May 2020’s Page Turner

Page Turners

Page Turners

by Val Tobin

Agents and editors will often decide whether a book is for them by reading the first page of a manuscript. Many readers also decide to buy a book based on that critical first-page sample. Each month I post the first page of a book and you can vote on whether or not you’d read the book based on the sample.

After you vote, I’ll let you know the title of the book, my reaction to the sample, and why I’d keep reading or why I’d put it down. The goal is to have fun while we explore the beginnings of a variety of books and what compels readers to keep reading.

While I won’t divulge the title or author until you’ve read the piece, I will include the genre and any preliminary items (for example, quotes) you’d see when opening the book on your own.

NOTE: Set aside your preference for or against any specific genre and just focus on the writing. Does it compel you to turn the page and find out what comes next? Base your decision to turn the page on the excerpt’s writing alone.

Today’s Excerpt

Genre: Murder Mystery

Bloody Mary

1 ½ oz. of vodka

4 oz. of tomato juice

1 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce

Several drops of Tabasco sauce

Shake well over ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass.

Add a celery stalk.


“It would be easy to kill you while you sleep.”

He rolls onto his side and faces his wife, tangling his fingers in her hair. Her face is shrouded in a dried blue mask; an antiaging beauty product that has begun to peel. The moonlight peeking through the bedroom curtains makes her look already dead.

He wonders if other people look at their partners at night, peacefully dozing, and imagine killing them.

“I have a knife.” He brushes his fingertips along her hairline. “I keep it under the bed.”

Her lips part and she snores softly.

So ugly, especially for a model. All capped teeth and streaked hair.

He wedges his hand between the mattress and box spring and pulls out the knife. It has a large wooden handle, disproportionate to the thin, finely honed blade. A fillet knife.

He places it against his wife’s neck, gently.

His vision burs. The pain in his head ignites, a screw twisting into his temple. It tightens with every heartbeat.

Too many headaches in too many days. He should, will, tell the doctor. The six aspirin he took an hour ago haven’t helped.

Only one thing helps when the pain gets this bad.

He caresses her chin with the edge of the knife, shaving off some of the mask. Sweat rolls down his forehead and stings his …

Would you turn the page? Vote now.

Would you turn the page?

Today’s Book Revealed

Today’s book is Bloody Mary (Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels Mysteries Book 2) by J. A. Konrath.

Blurb from Amazon

Bloody Mary by JA Konrath

Bloody Mary by JA Konrath

Start with a tough but vulnerable Chicago cop. Add a hyperactive cat, an ailing mother, a jealous boyfriend, a high-maintenance ex-husband, and a partner in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

Stir in a psychopath littering the city with body parts. Mix with equal parts humor and suspense, and enjoy Bloody Mary–the second novel in the funny, frightening world of Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels.

Join Jack as she struggles to repair her train wreck of a personal life while tracking down and convicting one of the scariest serial killers in recent memory–a killer for whom getting caught is only the beginning…

If you are a more sensitive (or adventurous) reader, this handy scale rates specific categories from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) to give you some idea if this is your kind of book.

Bad Language – 4
Scary – 7
Violent – 7
Funny – 8
Sexy – 3

Would I Turn the Page?


Before I explain my reasons for turning the page, I should note that J. A. Konrath is an indie author, so today’s selection is a departure from the big-name traditionally published authors I usually highlight. Konrath has achieved enough success as an indie, though, that his books have become bestsellers and are up there in the lists with the trad-pubbed authors.

Now, on with the show.

J. A. Konrath’s setup works for me. I can’t help but turn the page to see what happens next. Does he kill his wife? The implication in the statement that only one thing helps when the pain gets this bad is that he must kill. What we don’t yet know is if he’ll kill his wife or someone else.

I’d read Konrath’s first book, so for me, the decision to keep reading was easy. I already know what to expect from his writing and trust I’ll enjoy the story. I like his detective, Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels, and have at this point read the first four books in the series.

Konrath has an easy-to-read writing style. I sail through his stories regardless of their length, which is what I want when I read genre fiction. The one complaint I have is how far-fetched they can get—which just means it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood discovers them and they become movies. I’m currently reading Fuzzy Navel and it’s the one most stretching credibility so far, but it’s still a fast-paced, riveting read.

What do you think?

Does this passage from Bloody Mary intrigue you? Does it make you want to turn the page and continue reading? Will you run out now and buy the book? Borrow it?

Val Tobin writes speculative fiction and searches the world over for the perfect butter tart. Her home is in Newmarket, Ontario, where she enjoys writing, reading, and talking about writing and reading.

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Paul Yanuziello
3 years ago

That’s great Val. I am going to find out what happened, I am intrigued. I also like the idea of a dysfunctional cop (train wreck of a personal life).
As to butter tarts, have you tried Humble Pie Butter Tart Factory in Baysville, Muskoka? So good!