A suspenseful, page-turner guarantees that, at some point, the sleuth is going to land in a precarious situation, where there’s seemingly no way out, failure is imminent, and the bad guy has won. It’s a crucial plot beat, and one that has a structure just like the larger plot as a whole.
The sleuth’s peril and great escape generally has three parts.
- The first phase is set-up: the information, experience or resources that will be used later for The Great Escape is planted into the story. The Sleuth (or additional character caught-up in the trap) is given the keys, was a chemist major, had a father who taught her how to fly a plane, was a great white shark tamer in a previous life, whatever. The set-up must be a natural part of the plot or characteristic so it doesn’t raise suspicion with the reader.
- In the second phase, the sleuth is generally tricked or falls into a trap, and is confined against her will. Here, the sleuth is the victim, and the consequences of the imprisonment are realized by the sleuth and the reader alike: there is a danger of injury or death, a goal will fail, a possession will be lost. something won’t be delivered in time, etc.
- The third phase provides the great escape. The sleuth relies on the information, experience, or resources planted into the story earlier provide the solution to freedom.