amastyleinsider

February 6, 2014

Ex Libris: Almost True Confessions

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 11:23 am
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No one appreciates Rannie Bookman. Only a short while ago she was the toast of New York for having solved the mystery of the Chapel School murder (in Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth), but now the media frenzy has faded, and Rannie is just another unemployed and underappreciated freelance copy editor.

There’s no denying it. Rannie is in a slump. She hasn’t felt this low since she was fired from her job at Simon and Schuster for approving a reprint of the Nancy Drew book The Secret of the Old Clock with a crucial letter missing in the last word. Her family thinks she just needs to get back to work. “You’re not Nancy Drew. You’re a copy editor. Stick to that,” her boyfriend Tim tells her. So, when her friend Ellen from Simon and Schuster calls to offer her some freelance work, Rannie jumps at the chance. Maybe this will give her a sense of purpose again. But mystery repeats itself when Rannie’s work leads her into dangerous territory in Almost True Confessions: Closet Sleuth Tells All.

In this second book in the Rannie Bookman series, written by Jane O’Connor, Ellen offers Rannie a job copyediting a tell-all book about aged socialite Charlotte Cummings written by the gossip-wielding biographer Ret Sullivan. Rannie is intrigued, not only with the subject but also with the author. Ret Sullivan was renowned for destroying careers and lives with her books, but Ret’s own life was ravaged when an Oscar-winning actor who she revealed to be a child molester had thrown lye in her face, leaving her horribly disfigured. Even if Rannie didn’t need the work, this assignment was too intriguing to pass up.

So Rannie accepts the job and heads over to Ret’s apartment on the Upper East Side of New York to collect the manuscript. However, on arriving at Ret’s apartment, Rannie gets more than she bargained for when she discovers Ret tied to her bed and strangled with a Hermès scarf.  And Ret is just the first life the murderer claims. How can Rannie resist? It’s not her fault murder mysteries practically drop in her lap.

As Rannie starts to sleuth, she is led into the extravagant, moneyed world of high society. She is far from her own world of humble apartments, greasy diners, and working class bars, but she is in her element when it comes to hard-to-crack murder cases. Rannie has found her purpose once again.

Like Dangerous Admissions, Almost True Confessions is replete with details that will charm copy editors. Rannie is still the heroine with an editor’s sensibility and a proofreader’s eye. She still considers her words, and the words of others, carefully: “It flickered through Rannie’s mind that paranoia was by definition never justifiable; however, she held her tongue.” She still expertly knows her parts of speech: “No, no, no. ‘Less’ is an adverb, not an adjective. Far fewer friends visited, and they came less often.”  She is still skilled in word usage: “You’re referring to distance, so it’s farther apart, chided the picky grammar cop lodged in Rannie’s brain. ‘Further’ was for abstract mulling.” She is still in love with all things editing: “Then, too, there were all the wonderful arcane marks and symbols of copyediting. Insertion carets, transposition squiggles, underlining for italics, triple underlining for capitalization. It was like knowing a secret code.”

As Rannie and her creator Jane O’Connor (a long-time editor herself) know, this secret code is not appreciated by everyone. O’Connor writes, “Copyediting was an unglamorous job in publishing. Acquiring editors on the prowl for future Pulitzers and National Book Awards dismissed Rannie and her stickler ilk as the Grammar Gestapo, nothing more than human spellcheckers.” But as Rannie exemplifies, a love of language and a facility in manipulating it can serve you well in all parts of your life. In Rannie’s case, her talents lead her to solve mysteries.

As in Dangerous Admissions, Rannie uses the insight and problem-solving skills gained from years of copy editing work to identify the murderer in Almost True Confessions. She’s not a trained investigator. She’s not a law enforcement professional.  She’s just a copy editor with intense focus and a sharp mind. Rannie is the type of heroine that gives copy editors the appreciation they deserve.—Laura King, MA, ELS

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