As writers, we know how important the first line of a book is. It sets the tone for the whole book and pulls you in (or doesn’t). Some are totally unforgettable. Wickeds, I’m wondering, what’s your favorite first line from one of your books?
Liz: I still get a kick out of the first line from Purring Around the Christmas Tree:
“The whole night could’ve been straight from a Norman Rockwell painting, if only Santa hadn’t dropped dead in his sleigh as he rode up to light the Frog Ledge Christmas tree.”
Edith: I love that one, Liz! Here’s mine from Called to Justice: “The day had seemed an unlikely one to include death.” It goes on to show a sunny festive Independence Day parade in 1888. But I think my most favorite is from my Agatha-nominated short story, Just Desserts for Johnny: “She hadn’t planned on killing Johnny Sorbetto that winter. He had promised her so much.”
Julie: My favorite first line from a published book is from Clock and Dagger, which I wrote as Julianne Holmes. “I was running late. Again.” I love that Ruth Clagan, my protagonist in that series, is a clock maker who is always late. That idea came from my editor, and is genius.
Jessie: My favorite first line from any of my books thus far has got to be my very first from Live Free or Die written as Jessie Crockett. “Beulah Price’s body looked like a hotdog that been left on the grill too long.” It is grim but the protagonist’s voice tickles me.
Barb: My favorite first line in one of my novels is from Fogged Inn. “Jule-YA! There’s a dead guy in the walk-in.” From a short story is it “In the Rip,” in Best New England Crime Stories 2012: Dead Calm. “Phil broke up with me on New Year’s morning as if propelled by the force of some terrible resolution.”
Sherry: This is my favorite from my very first book Tagged for Death: A gun shot sounded. I jerked the phone away from my ear. This time I hung up first.
Readers, what’s the best first line you’ve read or written? Tell us below!
Of my own: “They’re all dead,” the first line of Red Delicious Death. From another author: “Nothing ever happens to me,” from Mary Stewart’s My Brother Michael.
Oooh, love “They’re all dead”! (Does that make me twisted?)
“I was thankful that nobody was there to meet me at the airport.” Nine Coaches Waiting, by Mary Stewart.
I LOVE that book! My mom gave it to me as a Christmas present two years ago when it was reprinted.
I think I memorized a lot of Mary Stewart’s lines, and more–I once went to Les Baux in France mainly because she had described it so well (and accurately, as it turned out) in Madame, Will You Talk?
Of my own, I like the first sentence from It Takes A Coven: “I’d just finished my sample slice of almond cake with vanilla cream filling and vanilla buttercream frosting, and was about to take my first bite of chocolate cake with chocolate ganache annd chocolate glaze covered in chocolate cookie crumbs, when I heard that Megan was dead.”
I like Sue Grafton’s first sentence in B Is For Burglar. “After it’s over, of course, you want to kick yourself for all the things you didn’t see at the time.”
They’re both brilliant. You had my mouth watering with yours–before the punchline.
From The Perfect Coed, “Susan Hogan drove around Oak Grove, Texas, for two days before she realized there was a dead body in the trunk of her car. And it was another three days before she knew that someone was trying to kill her.”
Boy–does that make me want to find out more. The job of the first line.
Love all your first lines. Mine is probably from my novel Murder in White Sands: “Between the dead body and getting engaged, I was hard-pressed to identify which part of the night would end up being the most memorable.”
Excellent–the good with the bad, two dramatic moments linked together forever.
Of my own, I might go with the first line of “Three Rivers Voodoo,” from BLOOD ON THE BAYOU: “When I left the bayou for the ‘Burgh, and traded the mighty Mississippi for the Three Rivers, I left a lot behind.”
From others, one that stuck with me is from Hank Phillippi Ryan’s, THE WRONG GIRL: “I don’t think she’s my mother, Jane.”
Both are great. With yours I am now wondering, what/ What exactly did she leave behind? Which is, I suspect, what you want me to be doing.
I love all of these first lines. (I have a special place in my heart for first lines, as you may know.)
I have a lot of first lines I love, but I keep coming back to Stuart Gibbs. His first lines are always amazing. Here’s an example (roughly since I don’t have the book in front of my right now). This is from The Last Musketeer: “As Greg clung to the side of the prison wall, he realized just how much he hated time travel.”
Ha! I love your First Line Monday FB group. Like I’ve told you before it teaches me about what makes a great first line. And I love this one!
“Last night I dreamt I was at Manderly again.”
Rebecca! It’s a great one.
And “Charleston in August is like walker no through damaged silk.” Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline.
That is an excellent one too!
For me, it always comes back to Julia Spencer-Fleming’s first book, In The Bleak Midwinter: It was a hell of a night to throw away a baby.
As to my own works … I’ll have to think about it.
I got to moderate a panel at the Maine Crime Wave in June and had the pleasure of quoting that first line back to Julia. The panel was about “Beginnings.” I asked Julia if she always knew that was the beginning. Short answer: Yes.
When you write something that really works, you know.
So I thought about my own works, here’s one opening I particularly like. This was the opening to “Murder A La Mode,” which was published in The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping:
“Felicity, we have to get out of this car sometime.”
I shook my head. “No, we don’t.” This was crazy. Immoral. Absurd. I began to hyperventilate again. “I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going in there.”
That’s a great first line! Filled with foreboding.
“There are dragons in the twins’ vegetable garden.”
From “A Wind In the Door” by Madeleine L’Engle
I’m with Annette. That was the first thing I thought of. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful…” – this has always stuck with me, because the rest of the book is spent proving the second part of the sentence: “but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm…”
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