Sunday, December 2, 2018


Dear Query Shark,

MOB TREASURE is the story of Joseph, a recent New Jersey college grad, who discovers his recently deceased grandfather was a Mafia boss—and has millions of dollars hidden somewhere in Miami Beach.

So, is Joseph dimwitted? Cause I knew what my Gramps did for a living starting around age 6. Or, perhaps he was estranged from that side of the family? Or maybe everyone in the family never said what Grandpa did; he was just the old guy down in Dade County who smoked cigars and played canasta pool side.

The point here is that we need to understand why something that would seem to be obvious, comes as a big surprise.

Joseph never knew about his grandfather’s former life in the mob, but now, armed with clues scribbled in the margins of a copy of Treasure Island – the book his grandfather read to him most often as a kid – it’s up to him to recover the hidden millions. But he’s not the only one looking.

So Gramps leaves clues in a book. Why? 
Is it to keep the dough out of the hands of his other relatives?

Along with his best friend—and a crafty Art Deco tour guide—they embark on an adventure tour of the beautiful Art Deco hotels and mansions of Miami Beach’s Historic District. Hot on his heels are the mob, who claim the hidden money is theirs.

What does the sidekick bring to the plot? Why are they touring hotels and mansions?
I assume it's because the clues lead them to these places, but honestly, this is not a middle grade mystery.  Following a trail of treasure needs a level of sophistication here to make it interesting.

Entering a world of danger, mobsters, hidden casinos, secret rooms, underworld drama, and even a pirate or two, danger follows around every corner. Joseph and his posse grow more and more determined to beat the mob at their own game, finally uncovering a treasure that means more to him than money ever could.

This is a laundry list, not a plot.
The treasure isn't money? You told us the mob, claiming the money is theirs, was hot on their heels.

MOB TREASURE (78,000 words) is commercial fiction imbued with the mysteries of historic Miami—the mob boss version of The Da Vinci Code and reminiscent of the National Treasure series. It’s partially inspired by the life of Meyer Lansky, the “Mob’s Accountant,” who is rumored to have hidden over $300 million before he died.

I’ve lived in Miami Beach for over 20 years and have written for local publications on the arts, history and nightlife of the region. For the past five years, I’ve also been working as a tour guide in the Art Deco District of Miami Beach and have fallen in love with the beautifully restored buildings and the rich mob history, which inspired the story for this book.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

There's nothing surprising here.
There's no twist on a trope, or a stock character given a fresh perspective.

When I look for books to take on, it's essential there be some sort of suspense. Suspense comes from choices the main character makes, and what's at stake.

All that is missing here. 

If Joseph doesn't find the treasure, there's nothing to indicate the world will fall apart either literally or metaphorically.


b4heroes said...

Starting with some good, I like the mention of secret rooms and hidden casinos. That's intriguing for me cause I like that sort of thing but I also think the specificity is good. Better than some other items in the list like danger, which is too generic, especially when you mention it twice. "Entering a world of danger... danger follows around every corner." Well, yeah. I mean. Sounds about right. Haha. What else would you expect to find in a world of danger but danger? :O

I also get a middle grade vibe from some of the writing in this query--particularly the treasure hunt. In the revision, perhaps try to give tone and word choice some extra attention. Maybe find a different way to describe what they're doing.

I also feel like I don't get a sense of Joseph at all. Why is he in particular looking for this treasure? Does he want money for some reason? Adventure? A link to his grandfather? It's not clear.

Giving the villains a bit more specificity could give the query a little flavor too. Right now they are just reading as generic mobsters that don't feel very threatening to Joseph's quest. I wonder if they might have a more interesting reason to go after the money too? Rather than just wow lots of money yay!

As for the "finally uncovering a treasure" that's worth more than money line; I interpret this as you saying he ends up discovering friendship or something on his journey and it reads as cheesy, especially when you don't hint at a lack of anything in Joseph's life to begin with.

Just my two cents. Hope this helps.

Frankie said...

How could his grandfather keep his “job” a secret? Was it a secret to all the family or just Joseph? How did the Mob know about the hidden money?
You mention a run against time to beat the mobsters. What happens if Joseph doesn’t find the money first? I’m pretty sure a monster wouldn’t stop from killing Joseph to get the money.

I think the idea can be interesting, but it needs to be developed in an intriguing way. Suspense here is missing, maybe it’s in your manuscript but I can’t find it.

Leaving clues is, or better, can be interesting, but you have to make them interesting.

I don’t know what the stakes are. I’ve no clue of who Joseph is, I have no idea of his personality. He wants these money? Why? Is there a life or death situation going on that pushes him to start this hunt? If so, you need to mention it because desiring money just for having money isn’t really interesting or something people would root for, in my opinion.

Mora Green said...

I just wanted to add that I don't see a problem with Grandpa being secretly in the mob. I think my sister is a physical therapist. But she could be a ninja, and it wouldn't be very hard to change into scrubs on the way home and tell some funny patient stories. She says she goes to continuing education classes, but I don't check her registration slips and I don't follow her to work. If Grandpa said he was selling scrap metal, how deeply would anyone in the family really be involved in his job?

I do agree with the others on the lack of clear stakes and lack of insight into Joseph's character. And I don't see how him getting to the "money" first would be a win, because I'm sure the mob will have no problem prying it from his cold dead hands.

Laina said...

I almost feel like this would make a really epic middle grade book XD I was honestly surprised to hear it was an adult book.

Mister Furkles said...

Must support Janet here. My mother-in-law grew up in a Mafia connected family in New England. Her step father moved the family to the west coast to get away from it. All the kids knew. Something about knowing Tommy Gambino by his first name and seeing another couple of gangster visit their uncles’ homes on several occasions.

It could work if it’s a great uncle and Joe’s parents moved away from the rest of the family—like to Nairobi, for instance. But then how does Uncle read Treasure Island to Joe?

Another friend had a small tree farm west of Boca Raton. Three sides of their farm were surrounded by an estate owned by a Mafia don. When thing were dicey in south Florida, he would send a couple of fellows over to watch everybody visiting/entering my friend’s little farm. You just cannot be around them without being aware.

That reminds me, I knew a couple of Mafia guys when I was in college. One was semi-retired and ran a small—but by far the best—pizzeria in Cleveland’s Little Italy. The guys from the IABS would stop by sometimes to gossip with Joe. Nothing illegal, just gossip about things.

Former life in the Mob doesn’t ring true either. You couldn't just leave. They couldn't trust you to keep it quiet.

Better idea is to have the grandfather involved in a less intensely organized criminal life.

Unknown said...

I'm posting late on this, but after reading the other comments, and in particular the comments saying that this plot needs more of a sense of the stakes and an answer to the "why" question, I would recommend that the author watch (or re-watch) Brewster's Millions. That movie could provide a lot of inspiration for how to spice this concept up.

Unknown said...

I Like it. I want to know more. Hope you get it published