Friday, January 18, 2008

Natasha Cooper's "A Greater Evil/Evil is Done"

Natasha Cooper is the author of six historical novels published under another name, the crime novels in the lighthearted Willow King series, and the grittier Trish Maguire crime novels.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her latest novel A Greater Evil (Evil is Done in America), and reported the following:
Page 99:

Chapter 9

On Wednesday Trish was sitting in the Temple Church beside David, listening to the first line of 'Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar'. In spite of the stone vaulting and the muffling effect of the huge crowd, the sound of the solo voice was pure and literally thrilling. She shivered and could feel hairs on the back of her neck stiffening. The other voices of the choir joined in and the effect became a lot more ordinary.

She looked away from the singers, around the rich crowd, and thought how odd it was that they were only a twenty-minute Tube journey from the miserable, impoverished world contained within Holloway's red walls. To her left she could see the life-sized effigies of supporters of the order of Knights Templar, which lay only inches above floor level under the dome. Long legged and dignified in their chain mail and surcoats, they were images of stoicism in suffering.

They reminded her of the voices of the foundlings she'd heard in the museum, which in turn reminded her of how she still hadn't decided what to tell Sam about Maria-Teresa. Would it help him to meet her and see that, even if she had been the woman who'd abandoned him, she was no monster? Or would it stir him up even more? After all, this must be just about the worst time to take any risks with his fragile stability.

The Page 99 Test:

Can you really judge a whole novel from a single page? I wonder. You can, of course, get a flavour of it, and I think page 99 of A Greater Evil/Evil is Done provides that much.

Trish, the main character, is a barrister, which is why she is in the glorious Temple Church in the heart of legal London for the annual carol service. Here, listening to the amazing singing, she is very much aware of the difference between the privileged bunch around her and the miseries endured by inhabitants of Holloway prison, where she has been visiting a woman on remand for the killing of her child.

Like most major cities, London is a place where great wealth exists right next to extreme deprivation of all kinds, and the divide between the two has been a big part of all the novels in the Trish Maguire series. In this one, the gap is symbolised by Sam, who is mentioned at the foot of page 99. He is now a well regarded sculptor, but, as an abused baby, he was dumped on the steps of the Royal London Hospital in one of the poorest parts of the city. The woman in Holloway, Maria-Teresa, has been writing to him, claiming to be the person who left him there and wanting contact and forgiveness, now that he is rich and famous. To add to his miseries, his wife has been killed and he has been accused of her murder....
Read more about the author and her work at Natasha Cooper's website.

--Marshal Zeringue