The Synopsis Skirmish 2022—1st place

Congrats to donalee Moulton for winning the top prize in our first-ever Synopsis Skirmish contest! Here's what our judge (Michelle Barker) had to say:

The author’s handling of voice in this synopsis was so powerful, it made me want to read the novel right away. The synopsis was unusual and intriguing—a winning combination.

Best novel synopsis examples—mystery

So, A psychopath walked into a bar: A Riel Brava Mystery

By donalee Moulton


Let’s start with the obvious. 

Meet Riel Brava. Attractive. Razor-sharp. Ambitious. Riel, born and bred in Santa Barbara, California, has been transplanted to Nova Scotia where he is CEO of the Canadian Cannabis Corporation (CCC). It’s business as usual until Riel finds the company’s comptroller hanging by a thread. Actually, several threads. It doesn’t take the police long to determine all is not as it appears. 

Let’s dive beneath the surface. 

Meet Riel Brava. Observant. Cautious. Psychopathic. Not the Hannibal Lecter/Norman Bates kind of psychopath, but the kind who lives and work among us, mostly unnoticed, often successful, always on full alert their differences will be uncovered. Riel is personable, even charming. He’s keen to understand how the human mind works, so he’ll blend in. After all, his goal is to be president of the United States. (An aspiration that will feature in future books.) 

Let’s talk plot.

So Norm Bedwell has apparently hanged himself in his office at CCC. Emphasis on apparently. It takes Detective Lin Raynes mere minutes to suspect the obvious is deceiving and what appears to be death by suicide is actually murder. Over the course of 13 chapters, he works to uncover and discover who would want Bedwell dead and how they could have pulled the murder off. 

He’s not alone. In an unusual pairing, Raynes and Riel work together to chase down leads—the bully who tortured Bedwell’s son at school, the mysterious orange truck that belongs to no CCC employee but was parked in the company lot the night Bedwell was murdered, the employee who, despite stringent security measures, has managed to steal weed from CCC and start a healthy little illegal business. 

Raynes manages to engage Riel, albeit reluctantly, in the hunt for Bedwell’s killer, and in the process, the seeds of an unexpected and unusual friendship are sown. They explore various motives—revenge, fear, greed—but ultimately, love is the reason Norm Bedwell no longer lives. Unfortunately, the evidence is circumstantial. Raynes and Riel concoct a scheme to draw a confession out of the killer, but that plan is never put into place. Instead, Riel finds himself on the receiving end of a rifle in the ribs and a long drive to the middle of Nowhere, Nova Scotia. 

donalee Moulton, journalist and author, with her award-winning example of a novel synopsis

donalee Moulton is a professional writer and editor based in Halifax.  

A professional freelance journalist, donalee’s byline has appeared in more than 100 magazines and newspapers throughout North America and beyond. These include The National Post, Chatelaine, Maclean’s, The Lawyer’s Daily, Canadian Business, and The Globe & Mail.  She is the author of the new book The Thong Principle: Saying What You Mean and Meaning What You Say and co-author of the book Celebrity Court Cases. Her first mystery short story, “Swan Song,” appears in Cold Canadian Crime, the new anthology published by the Crime Writers Association of Canada.

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