Some kids walk out of juvie with freehand tattoos or new gang affiliations. Delia Clark left with a plan to become an FBI agent.
This is as good an opening sentence as we've seen here in a while. Notice that what we know about Delia is what happened to her and how she wants to change. In other words, not what she looks like.
Now twenty-three, Delia’s almost there.
A lot of times, mentioning a protagonist's age is pointless. Here, it gives us valuable info: Delia is moving toward her goal. It's also mentioned at the right place. The writer did not say "23 year old Delia Clark etc."
She just has to get through law school first. With its harsh authority figures, cutthroat students, and terrible cafeteria food, Delia’s finding law school eerily similar to prison. If it weren’t for her close friendship with fellow student Violet Cross, Delia might actually follow through on her threat to invest next semester’s tuition money in a Subway sandwich franchise. Luckily for Delia’s career plans, Vi’s got her back. Or at least she did.
This is a nice setup for the plot. We know where Delia is, what she wants to achieve. We get the sense it's not easy.
The police find Vi beaten to death in an alley the day after she slammed a door in Delia’s face and told her that she didn’t want to see her again. As Vi’s emergency contact, Delia must identify the body. Haunted by the image of her dead friend and guilty that their first big fight was their last conversation, Delia makes it her mission to assist the police with their investigation. Until she discovers that the detective in charge of the case was being investigated by Vi herself for planting evidence in a capital murder trial. Suddenly, the detective’s disturbing lack of interest in finding out who killed Vi makes sense.
This is a key paragraph. In any amateur sleuth mystery (which this is) one of the things I always look for is why the sleuth is investigating. It has to be a logical reason, not just because you need the sleuth to investigate to make the book work. Generally you find those reasons in the stakes of the book: here it's a little different. Delia think if she doesn't do it, no one will.
Delia knows firsthand that sticking her nose in a criminal investigation can lead to trouble. After all, it’s what landed her in juvie in the first place. This time she’s an adult and the consequences could be much worse. Even if she doesn’t end up in prison, the FBI certainly doesn’t look kindly on applicants who’ve been charged with obstruction of justice. The smart thing to do would be to just walk away. Then again, Delia’s never been known as someone who can just let things go.
And here are the stakes in the novel. This is a very very nice set up.
Delia decides to investigate Vi’s murder herself, teaming up with an with an old high school flame, now rookie cop, and her smartest study group pal in order to solve the case. But as the stakes grow higher, Delia will be forced to face the question that landed her in juvie so many years ago: Is retribution worth her future?
EMERGENCY CONTACT, a mystery complete at 92,000 words, is my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.
In this case, you probably do look forward to hearing from me, since I'd be requesting pages, but still, Thank you for your time and consideration is enough.
This is 384 words but I wouldn't pare a single one.
This query works: I'd request pages.