymous said...

Subjective, for sure. The fact is, Miss Snark likes mystery, especially lighthearted mystery. She can't help it :)

Anonymous said...

uh ok...

another anonymous said...

If "a tall, dark, and handsome stranger" isn't the most common of cliches, then I don't know what it. Also, if Zoe "thinks it's all a game" after two people have been killed, then I think she's a moron. Yes, it's well written, but it doesn't sound compelling.

katiesandwich said...

So, Miss Snark, which character are you, the stiletto-heeled stripper or the poodle owner?

The only thing I didn't like about this hook is that I'm confused about whose husband this is in the second paragraph: the harried mother's, or Zoe's? Until now, I assumed Zoe was single, but this got me wondering. Otherwise, I revel in being correct that this hook would win.

Clarice Snarkling said...

Gah! So very sick of stories about quirky people finding bodies in quirky locales. Enough. There are many ways to throw some excitement into a character's life without having him/her come across a corpse.

(And, yes, inevitably, someone the main character is close to becomes a victim, as well. Can't people just turn this crap over to the police instead of allowing wacky hijinks to ensue while trying to sleuth out the killer themselves?)

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark must have been entranced by all the cliches in this letter. I should think it's something like snowblindness.

Anonymous said...

im begining to think that miss snark does not have much of an imagination.

Anonymous said...

I suspect it was the stilettoes and the poodle.

December Quinn said...

Yeah, sorry, I don't get this one either. The list of suspects is kind of interesting, but Zoe isn't particularly.

And the sentence about clutching the bag confused me. Where is she on a boat to and from? She's ging to Australia, to the Great Barrier Reef. Did she go there on a little boat? Was the GBR thing a small day trip, and if so, why is she still with the tour group people?

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I'm with the rest. For the most part the other winners have been VERY obvious. Strong writing. Great hooks. This one to me is neither.

"Tries her hand at detecting?" Wait - you're on a trip, a lousy one, people start to die. You give your statement to the police and you go the hell home.

I'm not sure why a woman who couldn't look up the weather on the internet to pack correctly - think she can be a detective.

Sorry. Hope the writing rocks -and the winner will have the last laugh.

Sherryl said...

Motivation is the issue for me - is Zoe so totally bored because she can't wear her bikini that she'll investigate a murder for something to do?
Trust me - after two tourists went missing off a tour boat a few years ago (and we ended up with an Aussie variety of seeing them in every laundromat- like Elvis - from Cairns to Kalgoorlie)the police up there would be on this one like bush flies on a carcass. Zoe wouldn't get a look in.

Pisica said...

Will this be her favorite trip? Or her last?

Er, there's no reason why it can't be both....

Jeb said...

Despite the clumsy bits - not mentioning, for example, either the tour boat or the other passengers until she's back at the shore (and I'm still not clear if it's a cruise ship or a day trip), and Zoe's on-again/off-again motivation to seek a murderer - I can see wanting to know a bit more about this one.

The tone is light and whimsical, which bodes well for the novel's readability. This maritime/ tourist setting is less common than the 'Carribean mystery' sub-genre that's all over North American shelves. Zoe is facing obstacles (the vacation disaster) even before the first body surfaces. The cast of characters sounds hilarious.

I'd look at the pages with a smattering of both hope and optimism.

HawkOwl said...

Ah, chick lit. My favourite genre. The chick lit x mystery crossover totally doesn't work for me though. And is the obligatory cheating male really that necessary?

Anonymous said...

The part about wasting your bikini under the sweater.
Put that back.

Anonymous said...

The part about the bikini being lost under the sweater.
Put that back.

Xiqay said...

I sort of liked this. I liked the beginning. I like mysteries. But I didn't like the taking up detection just because... or the brown paper bag that she's clutching in the beginning (why?), or her thinking this is all a game, etc.

I'm ambivalent on this.

but congrats to the author who has nabbed Miss Snark's go-ahead.

Simon Haynes said...

Thanks to global warming there won't BE a great barrier reef by the time this one hits bookstores. Pity, eh?

Simon Haynes said...

Thanks to global warming there won't BE a great barrier reef by the time this one hits bookstores. Pity, eh?

MWT said...

"clutching a brown paper bag" = seasickness, people. Though I agree with the others that the way it's put in, it's confusing. I had to read it over a couple times to understand.

My main point of confusion was what kind of boat it was. Big cruise ship? Small scuba-diving boat? Three-hour tour? (Not having ever been to the Great Barrier Reef, is there anything actually to see above-water? Are there islands? I'd always assumed not, so my initial impression was small scuba-dive boat.)(I can't picture someone like Zoe Chandler being at all interested in deep-sea fishing.)

Second point of confusion: did the murder mystery happen while they were out at sea, where it might actually be plausible for the protagonist to go sleuthing? Or did it happen after they were back at shore, in which case everyone else's comments become important - that the police would've taken over? I guess to me, "Just as she's ready to celebrate her safe arrival" is too vague - safe arrival to where? (Land, I guess? But why would she arrive at land by sea when the standard vacationer would've flown in? Or is it safely arrived at the cruise boat, and includes "getting sea legs" as part of the "safe arrival"?)

Where my mind derailed: "Zoe decides to try her hand at a little detection." I really can't picture someone like Zoe Chandler deciding to do such a thing. Why would she do that? You might want to include a mentioning a quirk or something to her personality, to indicate that she's the sort who would (if she actually is).

However, all that said. This hook has a very strong written voice, which is why I think it works for Miss Snark. The ending line "favorite vacation? or her last?" is strong to me. I think this author has a lot of potential.

MWT said...

Incidentally, adding on to my last comment:

Airsickness = brown paper bags.
Seasickness = hanging over the side of the boat and hoping that you remembered to face away from the wind so that your puke doesn't end up back on your face. (Or in my case, I just puke on the deck. It's waterproof. They can just hose it off when I'm done. :) )

Anonymous said...

I can see this story between pastel covers, with an adorable cartoon Zoe mugging into a brown paper bag...

Virginia Miss said...

I can see why Miss Snark was hooked. The writer has clearly presented the tone, setting, situation, and plot. We get a sense of progression and escalation, from small set-backs (weather, first body, second body) through detecting and flirting, until her poisoned coffee makes it personal.

A few things bothered me. It took five sentences to get to the body. I'd at least combine the first two, perhaps "Zoe Chandler's trip to the GBR..."
And there are too many "strangers." Find another way to describe the guy she's flirting with other than tall dark handsome stranger. Am I wrong in thinking he's not the mysterious one following the group?

Kudos!

Anonymous said...

First of all, as the author of this one, I would like to thank Miss Snark. For her kind words, of course, but also for this whole endeavor, because it's incredibly helpful and I can't imagine where she finds the patience to read all these.

I would like to thank those of you who offered constructive criticism. This is the first time I've dared to post anything I've written in public (and given the response, it may be the last). I'm no expert at this, and after reading the first few submissions here, I realized that I didn't do a very good job of making this sound exciting.

Maybe Miss Snark just liked the poodle, who really does have a role in the book.

Anonymous said...

I've been looking this over trying to figure out why it was a go-ahead, and I think it might be because there's such a clear path laid out with a concrete promise of action: if you read the book, you get a cliffside showdown. Maybe there's more action like that on the way! The good news/bad news line is cute. Maybe there are more cute lines in the book!

Sound about right?

sister_clamp said...

I hope the author comes back here to the Comments. This one totally lost me for two very significant reasons:

1) The Barrier Reef is *never* cold. 25 degrees Celsius (ah, around 80 Farenheit) minimum for most of the time...my god, even a t-shirt is optional. "Heavy sweater"??????????

2) Seasick? On a reef? Which is defined by shallow still water? Give me a break!

Good grief, this is plainly the work of someone who wanted an exotic location (with English-speaking [sic] characters) but couldn't be bothered to do the research to actually make it believable. Just based on such howlers, I can just imagine how the rest of the novel is constructed.

As a reader, I particularly hate such laziness/arrogance. (Can you tell?)

S_C

luna_the_cat said...

sister_clamp: having been to the Great Barrier Reef in July, I can attest to the fact -- from personal experience -- that it *can* get fairly chilly there. And that the water over that area of the world is not always "smooth sailing". There are, for example, a noticeable number of tropical cyclones from March-May.

We were there during a chilly, windy, but relatively dry month; June, on the other hand, has the possibility to be chilly, windy, AND rainy. It doesn't happen on the "average" day, but it certainly does happen. And even on moderately windy days, the water does get choppy -- and those of us with poor tolerance for bouncing around at random do feel it.

I personally have more problem with what a few other commenters have pointed out -- how does the main character think there have been murders and still see it as a game? Is she thick, or just shallow and oblivious? But having said that, I think it's unfair of you to have a go at the author about the weather. That part's not impossible at all.

Anonymous said...

I didn't even "own" a sweater when I lived in NQ. Seasick I will give you. But cold? Slightly nippy maybe, but not sweater-over-bikini.

Just makes the aussies laugh out loud.

thraesja said...

I'm not going to get into the warm vs. cold debate, as people have different temperature tolerences. I have a friend who just immigrated to Canada from Barbados. I tried to tell him that as a big black man, wearing a belaclava in September is just asking for trouble, but he is way too cold to listen. He's just going to love January. Perhaps Zoe is from Florida and forgot that Australia has winter in her summer?

If a cruise boat had two dead passengers floating here, I have to tell you there'd be a very thorough police inquiry. I've never been to Australia, but I've got to assume they take dead tourists fairly seriously too.

Crystal Charee said...

Author, I understand your sensitivity, but keep in mind that you won! You convinced THE Miss Snark, Literary Agent to read your first page. That's good. I have a big ASSE embarrassing mistake in my hook that I'm dreading to be burned over when it's my turn, but y'know, that's why we get feedback. The stuff we say to ourselves is "good enough" or "not that bad" needs to be pointed out so we don't get lazy.

I'm not particularly fond of chick lit where ladies take breaks from solving a mystery to make out with hot guys, but there is a market out there for that kind of thing. Ask Jennifer Crusie.

sister_clamp said...

I apologize. You are all correct. Weather doesn't matter.

Just to show my sincerity, I'll tell y'all that I'm writing a murder mystery based in Hawaii. The heroine is stuck in a blizzard at the bottom of high mountain-climbing peak and finds several frozen corpses, one clutching a piece of papyrus that has her name scrawled on it. Can she find the murderer before the murderer finds her?

This is a novel with great characters and a kick-ass plot so I'm sure the weather details aren't going to bother anyone.

S_C

Anonymous said...

Folks, it's nipple nippy cold, alright!!


Haste yee back ;-)

MWT said...

The author said: This is the first time I've dared to post anything I've written in public (and given the response, it may be the last).

Please don't take all the negative comments personally. This isn't about you. It's about your work. There is a difference.

I said at the end of my comment that you have a strong written voice. Even if this particular story needs a lot of work (research in particular, from the looks of things), I would be keeping an eye out for what else you might have to offer. You can make it as a writer - just don't give up. :)

I'd also like to note that after I wrote my comment and thought about it some more, and reread the hook ... I think what would help a lot is if you condense the first half of the first paragraph into a single sentence. The important part doesn't start until you get to "Just as she’s ready to celebrate her safe arrival, she spots a body floating behind the boat." That's where the plot begins. Omit all the parts before it, and many fewer people would get all caught up on the factual inaccuracies about the Great Barrier Reef and boating and so on. After that it's a matter of clarifying where all this plot happens, finding a way to get rid of the police, and you're back on track ... (but maybe we should hold off on more commentary until after your pages are up.)

In any event, congratulations on hooking Miss Snark. :)

Anonymous said...

sister_clamp, when I was on the Big Island a few years ago, our planned expedition up Mauna Loa was cancelled because of a blizzard. Ten feet of snow, IIRC.

thraesja said...

Author, don't give up. The voice is the hardest part for most people. Nobody complained about yours, and several people complimented it. Plus Miss Snark wants pages. Extremely successful first go, as far as I can see.