A Deliberate Lie

Nancy Churchill

Book Cover

GENRE

ACTION ADVENTURE LGBT CRIME DETECTIVE DRAMA SUSPENSE/THRILLER MYSTERY

    Core Theme

    SURVIVAL/UNCOVERING THE TRUTH/SISTERHOOD

    TIME PERIOD

    Contemporary

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    MUDER, SHE WROTE, JESSICA JONES, VERONICA MARS, CASTLE

    CHARACTER LIST

    MEG PENNINGTON: 20S. LEAD. A SKILLED PRIVATE DETECTIVE. CLEVER, BRAVE FLIRTY, AND DEDICATED TO HER FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

    ANNE: A BANK WORKER THAT REBECCA ANONYMOUSLY BLACKMAILS INTO GETTING CLOSER TO BLAZE, HAVING BLAZE'S DAUGHTER KILLED, AND ULTIMATELY ENDS UP DEAD HERSELF.

    BLAZE: 50S. A BEAUTIFUL, SECRETLY WEALTHY WOMAN WHO POSES AS A POOR LONER. SHE HAS A LONG AFFAIR WITH JACOB, WHICH LEADS TO HER UNTIMELY DEATH.

    JACOB: BLAZE’S LOVER WHO MARRIED A POWERFUL POLITICIAN AND AGREED TO KEEP HIS AFFAIR QUIET. AN ARGUMENT WITH BLAZE LEADS TO HER DEATH.

    REBECCA: JACOB’S LESBIAN WIFE. SHE IS A POWERFUL POLITICIAN WHO WILL DO ANYTHING TO GET AHEAD AND ACHIEVE HER GOALS.

    OTTO: 50S. ANNE’S EX HUSBAND AND THE “EXTERMINATOR” SHE HIRES TO KILL BLAZE’S DAUGHTER ACCORDING TO REBECCA’S INSTRUCTIONS. OTTO IS A CRUDE, ABUSIVE MAN.

    Logline

    Husband of corrupt, lesbian, governor of Arizona, accidentally kills his lover, while the governor hires a hit man to kill his illegitimate daughter. Meg Pennington, private investigator solves the case with the help of her FBI sister.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    Oatman, Bullhead City, AZ and Laughlin, Nv.

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: self-published

    Publisher: Raging River Press

    Year Published: 2016

    Starting Description

    Anne Kincaid, newly appointed assistant manager of a local bank, receives an unsolicited check for $2000 with a cryptic blackmail note attached. "Copy the key to Blaze's safe deposit box." Because of her sordid background she complies. Other demand are forthcoming before she is murdered.

    Ending Description

    An FBI sting is set up in the casino penthouse. With her assistant incapacitated, the governor has to meet the hit man to pay him off. Meg interferes and is taken hostage. The governor shoot the hit man and she is taken into custody.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    No

    ISBN

    13:9780990903017

    Mature Audience Themes

    Language/Profanity,Extreme Violence

    Plot - Other Elements

    Twist

    Plot - Premise

    Tragedy

    Main Character Details

    Name: Meg Pennington

    Age: 23

    Gender: Female

    Role: Antagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Badass,Aggressive,Charming,Sexy,Confident,Blunt,Decisive,Engaging,Outspoken,Skillful,Romantic,Sarcastic,Seductive

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Blaze Jenkins

    Age: 50

    Gender: Female

    Role: Emotional

    Key Traits: Modest,Charming,Complex,Desperate,Romantic,Seductive

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Madison Nelson

    Age: 40

    Gender: Female

    Role: logical

    Key Traits: Aggressive,Complex,Skillful,Heroic,Secretive

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Otto

    Age: 58

    Gender: Male

    Role: protagonist

    Key Traits: Masculine,Badass,Villainous,Crazy,Criminal,Blunt,Secretive,Lone Wolf

    Development Pitch

    Drop into Oatman, Arizona, a ghost town since the rerouting of Route 66, where Blaze's mother ran the last brothel in town. She dies. Blaze takes over the 'business at age 18, meets Jacob the first night, and becomes involved in a 40 year relationship. His marriage of convenience to the governor of Az works out for all involved since she is a lesbian. 'No kids, no public displays,' is all she demanded. Unbeknown to Jacob, Blaze delivers a daughter. Now she learns she is dying and wants to meet the girl. Jacob and Blaze argue, she falls over a balcony and dies. He panics, drives the body back to Oatman and leaves her in the donkey pen. Meanwhile, the corrupt governor is running out of money, hires Otto through the dark web. He murders the bank clerk, and the daughter, and sets up the transfer of Blaze's millions from her gold mine. Meg,,hired by Blaze to locate the missing daughter, is caught up in all the action. The FBI sets up a sting to trap the govenor. Excellent Otto skills are involved.

    Genre

    ACTION, SUSPENSE, THRILLER, ROMANCE, LGBT

    Brief

    A private investigator is hired to locate a woman's estranged adopted daughter. When her client is found dead under suspicious circumstances, the PI uncovers a vast and deadly conspiracy. The PI and her police officer sister follow a trail of deceit and bodies back to the governor of Arizona, who blackmailed and organized murders in an effort to make money for an upcoming election. They work together to catch the governor in the midst of a crime, and they escape with their lives.

    Overall Rating

    GOOD

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: GOOD

    Commerciality: GOOD

    Franchise Potential: GOOD

    Pace: GOOD

    Premise: FAIR

    Structure: FAIR

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    The Development Pitch is not as concise or clear as it could be. It would benefit the Book Profile to simplify the pitch and stress the narrative strengths of this book. Otherwise, the Book Profile accurately reflects the book.

    Draw of Story

    The writing in this story is confident and enjoyable, and Meg is a fun protagonist. She's very bold and active, which makes for a fast-paced narrative that keeps readers hooked.

    Possible Drawbacks

    Some of the characters in this book feel a bit one dimensional, which can distract from the smart plot and pacing of the book. Rebecca, for example, feels irrationally evil. Because the other characters in this book are fairly grounded and nuanced, it really stands out when one character doesn’t have much depth. Otto also feels surface level and more outlandish than most characters in this book. There are also some moments that don’t feel professionally believable. Rachael telling her colleagues not to touch anything on Anne’s body, but then immediately asking Mark to help her move the body, for example, doesn’t feel realistic.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY DOES NOT RELY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The plot is the hook of this book. It is full of unexpected twists and turns that readers will never see coming. It feels very much like a classic detective/crime story. Readers/viewers never really know who to trust. It's a thrilling and exciting ride that would be a lot of fun on the big screen.

    Fanbase Potential

    With a strong female protagonist, a large ensemble cast, and a thrilling detective story at its core, it's easy to imagine this film finding a solid audience. At the moment, it probably won't appeal to viewers who don't already enjoy detective thrillers/mysteries though, since it's pretty standard for the genre and doesn't offer anything groundbreaking or brand new. It's a solid detective offering though, and fans of the genre would certainly show up to watch it.

    Awards Potential

    The writing in the book currently makes the characters feel a little too campy and outlandish to attract awards attention. In many ways, this project feels more like a summer blockbuster.

    Envisioned Budget

    LOW BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    MUDER, SHE WROTE, JESSICA JONES, VERONICA MARS

    What’s New About the Story

    Meg is an extremely unique main character, and the largely female cast of characters also makes this story feel refreshing and original. Some characters feel quite generic though, such as Otto, and making every character as nuanced as possible would make this book feel more original overall.

    Lead Characters

    Meg is gutsy, honest, and empowering. Though she's been through a lot, she always throws herself into whatever problem she's working to solve. Her fun, snappy dialogue makes her stand out, as does her ability to stay one step ahead of nearly everyone else.

    Uniqueness of Story

    For fans of female-led detective stories, this is absolutely a rare gem. It is a rare gem for readers looking for an unpredictable plot with a lot of twists as well. However, for general readers, it may still need further character development and some tweaks to feel more realistic before it can be called a rare gem.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Studio, Indie, Streaming TV Series: Limited Run / Mini-Series

    Analyst Recommendation

    CONSIDER

    Justification

    Though this project has its weaknesses, the idea, characters, and fast-paced plot has a ton of potential. It's worth considering the project even if it could still be stronger.

    Brief

    A private detective is hired to find a woman’s long-lost daughter, but when the woman is killed by her secret lover, the PI uncovers a conspiracy that involves a politician, the FBI, and deadly blackmail.

    What We Liked

    This is a thrilling book with strong writing and great pacing. The plot is orchestrated like a detailed and precise puzzle; by the end, everything fits together in a satisfying way. Twists and turns along the way keep the story unexpected and original. The female PI main character, Meg, is a tough, inspiring, and engaging character. Readers/viewers will find it easy to root for her. Little details about her personality, such as her undying love for her Mini Cooper, make her feel real and make her all the more likable.

    Film: This project has a clear beginning, middle, and end, complete with a fulfilling ending and would be great for a film adaptation. Casting a major actor in the role of Meg would make the project prime for franchise potential as well, since the ending leaves the door open for future movies to come.

    TV: It would be almost effortless to turn this project into a limited run miniseries. The pacing of action and unexpected twists would fit flawlessly into an episodic structure. The ending is complete enough to feel satisfying for a season finale, but open-ended enough to suggest that Meg isn't done yet. These characters have enough emotional, romantic, and professional drama to carry a show.

    Key points:
    1. Engaging main character.
    2. Surprising and exciting plot.
    3. Fast pace.
    4. Strong themes of survival, strength, and sisterhood.
    5. Likable and original cast of supporting characters.

    Synopsis

    We meet Anne Kincaid as she talks on the phone to Uni, an unknown person using a voice modulator, who has called to blackmail her. Anne is clearly not a wealthy woman. She lives in a rundown area with her mother. When she checks the mail, Anne finds a check for $2,000 and a note detailing that the caller needs her help with something and will pay her more when it’s done. Anne is baffled, but she takes the money. She also receives a package and a note saying she must take the package to the bank where she works.

    Anne is then told to copy the key to a customer’s safety deposit box. Anne copies Blaze’s key as she’s told but makes copies of what she finds in the box. The caller tells Anne she must shred the copies, and Anne’s mom calls to say her cat has been brutally attacked. Anne wants to be done with Uni, but Uni continues making demands. Anne only gives in after she learns that her mother has been injured in a hit and run.

    Meanwhile, Meg Pennington, a private detective, arrives at work, where she finds Blaze waiting to propose a job. Blaze tells Meg that she’s had a relationship with Jay, a man married to a powerful politician, for years. They’re in love and allowed to be together provided they aren’t seen together and they don’t have children. Blaze did have a child though, 30 years ago, and she gave her up for adoption. Blaze has cancer now and many regrets. She wants Meg to find her child. Meg agrees.

    Uni wants Anne to find an exterminator, so she goes to a local bar in search of one. The only one available is Otto, her rotten ex-husband. He agrees to the job though, and she gives him a phone to use to contact Uni.

    Back with Meg, readers learn she has found Blaze’s daughter. Her name is Michelle and she’s in the hospital after a recent surgery. Blaze and Meg go to the hospital to speak with her. The meeting is successful and Meg leaves the mother and daughter to talk privately. She arranges to meet some friends at the Oasis Casino to celebrate.

    When Blaze gets home, she prepares for Jay to come over to her home. Readers learn about Jay’s loveless marriage with Rebecca, a politician who is not interested in men and therefore doesn't normally care about Jay’s relationship with Blaze.

    That evening, tragedy strikes when Otto sneaks into Michelle’s room and murders her, just as Uni’s instructed. It strikes again when Jacob accidentally kills Blaze during an argument. She falls from the balcony. An accident, but also Jacob’s fault. He puts the body in a case in his trunk. All the while, Madison, a woman hired by Rebecca to follow Jacob has witnessed everything. She calls and tells Rebecca what happened.

    Once Madison gets back to Rebecca, she learns that Rebecca is Uni. She knew about Blaze and her daughter, and she’s been posing as Uni because she needs the money for her upcoming political race.

    Jacob leaves Blaze’s body at her small home and tells Rebecca he broke it off with her. Blaze’s body is discovered. Meg has lunch with her sister Rachael, who works for the police force and learns of Blaze’s death.

    Meg is in charge of Blaze’s estate, so she meets with Mark Warner, a lawyer, about it. They find another birth certificate in Blaze’s safe deposit. It seems Michelle wasn’t her only child. Meg goes to the hospital and learns of Michelle’s death. She suspects foul play and demands an autopsy. Afterwards, Meg arranges to meet some friends at the Oasis Casino. On her way there, she thinks about her past trauma when a murderer kidnapped and held her against her will. He was jailed and later presumed dead due to a fire, but Meg doesn’t fully believe that he’s gone. At the bar, Meg cuts loose and arranges with her friends Mike and Jerry to guard Blaze’s shack from potential thieves. They take a boat to the house the next day and discover that it’s been burned to the ground.

    Back with Madison and Rebecca, it becomes clear that they planted the birth certificate in Blaze’s security box. Madison plans to dress up in a disguise and pose as Blaze’s long lost daughter. Madison has doubts though, and she begins taping her conversations with Rebecca.

    While Meg looks into Blaze’s death and her house fire, Mark tries to track down the doctor listed on the birth certificate. Meg finds a diary at Blaze’s house. Meanwhile, Jay tells Rebecca about the diary, and she orders Otto to find it. He breaks into Meg’s car, but the diary isn’t there. Meg and Mark grow closer after he comforts her upon discovering her damaged car.

    Rachael and Meg work together to uncover the fact that someone tampered with Blaze’s security box. Together, they get closer and closer to the truth and they begin to suspect Anne. Otto keeps trying to get the diary from Meg and finally resorts to causing her to crash her rental car. Meg is shaken up, but okay. She manages to keep the diary and she and Rachael begin reading it and learning about Blaze’s love for Jay.

    The next day, Otto tries to shoot Meg but she evades him. Mark tracks down the address of Madison, who is posing as Blaze’s daughter. Mark knows the nurse who gave him the address must be lying though. She remembers too much.

    Meg and Rachael decide to call Anne for questioning, but Otto has already murdered her per Rebecca’s request. Things get more dire when Otto kidnaps Meg from her dentist appointment and drives away with her.

    Rachael tries to track down Meg while Mark meets with Madison. Her lies don’t fool him at all. When Rebecca hears about the meeting, she keeps her calm. But she begins to lose it when she learns that Otto has kidnapped Meg.
    All the while, Jacob has been grieving Blaze and growing angrier at Rebecca. He decides to kill her and he researches poison. It is revealed that Rebecca knows about this research though, and she is still presumably one step ahead.

    When Meg regains awareness in Otto’s car, he allows her to call Rachael. Using coded language, she alerts her sister to the situation. Luckily, Rachael’s partner, Josh, is near Otto and Meg’s location. They storm Otto and manage to rescue Meg. Otto is shot, but he survives. When Rachael calls Mark and informs him, he is relieved and keeps digging into Madison’s past. He realizes that the governor may be involved in this plot. They’re getting closer.

    Things get complicated when Otto escapes though. Before anyone knows he’s gone, he steals a boat and makes a quick getaway. He calls Rebecca and threatens to reveal her identity. She promises him more money, but she also asks him to kill Jacob. He agrees. Jay leaves to go to Blaze’s funeral and Rebecca tells Otto to take him out there. Madison overhears this conversation. She speaks in secret to a man with a deep voice. Madison is working for the FBI.

    Madison goes to the funeral dressed as Blaze and Jacob’s fake daughter. She tips Jacob off about the danger he’s in. He secretly wears a bulletproof vest and pretends to get shot. Otto gets away and is paranoid because he knows he didn’t pull the trigger.

    Madison tells Meg and Rachael that she’s been investigating Rebecca for a long time. They’re close to taking her (and others) down. She informs them of her plan and they all pretend that Jacob really is indeed dead. Rebecca believes she has succeeded.

    Madison organizes an operation in which Otto and Rebecca will meet at the Casino and Rebecca will be apprehended. It goes wrong when Otto kidnaps Meg though, and brings her to the meeting. Rachael manages to save the day and rescue Meg. Otto is killed and Rebecca is apprehended. Jacob will probably only get probation for Blaze’s accidental death. In the end, Meg decides to end things with Mark and continue her pursuit of action and criminal adventure.

    About The Author

    Nancy Churchill, a graduate of Cal State Fullerton, draws on her personal experience with the unique landscape of Bullhead City and the Colorado River to craft the Pennington sisters mystery novels. She credits her grandchildren as a source of inspiration and happiness in her life. She currently resides in Orange County, CA.