Query Critique 10

After a weekend off for a family reunion, I’m back! Here’s a word play challenge brought up at the reunion. How many animals can you think of that are named after the thing they do (a fly flies, an ant-eater eats ants)?

And now a query critique (the thing you’re actually here for). In true Irish spirit, comments are in green.


Dear Ms. Nelson:

I submit this query for my 76,000-word thriller, THE EMERALD EYE.

She came to protect a queen. She wasn’t expecting a quest. This hook doesn’t grab me as much as something more specific would. And the fact that it’s in italics is a little distracting.

Texan security specialist Colt Ryder is fixin’ to prove her worth. Colt—named for the gun, not the horse—holsters a fear of heights that almost keeps her from saving the day at the Royal Wedding. I’m not sure I know enough about her to care about the origin of her name, unless it’s important to the story. Her next assignment: Ireland, as part of the advance team for the British monarch’s historic visit. I’m a little intrigued why somebody from Texas is working for the British royals instead of something more homegrown like the secret service. You could either quickly mention it here or just leave the fact that she’s from Texas out of the first sentence. Also, this all seems like stuff that happens before the story rather than being what the story is about. If that’s the case it should either be shortened or cut out.

On a sweep of Dublin Castle, Colt unearths a cryptic letter hinting at the whereabouts of the long-missing Irish Crown Jewels. I think this is the part that should be in the hook. These are the specific details that most grab me out of everything I’ve read so far. She must enlist Chief Archivist Dec O’Brian—the dashing “pirate of the palace”—to help decipher clues hidden everywhere from the Book of Kells to “trad” music. Southern heat meets Celtic cool, and the two warm to each other. This is a great sentence. The IRA, rogue spies, and the Knights of St. Patrick also set their sights on Colt—targeting her as a means to the gems.

Promising the key to unlocking the treasure, Dec escorts Colt into a crypt and…Bam! The door slams shut, leaving her in the dark. How could he? I don’t think this needs to be italicized either.

Turns out, they’re trapped together. After wrangling an escape, the pair dig up the trove on a deserted island (the eerie Ireland’s Eye), only to have their bounty snatched away. Colt pursues the thief to the top of another “Ireland’s Eye”—the Ferris wheel overlooking the River Liffey. Lassoing her fears, Colt wins back the prize and discovers that even a pirate can be a prince. I almost feel like this reveals a little too much. I now feel like I know the ending, which takes away some of the “I need to request this manuscript so that I can find out what happens” feel that you want the reader to have. It sounds like when she first gets locked in the tomb she things Dec did it. If that’s true, I’d maybe leave it there so the reader is wondering if maybe she shouldn’t have trusted him. Or some other sort of cliff hanger.

I am a neurologist who has authored and edited multiple academic books. My debut novel draws from my experience living in Texas and Ireland. THE EMERALD EYE reads like a smart woman’s This suggests that it’s women’s fiction (in addition to being a thriller). I don’t think you need that, though, because I can see this appealing to men as well.“Dublin Da Vinci Code.” Excellent use of the X meets Y formula.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


T.X. Kildare


Um, I don’t think I have any overall comments for this one. I’m just used to writing something down here…

Here’s a picture of the Trinity College Library (home of the Book of Kells mentioned in the query) that I took when I was in Dublin last year instead of a useful comment on the query.


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