The First Two Pages: “The Vermeer Conspiracy” by V.M. Burns

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

In recent weeks, the First Two Pages has been hosting essays by contributors to Midnight Hour: A Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction from 20 Authors of Color, but though V.M. (Valerie) Burns’ “The Vermeer Conspiracy” appears in the same anthology, her appearance here is part of a different series of essays as well—focused on this year’s finalists for the Edgar Awards! Valerie’s co-contributor Tracy Clark, whose story “Lucky Thirteen” also earned an Edgar nomination, will be writing a post as well soon, as will fellow finalist R.T. Lawton, author of “The Road to Hana” from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. As for the other finalists, the First Two Pages already welcomed the authors of two stories back when they were originally published: Michael Bracken & James A. Hearn on their story “Blindsided” from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Gigi Pandian on “The Locked Room Library” from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The final story on the slate, “The Dark Oblivion,” is by Cornell Woolrich, who died in 1968.

I’m personally pleased to have Valerie leading off this second set of essays (second set in two series!) because she and I were hanging out in Alabama this weekend for two terrific mystery events: Murder in the Magic City in Birmingham and Murder on the Menu in Wetumpka. It was great fun to see Valerie on her panels (ask her to share her literary mash-up, a genius twist!) and also a pleasure to chat more informally between events and afterwards.

While “The Vermeer Conspiracy” is Valerie’s first and so-far only short story (what?!), she’s had great success in longer form fiction already. She writes the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series and the Dog Club Mystery series, and her newest series, Baker Street Mysteries, will be released later this year. Her debut novel, The Plot Is Murder, was nominated for an Agatha award for Best Debut Novel, and her RJ Franklin Mystery series was a Next Generation Indie Book finalist. To find out more, visit her website at

Do check out the previously published essays, stay tuned for the next posts ahead, and in the meantime, enjoy Valerie’s reflections here—and congratulations to all on this great honor!

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.


1 thoughts on “The First Two Pages: “The Vermeer Conspiracy” by V.M. Burns

  1. Pingback: The First Two Pages: “Lucky Thirteen” by Tracy Clark – Art Taylor

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