Author Topic: Truth in numbers - start of a mystery novel/ short story (I haven't decided yet)  (Read 400 times)

Offline Nooglepop13

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Hello all, this is a first draft of a mystery story I'm working on. It will probably end up either a long short story (7500-10000 words) or a very short novel (40000-60000 words). I've just started writing again after a long break but am looking to improve. I sometimes tend to overwrite, and I struggle with pacing and dialogue. I'd love help in those areas or any polite critique you have to offer. I'm posting chapter 1. Here we go!

TRUTH IN NUMBERS
CHAPTER 1
It was 4am when she got the call, and she was awake. Crouched on the floor, a tub of chewed up and spat out food to her right, a box of doughnuts directly in front of her, a half empty packet of painkillers to her left; it was not a convenient moment to be disturbed. She lunged for the phone and in doing so one of her crumped curls dropped into the congealed mess of regurgitated food. She fished it out cursing and wiped it down with a used tissue she found in the pocket of her dressing gown, which was also on the floor. With the other hand she answered the phone.

“Hello” she said, putting on her best phone voice. She hated phone calls. She always spoke too soon or waited too long, causing the caller to enquire as to whether she was still there. Phone calls were an ordeal.

“Listen, Tash, there’s been a murder and it’s some seriously weird shit. Like fucking quadratic equation shit. I thought it might be your deal.”

A beat passed. Tash put the lid on her Tupperware box of spat out food and reached for the pills to her left. She pressed two out of the packet; she was currently just maintaining and she wanted to be high. She swigged them down with some diet coke, and started to fish around the chaos of clothes and paper and food on the floor to find her diazepam.

“Tash, Tash, are you there?”

“Sorry yes.” She paused for a minute to wrap her fleece dressing gown around her shoulders. “What do you mean by weird?”

“There’s a student been found dead…”

“That’s weird, was it a dodgy pill?” She spoke without enthusiasm.

Her hand clasped on the diazepam and she popped out two pills. She normally only used diazepam for her rampant anxiety, but tonight had been bad, and the dihydrocodeine simply wasn’t cutting it.

“No, that’s not the weird bit, it’s what’s been done with the body that’s fucking mental. They carved numbers and equations into his skin. I mean can you believe that, what a psycho!”

“Hmmm” She let out an interested sigh. The dihydrocodeine from earlier was starting to kick in. Her cheeks felt hot to the touch, and she was starting to wish she could rest her head on the floor.

“Tash, did you hear me?”

“Yessss” she murmured, the ‘s’ coagulating into a long hiss. A wave of euphoria had overcome her: she slumped
against her wardrobe and let her head lol backwards, her mouth drooped open into a skinny elongated ‘O’ shape. Her breath slithered out of her lungs with the softness of casual fingers leafing through papers, then it drifted out of her sagging mouth into the humid air of the room. Her hands melted into the floor like wax. Her whole body was soft and malleable; she was a play-dough person. She wondered about actually swallowing the doughnuts and going through the stale ritual of sticking her fingers down her throat and fishing for the contents of her stomach, but then remembered that those contents included a large number of pills, and losing them for a binge and purge session would be financial stupidity at its finest.

Her head snapped up as she heard an echo of Hannah’s excited monologue.

“But yeah, it’s obviously some nutjob maths student, not that all maths students are nutjobs, you’re decent Tash, you know what I mean though, it’s gotta be one of them with all that freaky tortured genius shit.”
Tash dazed off again and, seeing the wreckage of her room and the clear signs of eating disordered and drug addicted behaviour, nearly giggled at the fact she was officially considered “not a nutjob”. She felt like a nutjob. She felt as though she was going insane, as though her brain was cracking in two.

“How do you know about this?” she asked, throwing the dressing gown off her overheated body, and sliding her torso onto the cold floor. She balanced her head on one hand and drew her knees towards her chest as she listened.

“I was at Assembline and the news was going round the club, I thought of you right away cos of all that coding shit you do, I’m just walking home now, I called you as soon as I left the club.”
Tash could hear Hannah’s feet crunching along a gravel path.

“What do you think I can do about it?”

“Just dig round, do your maths stuff, I dunno.”

“Spoken like a true humanities student”

“Shut up!” Hannah wailed, with good humour and obvious slight drunkenness.

“I’d need to see the numbers, the equations, everything. They won’t print them all in the papers.” She could hear her voice was a little slurred; she desperately wanted Hannah to go away so she could enjoy the soaring peak of her high which she was certain would hit in ten minutes or so.

“Go see it, the police haven’t been called yet.”

“Why?” she asked, with confusion.

“The people who found him knew him, they got a bit paranoid, they’re still deciding whether to tell the police or
whether to just dump him in the lake. They’re all scared shitless. The body’s on campus, down by the bridge”

Tash inhaled deeply and wiped the back of her hand against her nose. “So everyone knows but no one has called the
police.” Her voice tripped on the world ‘police’, so it came out as ‘puliiishe’.

“Are you fucking drunk mate?! I thought you didn’t drink!”

“I don’t and I’m not”

She didn’t drink as a rule. Too high a risk of fatal respiratory depression when combined with the opiates. That said, the same went for benzodiazepines, and she had no problem mixing those two together. In truth, her supposed tea-total status was mainly to avoid drinking with other people, and doing horrible things like going to parties or clubs or sitting playing intolerable drinking games with strangers who giggled at anything. She preferred to drink alone, when necessary, to avoid such ordeals.

She weighed up the situation and sighed. It sounded interesting, and if she could stall the police she could potentially enjoy her high and then explore the scene as she came down. Her highs rarely lasted long now anyway, not unless she did heroin. (And that was not a regular thing, no, that was a one – or slightly more than one- off). In an hour she’d be good and ready to read the crime scene. All she needed was to wait for the buses to start running and she could go.

 “Tell them not to call the police, not yet anyway. I’ll get the first bus over there and have a look.”

“Kay, cool beans. Chat you to later alright.”

“Yep. Bye.”



Tash clutched her knees to her chest and let out a low groan. She ran a hand through her hair, relishing the pressure of her fingertips on the exposed nerves of her skull; every touch was ecstasy. She wondered if this was how sex felt for normal people. Not messy and sloppy and disgusting but tingly. Nice. Warm. She brushed her hands along the rounded sticks of her bare arms, feeling them prickle with pleasure. Without drugs the touch would be agony. Now it was a sensory paradise. Then another wave of euphoria rocked her body, and she curled into herself more, letting her head drop to the floor and rest on the rug. Moaning, she rummaged around and clasped her hand on a thin white cotton sheet that must have fallen off her bed the night before. She pulled it over herself and curled into it: white and swaddled, she resembled a small, muttering clam. She closed her eyes, mushed her head against a cool wooden bedpost, and let pleasure overcome her.

An hour and a half later she was ready, if not quite dressed, for the crime scene. Clothes had seemed like too much effort, so she had pulled on a fresh pair of pyjama bottoms which she felt closely resembled jogging pants, and a large oversize hoody which covered her current grimy pyjama top. That and a pair of clogs, and she was as ready as she’d ever be. Normal clothes were too difficult to manage. This was as good as it was going to get.
She took the bus still slightly dazed. By the time she arrived on campus though the sun was a fiery crescent in the blush coloured sky, and her high, like the once dazzling night, had faded. Her legs were steady as she crunched up the gravel pathway towards the lake. She hated herself for wishing them weak and wobbly. For wishing for the reedy twig legs of anorexia, for the way her calves used to feel hollowed and precarious. She marched on, past the dark lineament of sentinel trees; past the squawking low-lying birds nestled in shrubbery; past the scampering dormice that darted out from obese green hedges; past the fairytale-esque bridge that arched over the lake. Finally, she arrived at the foot of Wanderer’s Hill, at the rim of the flat black water, where a whispering crowd of teenagers huddled around an object that at this point was invisible, but which Tash knew was a body.

She pushed through the indignant crowd and leaned over the body. The victim was a thin white male, aged around twenty by Tash’s best guess, with long dread-locked hair and round glasses which gave him an air of John Lennon. His skin was an eery shade of puce, his limbs were stiff and doll-like, and some student or another had had the decency to press his eyelids shut. And then there was the surprising part.

All over his body numerical equations were scratched into the skin, covering every exposed part of him like grotesque tattoos. There was one on his ear. One on his nose. One on the wrinkled underside of his foot. Looking closer, Tash discovered not all of them were equations. Most of them, in fact, were simple numerical formulae, the sort of thing any first-year maths undergraduate would understand.

Turning to the crowd, she spotted Hannah, who stood dressed in an illegally short skirt and six inch heels.

“He’s quite good looking isn’t he?” Tash said.

“Tash!” Hannah hissed. “You can’t say that!”

“Why not? I would.”

“Tash!”

This was untrue of course; what Tash meant in fact was that if she had met him, and his personality had met up to his quirkily cute exterior, she would have cultivated an unhealthy fixation on him and tried desperately to entice him for months; then, in the case of success, she would have realised that most adult males wanted sex, making any future relationship unsustainable, and so she would have retreated, leaving him unsure of what he had done wrong.
Relationships were not her strongest suit.

She breathed in and raked a cursory hand through her impenetrable curls.

“It’s basic stuff. The problem isn’t the maths it’s the meaning. For example…”

She stooped over the body and pressed her little finger to the dead man’s ear.

“What does ln(e) written on the earlobe mean? Ln(e), as I’m sure you know, simply means 1. That could mean it’s the first killing of a series, meaning you lot are off the hook, probably.”

The gaggle of twitching teenagers, at the merest mention of being potential suspects, exchanged nervous glances.

“But why 1 on the ear, not the foot, or the chin, or the forehead – the forehead is the most exposed part of the body and therefore the most visible, the most obvious” She spoke calmly, as though trying to teach fractions to a seven year old for the first time. She was clear, but also meek; she walked as she spoke, slouched into herself, eyes fixed on her own feet.

“My guess would be that the ear has some significance linked to the number one. What number one do you hear? Number one in the charts. The question then is the number one in which country, on which date? And what significance that number one has.” She flicked her eyes upwards towards her captive audience for a second, and flashed them an awkward grin.

“Sorry. I rambled on a bit.”

She did a perverse run-hop-skuttle ensemble to the edge of the circle of teenagers, trying without success to blend into the crowd.

“Go on Tash! Keep going”. Hannah threw her fist in the air as though praising a rock star. She turned to one of the gaggle.

“See what I mean? She’s like fucking Sherlock Holmes! Bit odd but very clever. Never get to your lectures though do you Tash?”

“No.” said Tash, without inflection.

“And?” One of the students piped up with a sneer. “What does this even mean? Who killed James?”

Tash did not emerge from the cluster of teens but her voice could be heard over the light murmering of the wind.

“I don’t know yet, I’ll take some photos and send Hannah the results, I’m all talked out.”

She spoke with her hands clasped to her eyes in a desperate attempt to block out the world. Hannah sauntered over
and put a confident arm around Tash’s plump shoulders. She gave them a tight squeeze. Tash gritted her teeth and inwardly counted to ten.

“We’re really grateful Tash, honest.” Hannah said. She moved away from Tash and started snapping pics with her phone, capturing the body at every angle. Tash was grateful not have to step into the centre of the circle again. She coughed.

“The only thing is that this will take time, so I’ll need payment.”

“Get fucked!” shouted the same perturbed teen as earlier, a burly lad with wide shoulders, ruddy cheeks, and close-cropped blonde hair.

Hannah fiddled with her phone, clicked send on the email to Tash containing the photos, and strolled over to where Tash was again.

“No probs Tash. I’ll get you the cash.” She started giggling “Oh my god, Cash for Tash! How fucking awesome is that?!” 

Tash gave her a weak, unconvincing smile. Hannah must have sensed her embarrassment, as she guided her away
from the group, down the gentle slope of the hill.

“How much do you want?”

“£500.”

“No chance.”

“£200.”

“Here.” Hannah opened her purse and started counting out £20 notes. Tash rocked from foot to foot as she waited.

“Don’t spend it all at once” she said with a sardonic smile, thrusting the money at Tash.

Tash followed her advice, but only just.


After a quick but arduous bus journey involving a stroppy driver and an extremely sociable young mother, Tash’s sense of social exhaustion had not abated. She disembarked the bus and headed straight for the adjacent supermarket, propelled by a buzz of guilty elation. Her index and middle fingers pulsated rhythmically on her leg, mimicking the motion they would make in an hour or so when she would thrust them into her mouth and pound them against the pharynx until her guts gushed out. Her cheeks were flushed. The thrill was in the chase, or in this case, the accumulation of the food, more so than in the eating or puking. She grabbed a basket, turned the volume of her headphones up to full, and began flinging cakes, biscuits, all kinds of confectionary into it. The rush crystallised and shattered, however, when she had to pay for everything she had chosen. It was always like this. The urge to binge, her feverish purchases, the humiliation at the checkout. The paranoia that she’d be recognised. Then the regret, already sour in her stomach, as she walked back home, over-stretched bags swinging.

It wasn’t easy doing what she did. First off it was expensive; secondly it hurt. The first few mouthfuls were an explosion of flavour in her mouth, the next thousand were born as much out of pig-headedness as of a need to fill the stomach. And then there was the purging. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was euphoric. It was painful, but a relief. Afterwards, she rinsed her hands of the mucus-thick saliva that came from purging, and of the vomit that seemed to get everywhere: on her fingers; in her hair; down her t-shirt. She spritzed the toilet with cleaner and wiped the underside of the seat down. She changed into a fresh pair of pyjamas as she had urinated involuntarily during a violent heave. She stuffed the empty wrappers in the rubbish. It was important to cleanse after a binge. No matter how hard she tried though, the urge always resurfaced, and the odour of vomit and degradation clung to her whatever she did.

She sat in the middle of her chaotic floor and ruffled her hair. She wished she could tear it out. Popping another couple of pills along with her morning antidepressants, she began scrolling through the images of the equations and working on them on various pieces of scrap paper. The first equation used the constant X. Tash wondered if this was a quip on it’s double meaning, if it eluded to an ex -partner. This was confirmed when X was revealed to be a decimal with the same number of digits as a phone number. She quickly jotted the phone number down and returned to the puzzle of the number 1 on the ear. She presumed somewhere there must lie a clue to the date the single achieved number one, but as yet she couldn’t find it. Feeling foggy, she decided to focus on the group of teens she’d encountered that morning.

First off there was Dylan Saunders, the boy who’d been rude to her earlier. An avid rugby player, he was arrogant and affluent, given to big nights out with the lads, and he somehow managed to attain a string of 2:2s in his sports science degree while doing no work. He liked rap music and indie – anything fashionable. His Facebook was full of garish photos and videos of him absolutely plastered, singing anthems with his mates. Tash felt an instant hatred for him, which she could neither understand nor deny.

Next there was his trophy girlfriend, Sophia. A gym bunny with a brunette bob and cat-like green eyes, a hardworking geography student, the typical girl on a night out who gets so drunk she can’t walk. Cutting out sugar and dairy and gluten but not alcohol it seemed. Instagram pictures angled to emphasise her waterboard stomach and rotund butt, next to sparkly quotes telling her followers to love their bodies, to not compare themselves to anyone, to be better today than they were yesterday.

And finally Grace. The wiry blonde girl. A social media blank. She wasn’t on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Tinder. Tash couldn’t find out a single thing about her. It made the hairs prickle on the back of her neck.

The vomiting had left her woozy. She crawled into bed and threw the duvet over herself. As always, she couldn’t sleep, not properly. But she fell into a fitful doze - she could feel the scratch of the sheet on her skin and hear the rustling of rubbish unfurling in her bin, she kept her eyes pinned shut and snuggled into the bed, responsibilities no longer a priority.

When she awoke, or rather could no longer ignore the fact that she was awake, she decided to call the ex’s phone number. 

Offline Nooglepop13

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I'm really sorry I've just realized the limit is meant to be 2000 words but this is just over 3000.  I promise I didn't know when I posted it and I won't do it again.

Offline PIJ1951

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Crime and psychological thrillers are my favourite genre and I'm also a huge fan of Lisbeth Salander so that's a promising start. You mention problems with pacing, dialogue and over-writing. It's good that you recognise these faults and are prepared to work on fixing them.

I'll not give this a forensic examination, line by line, but comment as I read through if I may.

It was 4am when she got the call, and she was awake.

That's one way of opening. It tells us all we need to know - your MC presumably suffers insomnia which is why the telephone call did not disturb her sleep. But what's important here? The time of day or her being awake? I'm curious why she's still awake so this is key. What folllows the first line makes things clearer, but it immediately diminishes the sense of foreboding. Who calls at 4am?

It's also a good idea to name your character as early in the story as practical so it's imprinted on the reader's mind. Maybe something along the lines of this might work better:

Tash had been curled up on her bedroom floor for five hours when the telephone rang.

What's left of your opening paragraph can be safely set aside for now along with that second paragraph. They're delaying tactics and don't always go down well with readers desperate to dive into the story. You can refer to the state of her bedroom floor while the telephone conversation continues rather than make it look like you're trying to feed us relevant (or irrelevant) information while the plot is set to one side. Maybe she pushes the tub of regurgitated food aside as she sits up straight. Maybe she pops a tab from the pack of painkillers once the shocking news hits home. Either make these props work in your favour or don't use them at all. Your second paragraph is unnecessary, given that all we're waiting for is to find out who is calling.

A beat passed. Tash put the lid on her Tupperware box of spat out food and reached for the pills to her left. She pressed two out of the packet; she was currently just maintaining and she wanted to be high. She swigged them down with some diet coke, and started to fish around the chaos of clothes and paper and food on the floor to find her diazepam.

She's just taken two pills - but presumably these are not diazepam. Mhmm. Unnecessarily complicated.

Her hand clasped on the diazepam and she popped out two pills. She normally only used diazepam for her rampant anxiety, but tonight had been bad, and the dihydrocodeine simply wasn’t cutting it.

I'm seeing a pattern developing. You regularly put the story on hold while you explain stuff to the reader. It can get annoying rather quickly if over-done. Having said that, I like the way you describe her drifting off on a high. It's enough to make the reader aware of her habit and compulsively self-destructive behaviour. But you need to rein in this type of showy over-writing. Readers (of crime in particular) are generally intelligent enough to fill in the blanks for themselves. They don't need everything spelling out for them.

What I don't get is why Hannah has phoned Tash. It's rather a leap expecting a maths student to take such an academic interest in equations marked on a dead body unless she's a freelance private investigator as well. But she's not, so I would expect there to be a personal agenda behind this rather bizarrre reaction to the murder for your story to make sense. Maybe it's Hannah's flatmate who was killed - just throwing ideas out here.

She didn’t drink as a rule. . .
She weighed up the situation and sighed. . . .
Tash clutched her knees to her chest and let out a low groan. . .
An hour and a half later she was ready, if not quite dressed, for the crime scene. . .


Do you see what I mean about pressing the pause button while you pile on a lot of inconsequential information? And the term is tee-total not tea-total.

You've created a certain expectation in your readers with such a dramatic opening - but then you fail to deliver with these over-cooked diversions. Less is more, and this definitely needs trimming. Any relevant information (her grungy attire, for example) can be drip-fed into the narrative as the plot unfolds. To be fair, Stieg Larssen was not the best of writers because he allowed his focus to wander - but his plot-driven stories are addictive because his characters leap to life from the page. That's what you need to do with Tash.

This is better, and it tells us all we need to know:

She took the bus still slightly dazed. By the time she arrived on campus though the sun was a fiery crescent in the blush coloured sky, and her high, like the once dazzling night, had faded. Her legs were steady as she crunched up the gravel pathway towards the lake. She hated herself for wishing them weak and wobbly. For wishing for the reedy twig legs of anorexia, for the way her calves used to feel hollowed and precarious. She marched on, past the dark lineament of sentinel trees; past the squawking low-lying birds nestled in shrubbery; past the scampering dormice that darted out from obese green hedges; past the fairytale-esque bridge that arched over the lake. Finally, she arrived at the foot of Wanderer’s Hill, at the rim of the flat black water, where a whispering crowd of teenagers huddled around an object that at this point was invisible, but which Tash knew was a body.

I'll not continue but as it stands I'm still unsure that the scenario is believable.
A crowd of students congregate around a dead body found on campus and not one of them phones the police or takes a photo and posts it on social media. Instead they hang around while Tash morphs into some kind of CSI clone before her pal casually pays her £200 up front for her trouble. I don't buy any of it.

You have an interesting premise - an amateur sleuth who is also a bulimic addict, a maths genius and a bit of a social recluse. But the pieces don't always fit together particularly well when you try to bring your readers up to speed with her condition and state of mind instead of driving the plot forwards. Momentum is vital. Too many times we're forced to a standstill by solid blocks of text where the plot is of secondary importance as you add stuff we can usually deduce for ourselves. It's your job to keep our attention fixed on the story - make us desperate to continue reading. The more white space there is on the page, the faster the pace in the reader's mind.

As for dialogue, I don't see a major problem. You can only have dialogue when there are at least two people present in a scene. There's a lot of internalised reflection that doesn't work especially well. Listing the three 'suspects' looks like notes scribbled down for the benefit of the writer rather than part of the story. Maybe you could have Hannah feature more actively in the investigation and allow her and Tash to discuss the three. It's also worth noting that you don't have to account for every minute of Tash's day.

Description is fine as long as it contributes to the scene. Sophia is an intriguing addition, and I like the way you summarise her in a single paragraph, but bear in mind that we learn more about a character from the way they behave and interact with others than from their physical appearance or what they are wearing.

But overall I enjoyed this. It's a first draft and it shows promise. I think it will work better as a short novel - it allows you more breathing space than a short.

Good luck.

Offline Nooglepop13

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Thank you so much for your critique, it's really helpful. Definitely going to use this advice to write a second draft. Thank you so much again.

Offline Jung_Love

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Hi Nooglepop13,

I'm not an expert, but just wanted to add some observations. Overall, I think it has potential in the both the main character, and how she is introduced. You mentioned dialogue and over-writing and I think at times you're saying the same thing twice, or perhaps telling the reader too much.

putting on her best phone voice. She hated phone calls. She always spoke too soon or waited too long, causing the caller to enquire as to whether she was still there. Phone calls were an ordeal.

"She hated phone calls" and "Phone calls were an ordeal" serve the same purpose.

She always spoke too soon or waited too long
I know that feeling, but perhaps this could be better demonstrated through the dialogue?

The reader is being told what she doesn't like and why. I think one or other is probably enough.

“Listen, Tash, there’s been a murder and it’s some seriously weird shit. Like fucking quadratic equation shit. I thought it might be your deal."

"I thought it might be your deal" is the reason Hannah is calling, right? She wants to entice Tash. I think she doesn't need to say this unless Tash is hesitant or aggressive to the information. Is Hannah supposed to be hysterical or matter-of-fact about this news?
I feel a bit like the word 'murder' is just there to hook the reader. And then the conversation gets a bit awkward. Wouldn't Tash ask about police, or who the body is, or something?

“What do you mean by weird?”

“There’s a student been found dead…”


I understand Hannah is clarifying her first statement, but it's actually less exciting than the word "murder". Is this a typical situation that both characters would find themselves in? Is Hannah in shock or hysterical, or scared? I wonder if the second thing Hannah says should escalate from the first sentence?

“What do you think I can do about it?”

If Tash just wants to enjoy her high, and this is not her typical kind of conversation [about bodies] perhaps she would be more hesitant, or even try to end the conversation. Sometimes people can be contradictory - perhaps she's interested in the news but wants to say "no"?

“Why?” she asked, with confusion.

I think the reader would also wonder logically why the police hadn't been called, so I think 'with confusion' is unnecessary.

Her voice tripped on the world ‘police’, so it came out as ‘puliiishe’.

I think you could either omit "so it came out as 'puliiishe', or just write "puliiishe" in the dialogue.

"Are you fucking drunk mate?! I thought you didn’t drink!”

I think you could use one or other of these, but don't really need both.
Sometimes in dialogue there will be a complete misunderstanding between characters, when people make assumptions. I think there's potential for more miscommunication and hesitation in this conversation.

As already pointed out by PIJ1951, I found it confusing that the police hadn't somehow arrived by the time Tash got there. You could easily create a reason why, of course.

Relationships were not her strongest suit.
I think this is another example of where you summarise what you've just described. I don't know if that's an intentional part of how you write, though.
You could also think of another way to convey her relationship skills (or lack of) to the reader. For example, some aspect of the body/scene/conversation reminds her of an ex, or a crush, and therefore it's relevant to mention how she deals/dealt with that ex/crush?

Some other suggestions:
I wonder if you could also reveal the drug use and eating disorder more slowly and play with the reader's perception of the scene?
For example you could make it seem that Tash was just half asleep and midway through the conversation start to reveal the drugs she is taking/has taken.
When she buys the food, we think she is treating herself before we realise why she buys so much. I don't know how eating disorders work, but often people will lie to themselves about their other behaviour/coping mechanisms and conceal it from others. I think there might be a bit too much focus on substances and disorders here. It feels a bit like we're being given a little too much information about Tash, too soon.

In this sense, you could try to 'hide' this behaviour from the reader, as the character might.

I'm not sure what tone the "Sherlock Holmes" mention is supposed to convey to the reader. Bit odd but very clever. feels like a redundant sentence. For me, I thought the comparison is rather obvious - and I don't know if Hannah is poking fun at her, or impressed? I think as the comparison is so clear, it might be fun to play with that, and have Hannah name a different detective [Poirot, Columbo etc] that totally contrasts with Holmes? I suppose it depends what kind of character Hannah is, and their relationship, and the mood you want to convey. Just a suggestion. The other thing you could try is putting the F word in the middle of the name. Again, it depends on the attitude of Hannah, of course.

It might help to think about the motivations of Hannah and Tash in a future draft. I think there's definitely an interesting hook, though! Good luck.

Offline Jemacush

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The other two critiques were very well done and thorough so I won't go into great detail other than to say: your story has great potential and I completely agree that the main character's personality/history needs to be parceled out slowly. It'd be a lot to swallow in the first few chapters of a story much less the first few paragraphs. So many of her 'issues' being presented at once made it hard to immerse myself in the story as a whole. Looking forward to reading more.
JCush