Drawing Red

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Logline or Premise
Facing homelessness, Lucy (17) takes a job as a little artistic interpreter. But when her charge (a naïve tree spirit) is kidnapped, her home, intergalactic peace & her wolfishly handsome flat-mate are on the line. She must speak. But is she Little Red Riding Hood or the Red Queen?
First 10 Pages

Chapter One: In Good Company

Her mobile buzzed in her pocket, guitars blaring. They always contacted unsuccessful applicants later in the day, as she’d learned from many near escapes. But now came the hard part: hiding her relief from her parents. Show time.

Dropping her pen on the pad, she put on her best hopeful expression and swiped up. “Hello?”


“No, it’s OK. I understand.”

“You, too. Bye.”

She sat her phone on her sketchpad then made a beeline for the kettle, praying her audience wouldn’t see through the charade.

“Well?” her mother asked.

Lucy dropped a tea bag into a cup. She needed chamomile for this one.

“The manager said someone else was a better fit for the role,” she said, fumbling as she put the box up on the rack.


Steadying herself, the teen turned to her mother, who stood in the doorway with her arms folded—the same pose she’d seen her give her failing university students.

With a rustle, her father folded the Lombar Voice and added it to his growing pile on the other side of the table. “Did you…freeze?” he asked, adding his own gaze, making her shift from foot to foot.

Freezing was Lucy’s inbuilt self-defence mechanism. It stopped her before she said anything stupid—just shut off the sound of her voice mid-conversation. She hated it in the moment, but looking back afterwards, it’d always stopped her from putting her foot in things.

Her silence said it all. The kettle beeped on the bench, a chirp of moral support as it reached boiling point. Good old dependable Cross-Key & Co., just like their slogan said: Always in Good Company.

“You have above average grades and a perfect attendance record. These shops should be biting their hands off for you. Unless you don’t want a job?”

And there it was. The accusation. The truth, of a sort. Lucy scrambled to cover. “It’s not that I don’t want a job! It’s just…”

“Just?” her mother prompted, eyebrow raised.

She was cornered. After mentally racing through variables, she realised the truth was her only option and blurted, “I’ve been working on something else. It took six months, but I’ve finally collected all of my art into an online store. I can sell prints and take commissions, and I’ll give you my profits.”

A weight lifted from her shoulders but dropped like an anvil again when her mother’s eyes narrowed.

“Just because your dad isn’t working right now, you think we need you to provide an income?”

Lucy blinked. Wasn’t this about money?

“You’d never earn enough for a flat,” she continued, waving a hand dismissively. “Ben’s almost nine months old. He can’t stay in a cot in our room forever and this is only a two-bedroom house.”

Lucy’s mind raced. This wasn’t happening. It wasn’t. It was not happening.

Her father sighed. “You can’t expect to earn enough to live off those cards and portraits. You need a proper job. Without a degree, the best you can do is to get your foot in the door somewhere and work your way up.”

The gears in her brain sputtered. “What about the house move? I thought the plan was to move to somewhere bigger after Ben was born.”

Two blank faces stared at her.

“A house move? Whenever did we say that?” her mother asked.

An image of their living room floor laden with gifts popped into her head. Christmas when she was five years old. At dinner her father announced, “Lucy, you’re going to have a little brother or sister, then we’ll move to a new house and you can both have your own rooms.”

Lucy waited for her promised gifts for thirteen years. At long last, the first gift arrived nine months ago, and she’d been waiting for the second for months now.

“It won’t be long before you get another job, though. You’ll beat me to it,” she said, deciding to ignore the fact that no publication would dare hire the disgraced senior editor of a failed newspaper. Even after the lawsuit against Talking Point had been dropped, the national witch hunt hadn’t. Cancel culture at its finest.

“This is not up for debate.” Her mother’s words were dagger sharp. “How would we afford this magical house move? IVF is expensive, let alone six rounds. No one would dare give us a mortgage in this state. One working parent with two unemployed adults and a baby to support.”

Tears prickled at the corner of Lucy’s eyes, but she bit her tongue. Silence was golden. It always had been.

“You know,” her father said, “It’s getting harder to convince the neighbours you’re on a gap year. The rest of your age group is employed or away at university.”

Another stab to the gut. Her parents would have only been happy with acceptance to a top university, and never for ‘soft subject’ like art. She’d spared them all the embarrassment of rejection.

“Well…” he continued, shifting in his seat. “I was holding out to see how this interview went first, but I’ve got a friend looking for a spare pair of hands on his salmon trawler. They’d give you a lift over the Channel in exchange for some work, and we could set you up with £300 to get you started. You could earn your way as you go,” her father commented.

Lucy goggled at him.

“Think about it. They leave in three days. I can drive you to the docks.”

“Very generous considering his childcare duties and job-hunting, don’t you think?” It was a statement, not a question.

She mentally counted to ten. They wanted to ship off a girl, who spent most of her life in her bedroom, across the globe on her own? She’d never even left the country! She knew people on travel vlogs who did that, but that wasn’t her. What would happen if she froze? How long would it take her to get back?

Then realisation hit, sweeping in like a tidal wave. That was the point, wasn’t it? To get rid of her. Never mind if they pushed her in at the deep end to drown. They could lie and brag about her success if she wasn’t there, and still had child number two to show off. Meanwhile, she’d be lucky to find her next paycheck.

No. She clenched her fists.

She needed to stay. To be the doting big sister, with all the tabloids having her on speed dial for sketches of major courtroom cases. To see Ben’s first steps, hear his first words.

“I’ll launch my store tonight and keep looking,” she said, voice low. “If I don’t find anything, then...” She couldn’t finish the sentence. Her dinner felt like it was creeping its way up and she bolted.

Lucy spent the bulk of the next two days scrolling through job adverts at her bedroom desk, checking every three minutes for orders. On the second night she’d dreamed her fish and chip supper had put her on trial in a courtroom. She’d woken up in a cold sweat.

The day stretched into the afternoon, and she craned her neck to the ceiling and sighed. Her dream of a big house on the outskirts of Garrowhead City was swimming off into the distance. It would have been a simple life, filled with Cross-Key tech. Top of the line TVs that autotuned to whatever station they wanted at the push of a button. No guessing milk or water temperatures for Ben…

She remembered her fascination with her mother’s belly the first time it had grown round, followed by the crushing disappointment when her father said, “There’s been a change of plan. The baby had to leave.” Then a year later, it happened again. The swollen belly and the disappearance. And again.

Electric guitar and flashing lights exploded from her desk, her phone buzzing. She didn’t recognise the number, but the area code looked familiar, so she answered.

A young male voice asked, “Hello. Is Miss Lucy Blakely available, please?”

“I’m Lucy.”

“Fantastic! My name is Dave Crossley. I work for Cross-Key & Co. I saw your website and have a job for you.”

She lost the grip on her phone but gripped it again. Cross-Key. The Cross-Key & Co.?

A small spark lit deep in her chest.

Breathe, she reminded herself. Oxygen was important. “Is this a one-time commission or a larger project?” She tried to speak like the people in those business pitching shows her dad liked, happy she didn’t splutter.

“That would depend on you. We’re in a unique situation with a role that’s cropped up that we need filled as soon as possible. Could you come to our headquarters in Garrowhead at two o’clock tomorrow for a speed-sketching test?”

She sat up straighter. Speed sketching was her specialty. This could be her chance!

Lucy nodded before remembering she had to use her voice and forced out, “Of course,” as her cheeks heated.

“Wonderful! Report to the main reception when you arrive. Bring any other work you think displays your skills and photo ID.”

“OK. I’ll be there tomorrow.”

“We look forwards to seeing you. Good day, Miss Blakely.”

“Thanks. Bye.”


She felt lighter than she had for days. Her website had worked, and she’d had a portfolio prepared since she couldn’t remember when. But she’d need a lift. Surely her father wouldn’t mind if it was for an interview—especially for an award-winning household name.


When she woke up the next day, seeds of doubt had crept in.

The large, muscular frame of Sgt. Sir! grinned down at her from his poster on her bedroom wall. He was the main character of her favourite childhood cartoon: Sgt. Sir! where actions spoke louder than words. But while the sergeant’s story could be rewritten again and again, she had only one shot to make things work. She couldn’t look at him, instead concentrating on changing into her own personal war colours of tan and cream.

The harsh January chill made her shiver as she climbed into the back seat. As they pulled away, butterflies burst into life in her stomach.

She puffed out her cheeks and lips and applied her mum’s coconut balm, blowing kisses and funny faces at her miracle of a brother. Ben giggled in his car seat.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lucy saw her dad look, watching the pair through the mirror.

“Radio?” she suggested.

Her father flicked the dashboard.

“…for the fifth week. Now something for the stargazers out there. This month’s full moon is a Wolf Moon.”

“Another popular fad,” he grumbled at the wheel.

“Next!” she called, and the radio flipped stations.

“…and the dish ran away with the spoon!”

Neither had the heart or gall to take Tiny Tykes Radio away from a key listener, who wriggled his approval.

The radio was a mystery of the universe. No matter how picky the person, or what mood they were in, it always found a station to suit the individual or group listening. Like all Cross-Key products, it was pricey but indisputably the best. No one disliked Cross-Key & Co., not even critics who made their living picking brands apart. They were untouchable, which made their pulling up to the security booth at the Cross-Key Industrial Park’s entrance all the stranger.

Lucy licked her lips, resisting the urge to apply more balm.

Behind the black wrought-iron gate sprawled factories, office buildings, and warehouses. A guard pointed them towards a five-storey red brick office block near the entrance, screaming big business. Above a rotating glass door, a sign in large silver letters read Headquarters Main Entrance.

She stepped out of the car clutching her portfolio.

“I’m heading into town,” her dad said, expression like his tone: unreadable. “Call me when you need me to pick you up. Put your best foot forward.”

“Thanks,” she said, equally blank, wishing she could read minds as he drove off.

She squared herself, turned, then walked through the revolving doors.

Behind a large slate reception desk stood a young woman with dyed caramel hair, not quite covering her dark roots. She had hazel eyes, a smooth complexion, and floral henna wove around her hands and wrists.

Lucy’s heart danced the salsa against her ribcage. Why? Why her?!

“Hi!” she said cheerily, looking up. “I’m so glad you turned up. It’s been forever, hasn’t it? How have you been? Oh, just one sec. I’ll let Dave know you’ve arrived.”

Surprised by the enthusiastic greeting, Lucy took refuge by the water cooler as the teen rang through to a back room; the receptionist beaming all the while.

No. The cheer couldn’t just be for her. It was her job as a receptionist to be nice to everyone. Not after the incident. But a flash filled her mind of two five-year-old girls leading an imaginary unicorn around in the playground.

The dreaded reality was confirmed when the receptionist turned around, her ID flashing in the light on her chest: Hina Usmani. Her former childhood best friend.

“Dave’s on his way down,” Hina said, putting down the receiver. “You’re five minutes early. Prompt is good.”

Condescension or genuine excitement? Lucy couldn’t tell, but it felt like the interview had already started.

“You do remember me, right? From sch—” Thankfully, the phone rang, distracting the cheery teen, and Lucy quietly thanked whoever had interrupted them.

Then a man wearing a long white lab coat came out, clipboard in hand and pen poking out from behind his ear under a mop of blond.

“Miss Blakely?”

She nodded, recognising Dave’s voice from his call.

“We’re glad you could make it on such short notice. Please follow me.”

As the pair walked—or ducked in Lucy’s case—past reception, she glimpsed the word interpreter on the top page of the clipboard. Her skin prickled in horror. What on Earth did that have to do with drawing?

Two hours later, Lucy walked back out with an aching arm. After three rounds of speed sketching and the strangest inkblot interpretation exercises she’d ever seen, the job was hers. A literal artistic interpreter. Who in the world communicated only through drawings?

At least it wasn’t speaking vocally. That was a small mercy! And who would live on-site who would need her 24/7?

Oh well. Best not look a gift horse in the mouth. She had a job, plus a roof over her head…for a week at least.


Two days later, Lucy walked into the common area of the Cross-Key & Co. staff’s residential building, and wow.

A hot, sweaty auburn-haired teen lay on an exercise mat at the foot of the sofa. His grey tracksuit rippled across his torso as he reached up and brushed his fringe out of sky-blue eyes. He flashed her a bright mid-workout grin. “Hi. I’m Will. You’re Lucy, right?”

Muscle function returning, she smiled back and nodded.

He gave a thumbs up. “Cool,” he said, and her cheeks warmed. “I started just after New Year, so it’s been almost two weeks for me.” His eyes followed the workers carrying boxes across the common room to her suite and whistled. “That’s a lot of stuff. I hope you unpack OK. I spend most of my free time here, so give me a shout if you ever want company.”

“Thanks,” she said, preparing to avoid him at all costs. A workman handed her a key for her suite, and she made her not-so-metaphorical run for escape.

The room carried on the same neutral Cross-Key colour palette. Standing in front of a generous double bed, she glimpsed herself in the wall-length mirror. At least her clothes would blend in there. Neutral, non-threatening, and part of the background. Exactly as she wanted.

Although her home away from home shouted modest, it was kitted out with luxurious Cross-Key tech. The white light turned on as she walked in, not too bright or dim. The water from the tap in her en suite was just right, too. It was all very welcoming and how she preferred. But it wasn’t…home.

After an hour of unpacking her stomach growled. There could be ingredients in the kitchen, but they weren’t hers. Perched on her bed, she connected her phone to the building’s wi-fi and searched for nearby takeaways.

She wondered if she should order something for Will, too, as a goodwill gesture. Actions spoke louder than words. But she didn’t know if he had allergies or what he liked. Plus, that would invite extra conversation. Words were a messy business. Resolving to offer in future when there were less risky variables, she placed her own order. She liked Will too much to chance sticking her foot in things so early.

Day 0 complete. She could survive a seven-day trial, couldn’t she? She counted her lucky stars she’d be living on-site. Otherwise…well, that ship had literally sailed.

One pizza later, she’d set her alarm ready for day 1 and climbed into bed, wondering who’d made tea, and what time Ben had gone to sleep.

Chapter Two: A Trial of Ink and Blood

The journey from the residential building to Cross-Key & Co.’s headquarters seemed to be in high definition. Damp tarmac clicked beneath her feet, and the wet grass lining the estate paths stung her nose.

It was Monday, day 1, and she had no idea what she was walking into. Who was the client she’d be interpreting for? Old? A genius? An investor? The job was a mystery, but the room it came with was too good to ignore.

Hina was already at reception when she arrived at 8:25 a.m. A wide smile juxtaposed bags not quite hidden beneath her eyeliner—hallmarks of a long weekend. “Hi, Newbie. Congrats on the new job. You were always good at drawing.”

Lucy tried to smile, restraining the urge to tap her foot by vice-gripping her satchel. They paused for an awkward beat. Hina, thankfully, picked up her phone to call Dave, who arrived in a flourish with a white lab coat billowing out behind him and a clipboard clutched to his chest. “Lucy, glad to have you on board.”

Lucy stuck out her hand and gave him a firm handshake.

“First, we’ll get you your identification and access sorted, then I’ll introduce you to your charge.”

Lucy nodded and followed. Three flights of stairs later, they stopped at a thick metal door covered in all manner of security gadgets: a keypad combination lock, two keyholes, and if all else failed, Lucy observed, a chain. Security Department was embossed in silver along the adjacent wall, and beneath, a thumb scanner and card reader.

Dave didn’t even finish raising an arm when the door swung open.

Inside, a wall of monitors stretched from floor to ceiling. Scenes of the estate played in real time of roads, warehouses, laboratories, and meeting rooms. Spotting the top of her head on one monitor, she looked up, following the perspective to the square ceiling panels. Nothing.

“Doesn’t miss a trick this one, does she?” came a gruff, low voice behind Dave’s shoulder. He was large, with the monitor light illuminating cool sepia skin. He wore a crisp black suit with matching sunglasses even though they were indoors, and his grey hair was slicked back to a bald patch. She remembered him standing in the schoolyard waiting for Hina at 3:30 p.m. Hina’s father. She suppressed a shudder.

“Kamal Usmani, night security manager. I asked to work overtime so I could meet you. Fancy seeing you working here alongside my Hina. Thought you’d end up in academia like your mother.” The comment hit harshly.

She stayed silent.

The manager looked stern, but at least it wasn’t an outright scowl. If he held anything against her, he didn’t show it. After all, Hina’s and her friendship had stopped under strained circumstances.

“Enhanced starter package, please,” Dave requested.


“Research and Development. Full. Twenty-four-hour access.”

Kamal whistled. “Thrown in at the deep end.” He moved behind a monitor.

Lucy heard keys tapping, followed by strings of beeps, clunks and…a laser?

Then he picked something up, blew on it, and handed her a metal badge displaying the Cross-Key & Co. logo. It read: Lucy Blakely, Head Illustrator, Artistic Interpretation Division.

She was a department head at Cross-Key. What did it matter if she was the only one in it? Resisting the urge to photograph it (she’d send it to her parents later) she pinned it to her blouse.

“That’s a tracker device and your employee ID. We’ll use it to log your hours and location.”

The badge looked plain, and she couldn’t spot anything that looked like a tracker. Then again, she thought, they had pretty much invisible CCTV.

Next, he handed her a lanyard with a plastic card attached. Her own face stared back up at her, literally up from when she’d searched for the hidden camera earlier; her button nose scrunched and mousy hair falling into her eyes. Bitterness it was then.

“This is your access ID,” said Kamal sternly. “It will open every door in this headquarters other than on the managers’ floor and the Security Department. It’ll let you in the other office buildings around the site and into the Research and Development zone, both levels. Only a select few have access to the lower levels, and most employees don’t know they exist.”

What was she getting herself into?

“Lend no one your ID cards, especially the door access; and if you lose it, inform us immediately. We have a perfect record, and you don’t want to be the person to blemish it, do you?”

“Yes,” Dave said, waving a hand. “It’s a wonderful record. Can I have the paperwork, please?”

Lucy let out a controlled breath as they left, then crossed half the estate back towards the residential building. They stopped at a large red brick factory. Engraved in the bricks above the door read Research and Development.

Security guards waved to Dave as they walked into a gigantic hall. Doors lined the sides of the walls along with large windows showing smaller testing labs, and running down the hall’s centre was a row of computers and whiteboards. Scientists bustled about all over the place, with the odd plain-clothed employee here or there.

Lucy watched in fascination at the trials being carried out, though she couldn’t imagine what they were working on. Parents holding babies queued outside one room, and beyond the glass she saw adults trying to coax their babies to swallow spoonfuls of mush. She’d done plenty of that with Ben.

Dave spotted her glance. “We’re attempting to create our own brand of baby food. We’ve got high hopes for another best-seller.”

Lucy believed it. Maybe working here, she’d learn their secret to success. To perfection.

They stopped at the last doorway on the left, which opened onto a hallway. Halfway down, Dave raised his ID to open a door, and Lucy was yanked into a cupboard barely large enough for the two of them. She gasped and inhaled thick, dusty air—a stark contrast to the clean, pristine estate outside. A naked dim yellow light sprang to life as the door closed behind them, just enough to make out old Cross-Key & Co. products.

“Sorry, but pay attention,” he said, and twisted a multipack of Cross-Key cat food. Then he gave the shelf a shove, and the stack swung open.


Light bounced around the underground dome, illuminating as well as any natural window or skylight.

“This is your office, so to speak,” Dave said, pulling out a seat. Lucy followed his lead. “It’s one of several vault rooms, and where you’ll communicate with your charge.”

He slid open a panel on the tabletop and pulled out a large oak-coloured softback notebook with a grey spine. After closing the compartment, he set the book down between them, flipping it open to a double spread of blank off-white pages. Then he placed a box on the table and opened it, revealing a vast assortment of pens, from cheap markers to high-end fountain pens.

“Please draw yourself standing with a hand against a tree trunk.”

Lucy bit back her questions, and wanting to look decisive, reached for a black fine liner and began.

Her black-and-white image-self stood sideways, right palm outstretched, touching the bark of an enormous tree trunk.

Moving to turn it around, Dave cut her off, hand raised. “Just watch and wait,” he said, eyes fixed on the drawing.

For what? Right when she’d concluded Dave was crazy, the image faded into the paper, leaving the page blank again. She gaped.

“Amazing, isn’t it? We’ve printed entire pages into the book and they all disappear without a trace. Wonderful picture. I liked it while it lasted,” he said regretfully. “But at least we’ll get to see plenty more, eh?”

Without waiting for a response, he produced a small plastic tube and removed the lid. “This device is used to test blood sugar levels. When you press the button, it gives your finger a small prick and a drop of blood will appear. We require a quick blood test before we can continue.”

Was a medical test necessary for an artist? Dubious. Unwilling to risk rocking the boat, she nodded cautiously. He lifted a medical kit onto the table before wiping the tip of the pen with a sterilising wipe and handed it to her.

She placed it to her fingertip, braced, and pushed. Not bad.

Dave held out a test strip, which Lucy placed against the bleeding tip, covering it. Then she took an offered ball of cotton wool, pressing it against the wound to stem the flow.

“Alright, now you can meet your charge,” Dave said, and wiped the strip with her blood onto the page. The blood faded as the ink had, and Lucy’s eyes widened.

At the top of the page, a dot appeared. It expanded into a circle and kept growing outwards until the edges smudged. A blood red sun shone up at her. No. It wasn’t blood red. It was blood.

Tingles trickled from her head down to her toes, as if someone had cracked an egg on it, then warmth suddenly enveloped her like a big hug. It was nice, comforting actually, and to her dismay, faded ten seconds later with the image.

“That’s how Oda says hello,” Dave explained cheerily.


“How did…?” she trailed off.

Dave reached out and stroked down the book’s inside cover. “When a Cross-Key employee discovered this notebook, he immediately brought it to our Research and Development department. They tasked me to head a confidential investigation. International relations are in my remit.”

Noticing her slack jaw, Lucy hastily closed it and gripped her trouser legs beneath the table.

“We believe this book is inhabited by a tree spirit. While Western cultures usually imagine tree spirits as female fairies, dryads, and forest nymphs, we think this is closer to the Eastern version called a kodama. We call it Oda for short.”

Lucy’s mind reeled. Spirits and ghosts were nonsense. But then how else could she explain the disappearing and reappearing ink? A sick practical joke? Though she couldn’t deny the warmth she’d felt was real. A tree spirit, though?

Dave continued, his pace quickening with enthusiasm. “There’s intelligent life here. Oda responds well to pictures of trees, as well as the sun and rain, though our attempts to teach it the alphabet and words failed because it can’t hear. With your drawing abilities and the blood bond you just made, we hope we’ll be able to find out a lot more about Oda and their kind.”

Lucy nodded while desperately hoping Dave would say something that made sense.

“Legends say kodama stick with the same tree until the end of its life. We think when the tree was felled to create this notebook, the spirit inhabiting it stayed with it into death. We don’t know why, but it’s something we want to find out.”

The door to the dome banged open.

Kamal strode down the staircase and crossed the room. He removed his sunglasses and his dark brown eyes fixed Lucy with a piercing gaze. Her face prickled as blood drained from it.

Dave, however, acknowledged him with a grin, pulling out the papers from earlier. “I was just getting around to it,” Dave said.

“Not quick enough,” quipped the security guard. “I was watching. Those should have been signed before your little demonstration.”

This confirmed Lucy’s suspicions. Others knew, and they’d been watching her. But who?

Dave handed Lucy a clipboard. “To continue your trial, you’re required to sign this non-disclosure agreement. You may not say to whom you are interpreting, and you will not talk about Oda to anyone who does not talk about it to you first.”

“Of course,” Kamal drawled, “even if you tell anyone about it, you’d be called crazy, and the weight of our global reputation would back that up.”

Lucy gulped, holding back a sting of tears, but she bent forwards and signed her name. Dave took it with a smile. “Most kind. I’ll drop this in to Human Resources.”

Kamal huffed. “It’s the end of my overtime.”

“Vigilant as always. Thank you for your service,” Dave replied before turning to Lucy. “As eager as I am to continue, I recommend you take the rest of the day off. It’s likely a bit of a shock. Go and let things sink in, and keep an eye out for a delivery this afternoon. I’ll send over a company pocket communicator. From midnight, we expect you to be on call.”


Kirstie Long Tue, 15/08/2023 - 11:24

A good, well written interesting start to the book which pulls people in. Appears quite original and I liked the characterisation, wanting to know more.

Gale Winskill Tue, 22/08/2023 - 16:44

I really like the innovative idea of interpreting for another species via art, as it has a lot of potential. It is currently a bit slow to get going, but if the initial pace could be stepped up, to engage the reader sooner, this would certainly be an interesting prospect.

Paula Sheridan Thu, 31/08/2023 - 18:15

This is a comment from a publisher judge who asked us to post this comment:

A fascinating premise. It would be exciting to see how this develops and to see more of Lucy’s internality interspersed with the dialogue. Also be curious to see the story start at the point where the book is introduced. Getting the mystery on the page right off the bat could be a more effective hook.