Aug 29, 2010

Query - Sub Rosa

Rome, 58 AD. Aemilius Valerius is back from the army. His father is dead, his sister is divorced, his mad uncle is obsessed with home renovations, and his new wife has a favour to ask – can her snarky adolescent Julia daughter come to stay?

Julia has stormed out of home because her father got her engaged, and she’s not happy about it. Neither is Valerius, because now she’s under his roof, and he has enough to worry about – unless he can get a job offer soon he’ll never have the political career expected of a man of his rank.

Sent by his wife to sound out the fiancĂ©, Valerius accidentally lands a job. Albanus is murdered, and Valerius finds himself working with the investigator Atreus, a plebeian with a chip on his shoulder, to discover the killer. Mad Uncle Maro promised it would be a smart career move, but that was before a second senator turned up dead. Now everything points towards a corrupt legion, an imperial assassin, and the emperor Nero’s mother Agrippina. It might have been smarter to accept that honorary priesthood, stupid hat or not.

There are the added complications of an ex-brother-in-law who fell on his sword, a slum gangster who wants Atreus dead, political pressures, class divisions, and Valerius’ ongoing domestic hassles with his sister, wife, stepdaughter and assorted slaves.

Sub Rosa, a historical mystery, is complete at 129 000 words. It is my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Jennifer Burke


Anonymous Author said...

Okay. There's a light humorous tone to this query, but it reads like a draft-- "adolescent Julia daughter" -- and I was quite startled to get to the end and read that it's a murder mystery.

If it's a murder mystery, you need to lead with the murder, and the mystery. Everything else is just background.

Zee Lemke said...

I just read Everitt's biography of Cicero, so this query made me sit up and go "oooooh." Anonymous up there ^ is right about putting the murder mystery front and center, but I actually really liked the sentence-fragment beginning. Knowing when and where we are is important.

I'd rather know what the chip is than just know the plebe has one. The stuff with Julia isn't the plot, it's just the lead-up, and shouldn't get as much space. Consider spoiling the ending (although I feel bad about suggesting that on a public blog).

Other than that... shiny!

Nicole MacDonald said...

wow but sounds like a lot crammed into a small amount of words.

Suzan Harden said...


OMG! I wanna read this! I love the tone!

That said, just a few comments on what might need some tweaking.

Zee's right. Start with the murder.

Also, take one of Rick's tips to heart. Start with your tagline sentence and build from there. This version runs a little on the long side. Most of what you need is in the third and fourth paragraphs.

I strongly suggest you don't say this is your first novel (or forty-fifth for that matter). You don't want your reader distracted with #*@^ that doesn't matter to your story.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you. This sounds like a very cool story!

Mesmerix said...

Premise sounds awesome. I like the idea of a murder mystery in Ancient Rome. There's some great voice elements here such as "the stupid hat."

Main problem is too much going on. Start with the main conflict. You can give the backstory on the character, in fact a sentence or two is great to set the tone, but you've got all kinds of stuff. Julia seems like the primarly plot at first, but then WHOA it's actually a murder mystery.

Start with the murder. Add from there. Go back and refine to the basic character+conflict.

I took notice of this book, now make me notice the main plot.

Best of luck!!

Scribbler to Scribe

Jen said...

Thanks for all your input, guys! It's difficult to get a sense of perspective from the inside. I'm in the process of reworking the query, and I hope you'll all tell me what you think about the next draft.

Thanks again!

Also, Zee, now I have to rewatch Firefly!