Friday, January 15, 2010

Buzz-Buzz, MS Buzz


Yes, I'm reviewing a manuscript. I'm not sure many people have done this on blogs, so - here goes! (I think I'll call this 'book PREviews'.)

Where There's Smoke is an Irish mystery by Cathy Cole. The story follows firefighter Jo Woods as she races to uncover the arsonist who has a distinctive signature and keeps one step ahead of her -- until he turns his attention to getting her off his heels.

Where There's Smoke is very well written. The pacing is right. The twists are unpredictable. All the bits are tied up nicely in the end. It is as any good mystery should be.

Throughout the ms Cathy kept the reader right along side Jo as she pieces together the clues and makes sense of them.

Cathy eases her readers into the story with the first word by putting them inside the breathing suit, looking through the mask at an inferno of flames and smoke, while Jo and her partner frantically search the house for the sleeping family. Jo ignores the call to get out, then is thrown to the grown from the second story by the explosion. That'll teach her to not listen. (I might have misused the word 'eases'?)

Jo isn't the only one who doesn't listen. She is sure she saw something that fits with other 'accidental' house fires, tying them together. Not only will no one listen to her, she doesn't know who to trust. You have to admit it takes a well informed arsonist to make fires look like accidents to the fire inspector. Maybe they are accidents. She did hit her head hard in the explosion.

I love Cathy's wordsmith abilities. Rather than long, boring bios of the characters, she tells the readers exactly what they need to know - and nothing more than needed at the time: Flanders is the type of guy who could start a war in heaven.

And look how smoothly Cathy transitions from telling to showing in this bit: Voices were screaming her name. Saying it over and over again until it rolled into one confused word.
‘Jo! Jo! Jojojojo!’

I've read WTS twice now. The first time was a year ago and it needed a few rewrites. In this reading the rewrites have tightened the pace and the story beautifully.

Both times I couldn't figure out who the antagonist was until the very end as the cast of suspects was weeded out one-by-one in the final few pages, while the brigade rushes to save a family from the cunning fires of the murderous arsonist.

Not to offend anyone, but I have never read a better manuscript - not even mine (and I'm a damn good writer). That is why I pleaded with Cathy to let me write a review.

You'll have to watch for this one. It is sure to get published. I hope it comes to America too. It is an amazing read. Well done, Cathy!

Quirky? Will it catch on? I'm just wondering. So what do you think of the idea of an MS review? I might do a couple of them this year.


  1. What great pre-promotion this is! I should mention the idea in my next book on book promotion.
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Blogging writers resources at Writer's Digest 101 Best Website pick

  2. Great review, Nadine. And a great idea. You can review my manuscript anytime you like. ;)


  3. Foxy, darling...I might just do that. I have three ahead of you and I take my time with them.

  4. Well, if I haven't found a publisher by the time you have a slot free, just let me know.

  5. It's a superb novel - I've read one of the earlier draft MSs too - and couldn't agree with Nadine more about the way Cathy gets your attention or the characters straight away.


  6. A great review which would make me want to buy the book and seeing as I live in England...

    Great idea Nadine.


  7. Thanks everyone.

    Foxy, then I will review your book! *wink*

  8. Carolyn,

    Is there a supplement to your book coming? Need a beta reader?

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  10. Wow, what a great review, Nadine, thank you. I'm delighted that you enjoyed Where There's Smoke.

    Writers can become too close to their work (as I'm sure you know)so it's great to get another opinion.

    Your comments have given me a real boost.

    Cathy Cole

  11. Cathy,
    Why do you think I stalked you for days until you agreed to let me write a review? The story line was good to start with, but you've really polished this ms to make it pop! So many people rush their work out, when one more rewrite would take it to the top level.

    Writing like this is every publisher's dream. Hope you find a good one soon.

  12. From your lips to a publishers'

    Thanks Nadine.

    You said at the beginning of your blog that you might do a few more reviews. Have you another MS in mind? Are you already busy reading?

    If you are, can I have a sneaky peak?

  13. Oh sure...but you didn't sign your name. I will probably do 4 or so ms reviews a year. I read more than that, of course, but most aren't as finished as this one was. I think this one is ready for an agent's eyes.