The First Adventure of Pippa Marsh- Chapter 1

The First Adventure of Pippa Marsh- Chapter 1

Celebrity fashion-victim Pippa Marsh owns a literary agency. America's newest hottest fastest-selling writer is murdered in her company. Can she clear her name?


Romance / Women's fiction


Bernadette Adamson (United Kingdom)



“That’s amazing! Mmmmwwwaaah.”

I kissed the air well-clear of Lizzie’s smelly cheek. Jackson Byrd- America’s newest, hottest, fastest-selling writer- had just agreed to see us about being his UK agent. I flapped my arms in a low-to-medium panic. What would he be like? What should I wear? Where should I meet him? I couldn’t possibly bring him here- it was such a tip. When I founded the Pippa Marsh and Lizzie McFadden Literary Agency I’d thrown thousands at the office, but Lizzie was such a pig that I’d let it become a bit of a sty. I announced my thoughts to the blue filing cabinet:

“I can’t possibly meet him here.”

“What do you mean, ‘I’? We’re both meeting him.”

I stiffened and closed my eyes. Lizzie was going to be awkward again. Luckily we were interrupted by Portia, carrying the mail…

“What shall I do with these?”

Portia was Lizzie’s sister’s ex’s gormless niece. I’d said we’d give her some work experience because I fancied Lizzie’s sister’s ex, and then I find he’s gay.Typical!

“Let me see.” I sorted out the interesting stuff and gave her the unsolicited submissions. “Put them on top of the rest over there.”

I nodded at the stalagmite of slush in the corner - a huge stack of papers like the Old Man of Hoy. A long time back we saw a writer at the office who said you could tell a lot about an agent by the size of their slush-pile. I can still remember the glow of pride her words produced, although for some stupid reason she never signed-up. Portia slouched away, all spots and hormones. Oh for a cattle-prod.

“What about a hotel?” asked Lizzie, showing how little she knew about netting big authors. The first thing a writer learns is that an agent who meets you in a hotel has a crap office.

“Don’t you ever read them?” asked Portia from the slush pile, the lower strata of which were yellowed and curling.

“Don’t be silly, Portia. You don’t read unsolicited submissions- it’s practically a sign you’re desperate.”

Besides, I never get involved in any of the actual books- I leave those details to Lizzie. I’m too busy winning publicity with my celebrity contacts and status.

I looked at my watch.

“Oh my god. Is that the time?”

I had an appointment with Vidal at three, and it was nearly ten to. I grabbed my handbag and tizzied out of the office. Where had I left the car?

At Vidal’s I told him about my Jackson Byrd conundrum while he frowned at a split end.

“Why don’t you…” he paused for a particularly demanding snip, “meet him at your flat?”

Stupid question. The flat was nearly as big a tip as the office. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford to make it smart- Jose was drowning in money- but I didn’t have the time. I couldn’t admit that in Vidal’s so I told a tinsy winsy lie.

“I can’t. The interior designers are in. I’m having it all re-done.”

“Oooohh are you?” This came from some nosey mare in the next chair, who should have been minding her own business. “Are they any good?”

I looked her up and down in the mirror- mainly down as she was a bit of a titch- my posture stiffening at the insinuation that Pippa Marsh might use less than the best interior designers.

“They are, actually,” I said. And if a whiff of huffiness tainted my words who could blame me?

“Oooh you couldn’t let me have their details could you? I need to get some designers in too and I just don’t know who to pick.”

That’s bloody done it. Typical. You have one tiny itsy bitsy lie and look what happens. I didn’t know any interior designers, and if I just made something up she’d find out, and the next thing it would be all over Twitter and Facebook.

“Well they are quite busy, actually,” I said, hoping to put her off. I was wasting my breath…

“That’s alright- we’re not in a rush.”

I had one of my brilliant ideas that Lizzie never appreciates…

“I tell you what, if you give me your name and number I’ll call you with the details when I get home. I don’t have them on me now.”

That was that then. One of Vidal’s young things went to fetch a pen and paper so nosey cow could write her details. I’d only put-off the problem, but it gave me time to think. I flicked through the society pages of Tattler until I was brought to a venomous stop by a picture of Marcella Reynolds at Belinda Filde’s divorce party. I knew her when she was just plain Madge, but she was full of airs and graces now she’d married Josh Reynolds for his millions. Hadn’t done her any good, judging by the photo- make-up by Artex, couture by Poundland. To be fair to Josh the dress looked like a Farentali, but it fitted Madge like a bin-bag on a space-hopper.

“Here.” The nosey c. gave her details to Vidal, and he passed them to me. Helen Morton, the loopy handwriting said.

“Lovely,” I lied. “I’ll give you a call tonight.”

After Vidal had polished the diamond, so to speak, I switched into executive procurement mode to buy suitably alluring garb for my meeting with Jackson Byrd. Lizzie thinks I just gallivant round Knightsbridge indulging myself, but having been in Tattler more times than all the other literary agents put together I let my work record speak for itself.

It took three hours of strenuous shopping to get the main ingredients in the bag- about eleven bags actually- so it was nearly eight when I got in. I was desperate for a soak, and was just about to tell Hettie to run a bath, when I remembered my promise to ring the nosey titch from Vidal's. I fiddled her details out of my bag and called the number…

“Helen Morton.”

“Helen! It’s Pippa Marsh. From Vidal’s. About the designers.”

“Pippa! Lovely. I’ll just get a pen.”

“No wait, something’s happened. They’re dead.”


“Yes there was a car crash this afternoon and my designers have both been killed.”

“That’s terrible. How awful! I mean… that’s just tragic.”

“I know, but I’m sure I’ll find somebody else.”

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1


Read Reviews

Review 1:

Compelling hook?


Strong characters?


Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals, conflicts and purpose were clearly introduced and I wanted to find out more about them.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Your story makes compelling reading.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line and hook
  • Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Loved the line 'oh for a cattle prod'! Brilliant. Also loved when Pippa declares her designers dead but oh well - then quickly moves on to solution mode. She's awful and hilarious in one fell swoop. Maybe less ellipses... they are a bit distracting. I think I already love/hate your protagonist. Pippa comes across as a bitchy self-centred snob which is actually refreshing! She's not a typical nice heroine. I want to see her fail very badly at first then succeed. Not sure about the smelly cheek line. I'm instantly wondering why her cheek is smelly. Her hair, clothes, armpits, yep, I get that she's a bit of a slob but why does she have smelly cheeks? Is there food leftover from lunch? Is she wearing too much perfume? I think maybe her stink can radiate up from her, repelling Pippa but the smelly cheek pulls me out of your story because I'm wondering why her cheeks stink. Keen to read the rest of your story and find out what happens to the awful, fascinating, snobby, hilarious, fabulous Pippa!