A jaded Iris Clark doesn’t expect much when she returns to her Texas hometown to help her mother, but deep down, she hopes for renewal. Trouble is, Stillwell’s not that kind of place. It’s the kind of place where a woman can disappear for no good reason and plenty of bad ones.
Iris runs head on into that hard reality when a white-girl DUI lands her in county jail, where she finds casual assaults and oppression to be the norm, and Lea, the unstable young African-American student who’s her cellmate, to be flat-out delusional. Once home, Iris discovers that when Lea was released, she was dumped out of the jail on the Sabinal Canyon Road at midnight—no ride, no phone—and seen no more.
At this point, my fingers are crossed that this query will not implode. I'm interested in what happens next.
Lea’s mother Roberta discovers that nobody except Iris will listen, and so the two of them join forces and start asking questions. They meet with indifference and hostility, but Iris’s twenty years in LA has erased her small-town caution. Using old money connections, she expands the search and manages to grab some media attention. When she is run off the road and nearly killed, it seems obvious that she is onto something.
And this is all just too much. The abstract "traumatic personal history" isn't specific enough to be interesting. The eclectic crew isn't deftly drawn enough to be anything other than a string of adjectives.
There's nothing we need here in terms of plot.
I'll keep reading but the momentum is dropping.
Revelations of murder and corruption crack open the sealed world of Stillwell, but Iris and Tomas see hope in a future there and commit to a life together along the Sabinal River.
If this is the end of the novel, the first thing to remember is you don't talk about the entire novel in a query. That's what a synopsis is for.
You would have been better off to stop at the end of paragraph 3.
Woman in the Wind is a literary crime novel complete at 76,000 words. As director of Texas Jail Project, I hear the stories of women who survive the brutality of the criminal justice system and of the ones who don’t, including the model for Lea who died in a California canyon after being released from a local jail
Don't spend time in this query talking about the next book.
And 76,000 words seems very very short if you're talking about a taut suspense novel. In other words, do you have enough story here?
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
None of the problems in this query would keep me from reading pages, but it could certainly be tightened up by focusing ONLY on the precipitating incident and then what's at stake for Iris. We really don't have any sense of that here.
You can tank that first pages opportunity if you open with someone waking up, driving, getting a phone call, or doing any of the other gazillion things writers like to do before getting to something interesting.
It's ok to write all that stuff, but when you're revising the big question to ask yourself: is something changing for my main character yet? Don't make me read 20 pages to get to that point.
As for your question: any crime novel, whether literary or not, requires that the plot hinge on a crime of some sort, and the resolution of the plot be the resolution of the crime. In other words, Romeo and Juliet isn't a crime novel (ok, play) because the resolution of the plot isn't the resolution of the crime (which is Romeo killing Tybalt.)
Whether this is a literary crime novel, I don't know. I'd have to read the novel.
What I do know is this is NOT a quest novel which generally require an actual journey of some sort from innocence to maturity.
This doesn't feel like women's fiction because there's not a strong enough sense of Iris growing as a person.
And it's certainly not a romance because the romance isn't the centerpiece of the book.
I hope it's literary crime or suspense, because that's what I'm looking for.
The problem with not knowing if it's a crime novel (or any other specific genre) is that if you tell me it's literary crime, and the book doesn't adhere to the requirements of the genre, I'll be frustrated and confused. That's not not not your goal!