Dec 21, 2009

QUERY - INTELLIGENT DESIGN REVISION 1 (original posted Oct 31, 2009)

Click here to read the original query.

Detective Inspector Lane has less than a week to prove three recent deaths were not the work of a serial killer. All three died in a similar way after falling from buildings and all three died on a Sunday.

Coincidence? Or is there a vicious killer on the loose in London with a liking for high places and an aversion to Sundays?

David, a journalist for the London Evening People, thinks the story makes good copy and he has piqued public interest with a series of articles designed to convince his readers there is more to the deaths than just coincidence.

All the press interest is proving much more difficult for DI Lane to deal with than the investigation itself. The Chief Inspector has given her until Sunday to prove the deaths were nothing more than accidents and quell the rising public hysteria. But when a witness also dies in mysterious circumstances, it seems there is very little DI Lane can do to convince the public a serial killer is not stalking the streets of London.

And now, she too is having her doubts.

Intelligent Design is a completed 95,000 word crime novel set in contemporary London.


Matt said...

Wow, good concept. Sounds similar to other things I've read or seen on screen (I can't put my finger on what, exactly), but I was pretty riveted by your query.

Here's something, though, and in this comment I will expose my instinctual, ignorant gender perception: until the fourth paragraph, I assumed DI Lane was a man. When you said it she was a woman, it made me go back and read the beginning of the query thinking I missed something, which could potentially turn off a literary agent. It might be helpful to include a first name in the first paragraph.

My only fear with this novel would be that the portayal of the reporter is not accurate. I am a 10-year veteran journalist and my biggest pet peeve is when reporters are portrayed as blood-sucking mutants who only care about "selling more newspapers." That's just not how it is. If your character is like this, you may want to talk to a few real reporters and ask them about their job.

Hope this is helpful!

Me said...

It's refreshing to read a query that's not packed with six-line sentences, or filled with abstract words no one ever uses.

The query is simple, the story's clear.

I like it!

John said...

I see a lot of potential here, but my concern is whether there's enough conflict. People have been dying, but it's not clear what the consequences will be if DI Lane doesn't meet the Sunday deadline. Will the Chief Inspector take her off the case? Could the first three death cases be closed as unrelated suicides? Neither of those possibilities really qualifies as a ticking time bomb. And while she might be able to prove there is a serial killer, it's hard to see how she could prove conclusively that there wasn't one.

I think the query would work better if you could show a clear danger that more people will die if DI Lane doesn't meet the deadline, if that's the case. This might entail starting a little further into the plot, e.g.: DI Lane thought they were unrelated suicides, but now she's not so sure. If her new hunch is right, she has less than a week to....

Best of luck!

Anne Gallagher said...

I really liked this query. Like Matt though, I thought the DI was a man. And I thought that David needed a last name. But other than that, it was great. Good luck with it.

RC Writer Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RC Writer Girl said...

I'm with John. I don't think there is enough conflict here.

The way it's currently written, your query is about police being upset with a reporter who is making a mountain out of a molehill over these deaths. The conflict you've set up is between reporter David and Det. Lane, and that conflict is not particularly scintillating. I think the query would be stronger if there was some indication upfront that Inspector Lane has doubts about whether this is a serial killer or accidents. Your conflict needs to be Lane trying to ferret out the truth. His supervisor and this reporter need to be written as obstacles to that.

The problem is your opening sentence. Phrasing it the way you have makes it seem like it's a forgone conclusion that the deaths were coincidence. Perhaps you need to retinker the opening sentence just slightly to shift the focus: "Detective Inspector Lane has less than a week to figure out if three recent deaths were the work of a serial killer or coincidence." Then, go into the similar circumstances you have in the rest of the paragraph. Go straight to paragraph 2. Then, instead of your current paragraph 3, introduce the boss and David as obstacles. "While Lane would like to take her time to investigate, she can't. A reporter is writing daily frontpage stories saying the deaths are the work of a serial killer. Lane's boss has put her in charge of quelling the city's mounting paranoia that a killer's on the loose by proving one isn't."

And it might be helpful to explain what happens in less than a week. Has the boss said, "you're fired if you don't shut this reporter up!"? Is Lane hopping across the pond and moving to the US in a week? Is Lane retiring? Don't get me wrong. I LOVE ticking clocks. They make books that much more exciting. But, it's fun to know--if it's not too complicated to explain--why the clock is ticking.

That's about it. I'll just reiterate that the query in it's current form, takes the wind out of its own sails because the thing you introduced as fact, as the overall goal of the whole story (proving this is a coincidence), probably can't be done.

That's my humble opinion. The story does sound intriguing. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the comments.
I was hoping it would be obvious that there really is a serial killer, simply by the fact it's a crime story! In the book itself, it's made obvious from the start there's a killer. This is the source of the tension in the plot, but I can see I'm going to have to make it more obvious in the query.
The DI has to prove they were accidents before Sunday comes in order to eliminate the risk of copycat killings or suicides happening on the same day. If anyone else dies, it would create a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy. But I can see I'm going to have make this clearer in the query too.
The sex of the DI was something I deliberately kept unclear till later in the query. But I can't risk annoying agents so I'm going to take your advice and give the full name of both the inspector and the reporter.
I can see I'm going to have to give this more thought.
Thanks again for taking the time to comment - it really is very useful.