Muse du Jour

My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can find more of my art at

My Photo
Location: New England, United States

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fault Line...a Book Review

By Barry Eisler

A Ballantine Books Hardcover; ISBN 978-0-345-50508-8; $25.00 USD; 306 pages;

Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – October 2008

There’s nothing like misunderstandings, misassumptions, personal tragedy, and a whole bucketful of grudges to stir an already dangerous mix. Worse if it involves family.

Ben Treven, cold, cynical and a damn fine tool of an undercover operative for the USA is called home by his younger brother because someone is trying to kill him. Baby brother Alex, a brilliant young attorney and a typical yuppie is worried. His client is killed in a situation that just doesn’t ring right, and Alex’s contact at the Patents and Trademarks office in Virginia dies just a few hours later, then a home invasion attack on Alex himself rings major alarm bells in his mind. Virtually alone in the world and unsure who to trust, Alex calls his big brother whom he hasn’t spoken to in ten years. There are unresolved issues between them, a massive amount of anger and resentment, and a truckload of simmering grief. There were too many deaths and years between them to allow them to be comfortable around each other. But Ben had always saved his baby brother’s butt and worn the consequences. Why should now be any different? Add a beautiful woman that they both desire to the mix and things begin to smolder. Sarah Hosseini, a lovelyl Iranian/American who is a first year associate with the law firm Alex works for, assists him with the patenting of the Obsidian technology. The complex computer program that can disrupt networks is what everybody seems to want, and covert operatives are ready to kill innocent people just for knowing it exists. Ben, Alex, and Sarah don’t know who is behind it all, but events come to a head when the mole in the law firm Alex and Sarah work for lets slip one vital piece of information. The threat is more close to home than they suspected, and Alex must ransom the information he has for the lives of his brother and Sarah. Suspicions abound, trusts are broken, remade, and shifted again, and the pace is hot.

The familial strangeness between Ben and Alex goes back years to when their sister, Katie, was killed in an auto accident. She had been the loving lynch pin that held them all together, and with her tragic death, the family began a downward spiral of disintegration. Accusations of blame abounded at first, but the later retractions fell by the wayside as the damage had already been done. The difference in their ages and unspoken grief drove a wedge into Alex and Ben’s already rocky brotherly relationship that should have brought them closer together. Less than a year after Katie died, Ben dropped out of Stanford College and joined the army. Their father committed suicide one month later because he felt that Katie needed him where ever she was now. It was left to Alex to nurse their mother through her battle with cancer and the last years of her life.

Through the current story, those years and those deaths are still tearing Ben and Alex apart. If battling the enemy weren’t bad enough, and killing the Russian mob hoods that came after Alex, Ben must face down the constant insults and animosity from both Sarah and Alex. He can’t seem to make them understand that the bright lives they live are precarious things and the dark deeds that are done to keep them alive, whole, and free have to be done by someone able to do them. Someone very like him. And while information must be free…freedom comes with a price.

'Fault Line' is the first stand-alone thriller for Barry Eisler, a former CIA operative-turned-bestselling-novelist. Eisler has had major success with his John Rain book series for Signet, but this is his first Ballantine outing. The writing doesn’t lack anything though. The characterizations are deep, whether they be likeable or not, who ring deeply in the reader’s imagination. Well written ‘place’ and atmosphere carry the smart pace of the story, as well as the snappy, sure feel for dialog and scene set up. Eisler has written a great techno-based thriller with a lot of action and heart that won’t boggle the average reader. He is a pro at feeding the reader just enough technical details without derailing the story or dropping said reader out of the book, whether it be weapons or computer oriented. The transitions are very smooth.

Well done, Mr Eisler. I thoroughly enjoyed 'Fault Line', as I’m sure others will too.


PS: I have the ARC (advanced Reading Copy) of Fault Line and am willing to send it to a Barry Eisler fan who can’t wait until the February 2009 release of the book. First in, first served with a name and address can have it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I attended many panel discussions at Bouchercon, but these few are the ones I kept notes on. It doesn’t mean that the other panels weren’t notable, but I enjoyed listening to them rather than taking notes about subjects I already know a good bit about. It was nice to hear my theories confirmed or a fresh outlook on them. All of the panelists were knowledgeable and the Mediators took their jobs very seriously indeed, giving structure and coherent direction to the topic at hand. I must admit to ducking out of a couple of afternoon panels to fetch much needed coffee to offset the ‘mid-afternoon droopies’. I did take notes of authors’ works though, that I wanted to follow up later – the list is getting rather long. Meanwhile, here are the short notes…

STOP, I’M ALREADY DEAD! – Keeping a Series Interesting
(Friday, 10am Panel)

Perpetrators…er, panelists: Jeff Cohen, Mark de Castrique, Felicia Donovan, Jerry Healy, and Hope McIntyre.

Jerry Healy’s nutshell ideas:
- Include cutting edge/controversial topics that don’t date. Adding a non-fiction element that can lead to greater media promotions: ie, a topic that fills newspaper headlines rather than some tiny item buried in page nine of any given paper. Apparently the controversial and topical nature of one of Jerry’s recent novels was enough to make him an ‘expert’ and put him on the talk show circuit and major newspaper reviews.

- Work a ‘fish out of water’ or ‘stranger in a strange land’ scenario. It gives the reader a greater empathy with the protagonist or character undergoing said scenario.

- Conflicts throughout the plot, complicated protagonist and characters. If it doesn’t’ have conflict or complications, it’s going to be BORING.

Felicia Donovan:
- Remember to inject humour to balance seriousness. Unrelieved seriousness can be wearing on the reader.

- Keep characters REAL. Nothing irks a reader as much as unrealistic characters or characters who have a distinct ‘nature’ then do something completely ‘out of character’ just so the writer can fulfill a difficult plot point.

Mark de Castrique:
- Strong characters and settings will keep your reader riveted.

- Milk real situations, because sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Collect memories, photos for physical appearance reference, and snip article clippings of newspaper/magazine stories that tweak your interest, or may make good fodder for future stories.

Hope McIntyre:
- Like your characters and know them well. Give them depth. You will be sharing your journey with them for some time.

- For characters, don’t give all details all at once in big gobs. Peel back layers as you would an onion or the petals on a rose – each should be revealing, and reveal something new as the story goes on.

- The passage of time between books varies for various reasons. Aging a character is up to the author, but if you’re planning a long series, age the protagonist only a couple of months at a time perhaps. Mind you, if you’re writing one book per year, time is spinning on for you, but not for your character – timelines would need adjusting in the books, one would think.

- Never kill a cat!!

WHO ARE YOU? – Making Your Characters Believable.
(Friday, 11:30am panel)

Perpetrators…er, panelists: Alison Jannsen, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Victoria Houston, Craig Johnson, Julia Pomeroy.

- Your own memories and perceptions can create great stories.

- Write what you know about – the breadth and depth might surprise you.

- A good character will write his/her own story and directs the plot in doing so.

- Suit the character to the appropriate setting, or the dissonance will jar the reader out of the story.

- Include flaws and idiosyncrasies that give each character depth.

- Make the characters grow with each successive book so that there is growth, maturity, yearning, fulfillment, new horizons, etc.

- Decide how to age or not to age your characters.

HARD NOT TO KILL: No Sidewalks Doesn’t Mean No Action
(Friday, 1:30pm, panel)

Perpetrators…er, panelists: Elsie (L.C.) Hayden, Craig Johnson, Deborah LeBlanc, Jon Talton, Rebecca Tope.

- Figure out your protagonist’s place in the community you are writing about, it will formulate how they behave, what they think, how they think, and their personality.

- Have your protagonist ‘seen’ by other characters, and describe him/her in their own words (voices). It compiles a more complete portrait of the protagonist, and informs the reader about the characters giving the description: ie, their prejudices, likes, dislikes, behaviour, affinities, loyalties, etc.

- If you have a strong protagonist, then you need to portray an equally strong antagonist. Both need to be well rounded to be believable.

- Write the full spectrum of human behaviour. Writing extremes in characters will most likely turf the reader out of the story, while the reader works hard to suspend disbelief.

Interesting, huh?

Monday, October 13, 2008

BOUCHERCON 2008...a Convention Review!


Well, I’ve been greatly anticipating this year’s Bouchercon in lovely Balitmore – as much for it being my first mystery convention as well as being my first Bouchercon. I’d only been reading about them for the last few years and dreaming wistfully. My husband and I hopped a train south and arrived early afternoon on the Thursday to find the convention in full swing. I was attending, while he was going to do a marathon tour of art galleries and museums in both Baltimore and Washington – he needs inspiration too!

I missed the panel with author Wendy Roberts on it, but managed to catch the one with my blog-buddy Cornelia Read on it. However: no Cornelia! According to some ladies in the audience, she had to cancel the con at the last moment due to a health problem. Dang: that was disappointing. I’d been really looking forward to swapping funny stories with her in the bar. Get well soon, Miss C. – I missed you! So, that being the case, I darted across to the Jungle Red Writers (mystery author blogsite) panel and really enjoyed that. At that stage, I was already boggled by the size of the panel audiences: some had standing room only! That rarely happens at the Science Fiction Conventions I usually attend. I was really tired about this time and starting to feel the inward despondency that I felt at my first American convention years ago: I didn’t know anybody. So I started reading lots of name badges and searching faces. And so spent two days looking for my friend Patty Smiley, whom I’d never met face to face before. You’d be surprised at just how many people no longer resemble their publicity photos! I was tooling down the main corridor to the book room on Friday when I happened past a trio of men talking. I gazed at them and did a double take. The middle guy had distinctive eyes that gave me pause. I excused myself and asked him if he was Jim Born (aka, James O. Born, Miami police procedural author). He looked down – he wasn’t wearing his name tag – and then up, surprised. “How did you know?” he said. I grinned “Your eyes and upper face bone structure, and your shirt”. We both looked down at his shirt which sported a Florida State logo. Come on, you gotta put clues together when you’re at a mystery con! We chatted for a few minutes, and he remembered me from my comments on the Naked Authors blog and also from having sent him some NASA info in the past. Jim is also a big science fiction fan and loves my hubby’s artwork. I promised to introduce them later. Jim has read all of John Scalzi’s SF books and my Bob paints the covers, so he was chuffed. After that, I ran into a couple of SF fans that I knew, and immediately felt much better.

Convention Baggie full of Goodies...

I didn’t spend much money at all in the Bookroom/Dealers Room all weekend. I felt that it would be like a bursting dam if I did. One book would be the beginning of a huge avalanche – and I didn’t fancy dragging it all home on the train. Books are HEAVY. The fabulous convention baggie with all of its book, magazine, and t-shirt contents already weighed a ton and would take days of mooching through the reading material when I got home. I did however, discover a vintage Baynard Kendrick “Duncan MacLain – Blind Detective” novel which I duly purchased and promptly read after a victory lap around the Bookroom. Kendrick’s novels are hard to find, but by gum, they’re a damned good read. Witness bleary-eyed me the next two days.

Patty and Me...
Saturday dawned and Bob tooled off to forage for breakfast and art, while I tootled on down to the lavishly food-appointed Hospitality suite. I was sitting with my coffee and yoghurt, people watching when a name tag on the balcony above caught my eye. I stood up and said “Patty! There you are.” She blinked and looked down, and then hurried down to say hi. Finally, I got to meet the lovely and talented Patricia Smiley face to face. She writes the Tucker Sinclair series and is blog-leader on the Naked Authors site. Patty also likes my recipes, and is, strangely enough, partial not only to making my fruitcake, but eating it. We had a great chat over breakfast, and then, full of enthusiasm, she dragged me off to meet people. I love this woman to death. Patty introduced me thus: “Oh, *** you must meet Marianne Plumridge. She’s working on her first mystery novel, and she is also a wonderful artist. Marianne also comments on Naked Authors.”…Or variations thereof. And then I got to mention about my book reviews, etc. Patty made everyone give me their business card, and I was mortified to have to admit that I’d already used up the four of mine that were in my card case. I somehow missed packing more. I spent the rest of the weekend scribbling my blog address for anyone who asked. They were all so good natured about it. These people were a lot of fun and so gracious. Patty had to disappear for her panel, and I cruised a bit more.

Remember what I said about people no longer resembling their publicity photos? Well, I’d been looking for a gorgeous red-head while trying to spot Patty, until Jim Born put me right by informing me she’d gone blonde. The heads up really helped, Jim, no pun intended.

Hank Phillippi Ryan and Me...
So, I got to meet the fabulous Hank Phillippi Ryan who is an investigative reporter out of of Boston as well as an Agatha Award winning author; Carolyn Hart, author of the Bailey Ruth mysteries; JoAnna Carl author of the Chocoholic mysteries; Louise Ure, whom I chat to on blog comments lists; Karen E. Olson; and Jerry Healey and a whole plethora of other people that morning. Thanks so much, Patty.

Reading passing name badges made me just a bit awestruck as there were so many I knew from browsing bookshelves and reading magazines and reviews. A very brilliant constellation of stars, to be sure.

Patty, Hank, and me....

Main corridor of the convention hall - which looks about a quarter busy than it actually was!
It was really, really crowded most of the time, but the orderly line you see here is everyone lining up to get books signed by Lawrence Block. Which brings me to...

Lawrence Block signing books for fans....

Jim Born got to talking to my hubby, Bob, and invited us both to the Berkley party on Saturday night in the bar. What a great party! I got to meet a few extra people, and we ran into some we already knew. Apparently Claire Eddy from TOR Books had already run into Bob and he’d told her I was writing a novel, bless his heart. So when I met her at the party she asked me about it. I gave her a short run down, and Claire must have heard something that tweaked her interest, as she asked to read the finished manuscript. I know Claire from the SF conventions and our many years working with TOR, and I know full well not to expect ANYTHING at this stage of my writing career, but WHOOHOO anyway. It was a nice boost to my otherwise humble ego.

Bob and Jim Born...

Claire Eddy and I...

Other things I did, saw, or people I met:

- I attended the huge opening reception on the Thursday night and got to see many awards presented. The Barry’s, the Macavity’s, and the Crimespree Magazine awards. Major author Laura Lippman and convention guest of honor welcomed us and gave a great speech. Toastmaster, Mark Billingham, who is an brilliant English mystery author as well as a leading professional standup comedian was a total hoot.

- I talked to several authors in passing, and lunched by chance with an absolutely lovely lady called Maggie Toussaint. Maggie writes across genres from romance to mystery and suspense. We traded information. I will be ordering at least one of her books this week, and am looking forward to reading it.

- I forced myself not to say perkily “I’m a writer!” at every given opportunity. Apparently this is what newbies and first time convention goers say when asked. Fully aware of my few pro publishing sales – in a totally different field – I tried to be diginified and say “I write”, and then proceed to tell briefly about my few articles, short stories, and my ongoing book reviews. I spent a lot of time scribbling my blogsite address. Curse the missing business cards!

- One thing I found was that everyone is eager to share news and information, laugh together over things, and genuinely enjoy each others company at this convention. I started as many conversations as were started with me and thoroughly enjoyed them all. It was really heartening.

- I have soooo many books to buy and read now, and have started bookmarking author websites and blogs to peruse on a regular basis – just from listening to people talk on panels or talking to them personally.

- I went to the Anthony Awards Brunch on the Sunday and chatted over lunch to two lovely English ladies. One was Natasha Cooper, author of the Trish Maguire novels. I scribbled down my blog address yet again and she did the same for her website as she too had run out of cards.

- Received a copy of a Lawrence Block novel with my lunch, and was given an ARC (advanced reading copy) of Barry Eisler’s new novel, FAULT LINE, on the way out of the brunch. I read Eisler’s on the way home on the train and it isn’t even due out till next February. Gotta figure out the book reviewing policies on that one, as I WILL review it, it was so good.

There is so much to digest. Most of all, though, I really want to get cracking on writing my own novel.

So, cheers for now,

Labels: , , , , , , ,