Query Hack: Critique #15 – Adult Thriller

Dear Query Hack,

Peter Poole finds himself in the afterlife as the newest contestant on The American Afterlife Network’s biggest show, Who’s Your Murderer?!. In order to find out who killed him, Peter must relive key memories of his life via the network’s Magical Memory Machine. The clock is ticking: by the end of the show, Peter must guess who killed him correctly, or the police will never catch his murderer in the living world.

  • While I LOVE the premise (contestant in the afterlife!?!), I think it’s important to convey in your first sentence how this came to be (rather than “Peter finds himself”). How did he get to the afterlife? Did he have to die first? What does being a contestant mean?
  • Awesome second sentence. Lots of intriguing elements! 
  • So, winning the show doesn’t mean he can come back from the dead? Very interesting. 

While Peter struggles to come to terms with the mistakes he made during his life, he also explores the afterlife, a neverending town where the only channel on TV is The American Afterlife Network and all that exists are bars and casinos. Not content with gambling the rest of eternity away, Peter digs deeper and discovers a haunting secret held by The American Afterlife Network: they are stealing the only possessions that people take with them to the afterlife. Peter must decide whether to release the network’s secrets—and dismantle the entire structure of the afterlife—or accept an offer to join their team.

  • I love the first sentence. So interesting! It has me very curious about this world. 
  • You lost me at “Not content with gambling the rest of eternity away.” What do you mean by this?
  • I love the raising of stakes by The American Afterlife Network stealing possessions from people. What possessions can they bring with them to the afterlife? I’d include it in your query. Also, are they stealing people’s memories, too?
  • While the last sentence has great stakes, we haven’t been given reasons why Peter would accept their offer to join their team. What is the benefit for him? Can he return to the world of the living? Have control over the dead? See a long-lost loved one? In addition, why would he dismantle their structure? What exactly are they stealing that’s worth opposing them?

THE AMERICAN AFTERLIFE NETWORK is a thriller complete at 72,000 words. It has the tone of Stephen King’s The Running Man and the nonlinear structure of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

  • Make sure to add your age group!!! It should read “adult thriller.”
  • Be careful using comp titles of extremely famous authors. Usually, it’s recommended that authors refer to less popular book titles as well as books that were published in the last two-five years. 

I am a student in my junior year at New York University. I am currently studying digital media, but am looking to transfer to an English degree, as reading and writing have always been where my true passions lie.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

  • Way to kick some serious butt on your book while being a student! I know from experience it’s not easy. Keep pursuing your dreams! :)