Blood Rubies, Jane K. Cleland

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Ok, I am not a huge fan of amateur sleuth "cozies" these days, but I wanted to read one of Jane K. Cleland's Antiques mysteries because I've been reading her "Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot" for writers. I confess I am mystified. Cleland lays out a "road map" for mysteries/suspense authors, premised on a 300-325 page book, with specific page locations for subplot 1, subplot 2, and the "TRD" (twist, reversal, danger) points in the main plot, along with the climax and resolution.

I usually like to start with the first book in a series instead of mid-stream, but I thought I'd pick one far enough in that Cleland would have clearly established her plotting. "Blood Rubies" is 290 pages, but even adjusting from the original 300-325, I'm stumped. I'm not even clear what constitutes the two subplots: the daily activities of Josie's antiques appraisal business?

Cleland writes that usually one of her two subplots involves Josie's relationship with her romantic interest/boyfriend Ty, but I couldn't track it according to her page numbers, and at this stage (book #9 in her series), there seemed to be no drama/plot movement to their relationship. There are a couple points at which Josie is in danger, but I failed to connect with a sense of suspense, which surprised me.

In the end, what got under my skin, and this is just part of the sub-genre, is that in the world of police procedurals, there is almost always an uncomfortably tense relationship between the police and the press, but in this world, Josie practically had the chief of police and the local newspaper reporter on speed dial, sharing information liberally between them. I kept waiting for Chief Hunter to come down on her like a ton of bricks, but he never did, even when she's snapping photos of the big arrest to pass onto Wes for publication.

What I did pick up on in the book was Cleland's emphasis in "Mastering Suspense" on including sensory details in each scene to give the reader a "you are here" feeling. For me, these were so overt (the addition of a pitcher of lemonade, a character mentioning she loves 'the shushing' of pine needs as you walk through them), that I got yanked out from the story. Not my style; clearly with several writing awards and 11 books currently in her Josie series she's a popular author. It was fascinating to be able to read the "insider" view - an author telling you what she's doing - and then read one of her books, even if I didn't totally get it.