About the book:Rachel, an 18-year-old Columbia University student descends into the netherworld of runaways and predators to find her sister, Olivia, who has suddenly disappeared. After getting a job in a strip joint where Olivia worked, then doing private shows in the homes of rich clients, Rachel discovers that Olivia has been abducted by a killer who auctions the deaths of young girls in an eBay of agony. As she closes in on the killer who has taken Olivia, Rachel becomes his next target.
Guest Post: The Amateur SleuthThere are two essential questions that have to be addressed in order to make an amateur sleuth believable. Motivation--why would someone with a regular day job get involved in solving a crime? And how could this person solve a crime where the police could not? The first question rests on immediacy. In The Schwarzschild Radius, my protagonist, Rachel, is an eighteen-year-old Columbia engineering student whose sister disappears. Here is her motivation. She is willing to do anything to get her back. The police investigation is so far fruitless so she must take matters into her own hands. Now comes the second question. What can she do that the police can't do better? After all, they have a gun and a badge, training, court orders and virtually unlimited resources that a single person without law enforcement authority does not have.
In Rachel's case, her advantage is her age and sex. She is vulnerable. She can enter a youth shelter posing as an underage homeless girl to gather information. The police cannot do this. In addition, she is willing to take a job in a sex emporium as a stripper to get more leads. Again, no police investigation will go this far. Finally, because she is so smart and computer-savvy, she can hack into the PCs of suspects and gather more incriminating evidence. The police certainly have the know-how to do this, but evidence gathered in this way without a warrant would be inadmissible in court and undermine the entire case against the suspects. So here again, my amateur sleuth has the advantage over the police.
Finally, it is essential that the amateur sleuth solve the crime herself, and if she gets into trouble, has to extricate herself from it without the cavalry coming to the rescue. Rachel manages to do this as well, using her resourcefulness. In short, a number of difficult criteria have to be in place for an amateur sleuth story to be plausible. In a thriller, there has to be a final confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist. How does an untrained, 110 pound eighteen-year-old girl prevail against a former special forces mass murderer? Again this has to be made believable by laying the groundwork well before this climax. You can't reveal at that moment that your amateur sleuth is also a world-champion Aikido expert and able to dispatch a 200 pound killer with her bare hands. Everything can fall apart if this confrontation is not believable. I won't give away how Rachel handles this moment, but the reviews would indicate that it was both believable and satisfying to the reader. Obviously, it is easier to write a story where your protagonist is a former cop or martial artist or has some specialized training that makes him a match for the antagonist.
The pluses of writing an amateur sleuth are that right from the start, you can have a very sympathetic and vulnerable character who can also surprise the reader in plausible ways. So all these points have to be worked out before you start writing an amateur sleuth story, especially a thriller, where the hero's life is in the balance.
About the author:
WUACADEMIA--Prix d'Or Best Novel
The Verb First Chapter Contest--First Prize
Mount Arrowsmith Best Novel 4th place
The Writing Show--Second Prize best first chapter of a novel.
Second Prize--16th Annual International Latino Book Awards
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