In-House Critique #3

Name: Merrilee Faber
Title: Under the Datura Tree
Genre: Magical Realism

First 250 words:

I was on the tail end of another game of who-gets-the-kids with my ex-wife when I arrived at the crime scene. My old blue bomb had one go at the steep driveway and decided it was too much. She stalled and started rolling down the hill towards the crowd at the bottom of the drive.

I dropped the phone and wrestled with steering wheel and spongy brakes. She finally swerved around and into a neighbour’s hedge, to a round of catcalls and applause.

“Goddamn bitch,” I muttered as I picked up the phone again.


“Sorry, not you. Look, I can’t take the girls this weekend, Carol. I’ve just got too many open cases, and I’ll be working overtime.” I struggled out of the car and hurried up the drive. “It’s not my weekend, anyway. What about your mother?”

“She’s in hospital again for another set of x-rays. Damn it, Mike. I need to go to this workshop. What am I going to do?”

“Well, you’ll just have to get a babysitter.” I looked up as I came to the top of the drive. Senior Constable Rowe was standing under the wattle trees in front of the house.

“I have to go Carol. I’ll talk to you later.”

“No, wait, Mike-”

I flipped the phone closed as I reached him. “What have we got?”

“Couple in their 50’s,” said Rowe, “Allen and Marjorie Winebrenner. Throats cut with a kitchen knife, no sign of a struggle, no sign of forced entry.” He led the way towards the house.

Readers: Would you read on? Why or why not? What did you like? What didn’t you like? What could be changed?


5 Responses to In-House Critique #3

  1. AshN says:

    I would keep reading. There’s a nice mixture of the mundane (babysitting issues) with the morbid (crime scene) laced with humor that provides a real hook.

    I was initially confused about which direction the car was rolling; it took me a second read to realize it rolls backward rather than giving out at the crest of the driveway and rolling forward. Just a single word insertion would clarify things (i.e., “She stalled and started rolling back down…”).

  2. Iapetus999 says:

    Wait, I get a shot a Merrilee? He he…

    Not quite hooked yet. The GD bitch line made the POV char unsympathetic to me. Her reaction to the statement seemed understated.
    The two intermingled plot lines weren’t confusing, but seemed to come too quick (three if you count the failing car plot).
    I don’t understand why x-rays take all weekend or require a hospital. Usually that’s an outpatient procedure at an imaging lab.
    OTOH I do think this gives us a decent feel for this guy and what he’s about to contend with.
    I’d probably read more.

  3. I would keep reading. I agree with AshN about the humour/crime scene/babysitting being a good hook.
    I like the dialogue you’ve got between Mike and Carol, it makes Mike seem more alive in my opinion.

    I’m not exactly sure what Magical Realism is, but I assume it’s like fantasy. If that’s the case, I would probably hint at the magical aspect. Because, so far, it’s beginning just like a mystery thriller novel.

    Hope that helps!

  4. Merrilee says:

    Ash: Thanks for that, I will add ‘back’ to make it clear 🙂

    Andrew: Plot lines? Lol! No plot lines in these words. Just introducing the character and his state 🙂 I’m glad you find the MC unsympathetic, because that’s vital for the ending 😉

    Scribs: Magical Realism is a bit like paranormal, I think. Real world, with a touch of the odd. There’s no actual magic. It’s very much normal world, then whoa! But like most genre descriptions, it encompasses a lot, and varies depending on who you talk to.

    Cheers guys 🙂

  5. […] sent in their excerpts for you all to critique.  If you missed any, you can see them here, here, here and […]

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