Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tricia Fields

Tricia Fields lives in a log cabin on a small farm with her husband and two daughters. She was born in Hawaii but has spent most of her life in small town Indiana, where her husband is an investigator with the state police. A lifelong love of Mexico and the desert southwest lead to her first book, The Territory, which won the Tony Hillerman Award for Best Mystery. Scratchgravel Road, the follow-up to The Territory, was released last month. Fields is currently working on the fourth book in the series, Fire Break, featuring border town Chief of Police, Josie Gray.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Fields about what she was reading.  The author's reply:
I just finished Ian McEwan’s newest book, Sweet Tooth. It was a masterpiece – a perfect mix of mystery, romance, intrigue – all wrapped up in McEwan’s beautiful prose. As in all of the books I’ve read from McEwan, I was amazed at the structure, at the way he unwraps the story so that the ending not only has impact, but leaves the reader in a satisfied state of wonder.

In the first paragraph, the reader receives the set up for the mystery, and the rest of the book slowly unfolds Serena Frome’s story all the way through the last sentence: the most satisfactory ending I’ve read in many years. Following is the first paragraph:
My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost 40 years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British Security Service. I didn't return safely. Within eighteen months of joining I was sacked, having disgraced myself and ruined my lover, though he certainly had a hand in his own undoing.
The story is set in London during the cold war, a fascinating time of secrets and double crosses and serious men in dark suits. Serena, who struggles with the limitations of being an intelligent young woman in the 70’s, is recruited for a job with the British Intelligence Service, MI5. Her obsession with books lands her an undercover job in an operation code named Sweet Tooth.

The plot is revealed so smoothly that I don’t want to spoil anything for the reader, but I will say that one of the pleasures of the book is that Serena reads short stories written by her lover. The short stories felt a bit like a bonus read in the middle of the novel.

Sweet Tooth is worth reading for the ending alone. The last 20 pages reveal an alternate reality for the reader, as line by line, the story comes together as a complete surprise. I don’t know anything about McEwan as a writer, but I plan to do some digging. I’m curious to find out how he structures such a seamless plot. I hope to find out it is meticulous planning – at least that means there is hope for the rest of us.
Visit Tricia Fields's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Scratchgravel Road.

--Marshal Zeringue