Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #96


A MATTER OF TASTE
COZY MYSTERY
63,000 WORDS
 Query:

A restaurant owner couldn’t possibly be murdered for having veal and farmed salmon on her menu—at least so thinks Sally Solari, a civil attorney who practically grew up in the kitchen of an old-style Italian eatery. But now she’s beginning to wonder if maybe she’s wrong.

A Matter of Taste juxtaposes the world of a traditional, family-run restaurant with that of trendy, politically-correct foodies. Sally’s Aunt Letta has been found stabbed to death at Gauguin, a swank Polynesian-French restaurant in Santa Cruz, California, and Sally is astounded to learn she has inherited the place. When the Gauguin sous-chef becomes the prime suspect in Letta’s murder, Sally—utterly unprepared to run the restaurant without his expertise and convinced of his innocence—agrees to investigate on his behalf.

Delving into her enigmatic aunt’s past, Sally is thrown into the unfamiliar world of organic and sustainable farming, Chez Panisse-style restaurants, and animal rights activists. Not to mention a lesbian love affair her Aunt Letta had been hiding from the family. As she gathers clues on her way to solving the case, Sally begins to shed her preconceived notions about the “food movement,” ultimately coming to appreciate that not all of what these zealots have to say is so crazy after all.

First 150 Words: 

“It wasn’t only that he severely pruned the Angel’s Trumpet...”
Wanda Eldridge—a fussy woman just this side of elderly with a fresh perm and, from where I was sitting at least, way too much eau de cologne—was on a roll. Leaning forward, she glared at the gray-suited attorney seated across the table from her. “He also hacked back—I mean, you should see them—he positively mutilated my beautiful Westerland roses.”
Agitated though Wanda was, my mind kept wandering off. Maybe I should have listened to my dad, after all. Maybe instead of hightailing it off to law school as soon as I finished college I should have just stayed put at the family restaurant. Rolling out pasta and serving plates of osso buco to hungry tourists wouldn’t be such a bad life...
A remote part of my brain observed as Wanda leaned back in her chair, adjusted the cuffs of her floral-patterned chiffon blouse, and sniffed.

5 comments:

amycavenaugh said...

I really like this idea, although I must confess I don't read a lot of cozy mysteries. I have no suggestions for the query - I think it works well and I would be interested to read more.

I'm not sure about starting the story w/ this other lady, who is described brilliantly. I am wondering who she is and what she has to do with the story. It seems the third paragraph with the MC's thoughts explains that this is a setup for "maybe I should have stayed back at the family restaurant" & then she's going to get the chance to see what might have been? Is that a correct assumption? Maybe start with that thought process, then lead into Wanda?

Brittany Pate said...

I have one teeny tiny suggestion for your query. "A Matter of Taste juxtaposes the world of a traditional, family-run restaurant with that of trendy, politically-correct foodies." I would maybe move that into the paragraph in your query where you're talking about genre, word count and your credentials. The first paragraph served to draw me into the query, but the opening sentence of the second pushed me out.

Otherwise, I think your query looks great!

First 150: I have been cautioned (and maybe even reprimanded) for starting my manuscript with dialog. As much as I wanted to ignore that advice, I've seen more interest in it since I took the dialog out. I love the description of Wanda, especially the "just this side of elderly". Great job!

Jessica Peterson said...

I love your title! I like your hook too but I think it would do just as well without this part "a civil attorney who practically grew up in the kitchen of an old-style Italian eatery"

Other than that I love it!!!I think you have a great use of language and an interesting story line. Good job and good luck :)

Michael McDuffee said...

I'm torn on this one. On one hand, I like the flow of the query. I think it's got good balance and introduces the reader to the story pretty well. On the other hand, I feel like it's hiding the importance of the big idea... this is a murder mystery. Other than the first line, you might not even notice that someone was killed from the query. It's more about restaurants, fine dining, food trends, and the quirky and interesting people inhabiting the world of the modern gourmand.

I think you need to focus more on the plot and less on the setting. The lesbian love affair is interesting (and dropped in perfectly, information-wise). Despite the quirkiness, all the talk about restaurants made my mind start to drift, and it really shouldn't in the query. This is a murder mystery (and a short one at that); it's thrilling by definition.

MPH2003 said...

The first line of the query definitely grabs my attention. In fact, the query is just the right amount of explanation and fun. I really like the lesbian love affair and the factory farming angles that are also going on here--just enough to keep the reader on her toes. I would definitely read this mystery.

I agree with some of the other comments regarding the first line of the 150 words. Starting with someone else's dialogue can be a bit confusing. But I like the dialogue itself. And her internal monoglue definitely gives us a sense of her voice.