A Deadly, Dark, Twisty, Chilling Story

Kate Flora: At a seminar on marketing this past weekend, sponsored by Sisters in Crime, presenter Jess Lourey emphasized the importance of that back cover copy or descriptive blurb, including the startling information that on Amazon, we authors can edit or update it. Wow. Then she gave us the “in class” assignment of writing a short, medium, and long synopsis for one of our books.

I confess, right up front, that I hate writing a synopsis, long or short. I would rather write an entire book than struggle with trying to get that story into a few pithy sentences. I almost raised my hand and asked if there was someone we could hire to do the job. But I’m supposed to be a grownup, professional writer, so I bent to the task. The instructions were to build it around the 3C’s–character, conflict, and a cliffhanger.

(An authorial aside here–every day I read the descriptions of books offered on BookBubScreen Shot 2019-04-08 at 7.56.55 AM and they sound like they came out of a can. The hero/heroine’s investigation reveals surprises from the past that threaten to overwhelm. The words like dark, twisty, and chilling appear like clockwork. Now I understand that they’ve studied the blurbs/synosis for twenty top bestsellers and picked up the essential words that seem to draw a reader’s eye.

The book is titled: A Child Shall Lead Them. In ten minutes, this is what I produced.


Portland, Maine detective Joe Burgess has sworn he’ll work no more cases involving child victims. The discovery of a young girl’s mutilated body changes that, sending him on a quest that will will turn up four more trafficking victims the search for fifth child who is still missing.


After a series of horrific cases involving children, Portland, Maine detective Joe Burgess has said “No more brutalized children.” The discovery of a young girl’s body in a city park changes that. As he tries to identify the headless, handless victim using her unique tattoo, the search leads to an empty house and four helpless girls chained in a basement. Then the girls tell him that a fifth girl–a child name Isabella–is still missing.


Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 7.56.31 AMAfter a series of horrific cases involving children, Portland, Maine detective Joe Burgess has said “No more.” Then his Fourth of July picnic is spoiled by a body in a local park. His challenge? To identify the brutalized young girl when the body is missing both head and hands.

When a man purporting to be looking for his missing foster daughter contacts the police, suspicious officers follow him to an abandoned hour, where they discover four young girls chained in the basement. A fifth girl, their little sister, is still missing.

Burgess and his team must race against time to identify their victim, find the men who trafficked the girls, and locate the still missing Isabella. Then Burgess’s young niece, Cherry, who wants to be a cop someday, decides to “help out” by doing some sleuthing on her own, and delivers herself into the hands of men who sell young girls for sex.

So now, a chance to see whether my first attempt will draw a reader’s eye. And if not, you, dear reader, are free to offer edits and suggestions. Your suggestions are also welcome on these possible cover photos.Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 7.57.15 AM

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18 Responses to A Deadly, Dark, Twisty, Chilling Story

  1. Having read the book, I think all three do a great job of summing it up and grabbing the reader.

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Kate — My suggestion would be “the shorter the better.” And …. I just want to read the book!

  3. Bob says:


    I actually liked your first and shortest back-flap description the best. (I’m an advocate of Alfred Hitcock’s motto, “Make them wait.”) Though I admit it’s not always easy as a writer to keep from telling too much too soon. I played with editing (shortening) your second description: “After a series of horrific cases involving children, Portland, Maine detective Joe Burgess has sworn: “No more brutalized children.” A young girl’s body discovered in a city park changes that. As he works to identify the headless, handless victim using her unique tattoo, the search leads to an empty house and four girls chained in the basement. Then he learns a fifth child, Isabella–is still missing.” I look forward to seeing you at the Mystery Writers Conference in November. We met there last year. I worked with Dick Cass as a volunteer.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I loved them all, oh well.

  5. Monica says:

    So, maybe I’m too sensitive, but I won’t even look thru a book that has the word ‘brutalized’ on the cover. It might work out that the book is about brutality, but I won’t read it.

    I like the long version minus ‘brutalized’ and I’d take out the ‘race against time’ because that one is also overused.

  6. Charlene Fox Clemons says:

    I like the short one the best…brief and to the point. And I like the top photo of the girl looking at the ocean for the cover. Looking forward to reading this next installment.

  7. Reen says:

    The first attracted me. The second one, for me, would have found me thinking… maybe not… for its gruesome description.

  8. Julianne says:

    I want just enough info to make me flip open the book and catch a few paragraphs. Bob’s rewrite of #2 did it for me. The girl looking at her leg tattoo suggests a young, independent individual who may or may not have a supportive family waiting for her to show up for supper and certainly hasn’t yet been abused by sex traffickers. I’d go with that one.

  9. Kate Flora says:

    Of course when I sent the pics to the book designer, she said oops. We already did the cover and forgot to consult you.

  10. Hi Kate
    Wow! Do I want to read this book! When is it coming out? Please let me know when I can get a copy.
    Now I have a question about my own new book, The Murder Blog– definitely not part of my 3-book cozy series! The book has an investigative reporter who hosts a crime-solving blog, a psychic gravedigger and — my problem — a serial child killer (10-to-13-year-old girls). Recently, I’ve been advised that agents/editors, etc. don’t want novels that deal with murdered children. I really don’t want to make the victims older (say, 15 or 16). Now that I’ve read your description of your new book, should I think that child victims in a mystery are ok? I’d so very much appreciate your input on this– if it’s not too much to ask.
    Sandy Gardner

    • Sandy…I think many novels deal with murdered children. I’m assuming you’ve moved on from cozy mysteries…because for sure that’s not a cozy topic. Hard to predict what an agent will like these days, so you have to write what you’re compelled to/drawn to write, I think. But I am no expert.

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