Friday, May 9, 2008

Katherine Howell's "The Darkest Hour"

Katherine Howell's first book, Frantic, was released by Pan Macmillan in May 2007 in Australia, with publication slated for 2008/09 in France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new novel, The Darkest Hour, and reported the following:
From Page 99:

Ella had to get out of bed again to find the phone book and look up the hospital switch number. They put her through to her mother's room.

'Hi, Mum.'

'Ella! Are you okay?'

'Actually I'm exhausted,' she said, the phone between the pillow and her ear. 'I've been up since yesterday morning.'

'They shouldn't work you so hard.'

'It was my choice to stay, it's a big case.' Ella said, her eyes closed. 'How's your infection?'

'Fine, good, all gone.'


'Did you ask about holidays?'

'I can't, Mum, with this case.'

'They don't need everyone on it, do they?'

Ella yawned hugely. She could feel sleep creeping up on her again. 'I'm really sorry but I have to go.'

'Well, if you have to.'

'I'm sorry, Mum. I'll talk to you tomorrow.'

She dropped the phone onto the floor and snuggled deeper under the covers. At last, a big case, I have my big case ...

Joe had the ambulance running when Lauren rushed up minutes before six. She jumped in and slammed the door and Joe accelerated out of the station.

'We're backing up day shift at a burns case in Darlo. Everyone else is tied up.' He roared down George Street. 'Night's going to be shit if the start's any indication.'

Lauren tried to clear her mind. She wouldn't be able to talk to Joe until the job was over. 'Is it a bad one?'

Joe nodded. 'Attempted suicide.' He braked hard as a pedestrian ran across the street in front of them. 'Guy tipped petrol on himself and lit it. He's in an eighth-floor penthouse and the lift's stuffed.'

Lauren took a deep breath. The case would take an hour at least. Then they might have to come back to the station and shower and change. Bad burns left crews smelling like cooked meat, and not in a good way.

So we won't get to talk for a while. Put it to the back of your mind, try not to stew.

As if that was even remotely possible.

Page 99 of The Darkest Hour is a little more than a quarter into the book, and by this point paramedic Lauren Yates is struggling with a bunch of problems. First she found her sister's ex, Thomas Werner, covered in blood beside a murdered man and was threatened into silence, and then she and her colleague Joe fought to save a stabbing victim who told her with his last breaths that Werner attacked him too.

Detective Ella Marconi is thrilled to land this stabbing murder case, and believes Lauren to be the perfect witness because she can testify to the dead man's words.

On this page we see how Ella's also a little stressed by family pressures, and how Lauren is planning to tell Joe that Werner has made new threats. Events conspire to send these plans awry, however, and instead, the following day sees Lauren at the homicide office, begging, to Ella's horror, to take back her statement.

I believe Ford's Page 99 test is applicable here as the pressure is slowly increasing on the characters on this page and the decisions they make while under that pressure lead to further problems. Both these qualities are true of the whole book.
Read an excerpt from The Darkest Hour, and learn more about the author and her work at Katherine Howell's website.

The Page 69 Test: Frantic.

--Marshal Zeringue