hat happened to the dog?
Okay, it's a mystery. As long as you wrap it up before the end of the book, you're cool.
Throughout two reads of the chapter, I am missing any specific reference to your protagonist's gender. Another mystery, if you hadn't given it away in the slug line. Hmm ...
This concept of puzzle-and-reward is at the heart of suspense writing whatever specific hybrid you aim to create in mixing mystery, suspense, psychodrama, et cetera.
Of course, you will use foreshadowing. This is why we plot in advance. We may put several thousand words between our first foreshadowing and our climactic events. We may plot out several foreshadowings, each darker than the last. These are the long arcs of puzzle and reward.
In the meantime, you want to keep your readers coming back, chapter after chapter. Thus, the device, puzzle and reward on a short arc. Here's one device.
Replace general phrases with specific ones. In the following instance,
"... bought supplies to make him a cat door."
you give yourself an opportunity to create a mini-puzzle for the reader, eg,
"... bought a saw, a hinge and a latch."
What would I do with those items? In that order? Oh, of course! Puzzle and reward, on the short arc.
Formatting is a device. I decided what I wanted to do in the Edit box and wrote a macro:
This is the formatting I use on Portfolio items, longer forum posts, Newsfeed posts, uh ... oh yes, reviews. I don't use the dropcap in Newsfeed responses, but only in initial posts. You are welcome to the use of this macro, and to change it as you like.
You are off to a good start, visually. I have a strong sense of the "air" of your story. Adding this sort of specificity deepens the concrete visual aspect to your story. Your reader will picture a coping saw or a trim saw, a piano hinge or a casing hinge, a spring latch or a bolt.
"He liked to wander. I understand." This is a beautiful character cue which resonates backward and forward throughout the chapter. Brief, trenchant and resonant. Do it again.
Not "phase" in this usage. Say "... didn't faze me." Google it.
"Being a journalist in a small southern town presents its own unique set of challenges. " Good start for an essay. Bad style cue for a mystery. Lop it off of the top, along with the "But" and start from the capital W. "When I first ..."
Keep it, though. Use it to cap off a telling turn of character or plot point. Use it sincerely or ironically. But USE it.
"Dominique Derval" is a great pen name. Somewhere between a "devil", a "dervish" and "serval" wild cat, right?
My fraternal twin concept to puzzle and reward is pace. You don't have to write fast and furious, but you cannot leave your reader to ask, "Is this going anywhere?" In a media-saturated world, such a story gets the left-swipe.
When you seek to build tension, create tightly focused paragraphs, terse in phrasing and as short as you can make them. Your paragraphs are already good for progression. Your narrative has steady initial drive.
And it's okay to let your narrative meander at times. Done carefully, it increases the tension when you do ramp up the pace.
I see here a sort of Lifetime TV mystery in print. There's a place in the world for that, and you can pull it off without a romantic angle. If you do plan on one, you owe your reader a hint in the opening. It can be a false hint, but many readers will decide to read or not based on a scan of the first chapter. That is, if they get past the cover synopsis.
Your model is Nora Roberts. If you need more elbow room, think of your work as splitting the difference between Caroline Keane and Daphne du Maurier.
I am rebating to you 740 points of your generous tender. I look forward to reviewing your revisions and additions in the future. Feel free to respond to this review as you see fit.
Live long and publish, Dominique Derval.