“It was a dark and stormy night. Honestly. Earlier, it had been a dim and stormy day. Demonstrating no originality, March had indeed come in like a lion—a wet, angry one who blew ill winds every which way.” With Friends Like These … by Gillian Roberts
Doesn’t this opening grab your attention? It grabbed mine. It’s one of many great opening lines you’ll find on First Line Monday. If you haven’t joined the Facebook group, you’re in for a treat.
Blogger and reviewer Mark Baker created the group. He describes it this way: “This is a celebration of a well written first line. We’ll start each week by sharing the very first line at the beginning of what we are currently reading. Everyone who loves to read is welcome to join and participate.”
Here are examples of the first lines you’ll find on First Line Monday:
“The voice on the phone was a whisper.” Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly
“Beulah Price’s body looked like a hot dog that had been left on the grill too long.” Live Free or Die by Jessie Crockett
“Fidelis walked home from the great war in twelve days and slept thirty-eight hours once he crawled into his childhood bed.” The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich
“Maribeth Klein was working late, waiting to sign off on the final page proofs of the December issue when she had a heart attack.” Leave Me by Gayle Forman
“Miss Willadean Dearmon found the body on the courthouse steps at exactly 8:59 a.m.” Murder at the Courthouse by A.H. Gabhart
“A gunshot sounded. I jerked the phone away from my ear. This time I hung up first.”
Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris
I looked through my bookshelves and found no end of great first lines. Here are a few:
“It was in the middle of her first number, ‘Blue Moon,’ that Jane da Silva realized the Fountain Room smelled heavily of fried fish.” Cold Smoked by K.K. Beck
“The pebbled glass door panel is lettered in flaked black paint: ‘Philip Marlowe … Investigations.’ It is a reasonably shabby door at the end of a reasonably shabby corridor in the sort of building that was new about the year the all-tile bathroom became the basis of civilization.” The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler
“If only I could learn to say no, I wouldn’t be perched on a barstool in a redneck bar, breathing secondhand smoke and pretending to flirt with men sporting baseball caps and Confederate bandanas, their eyes riveted on my Victoria’s Secret-enhanced cleavage.” Murder at the Moonshine Inn by Maggie King (blatant self-promotion, I know)
“If you had asked me before I heard of Maggie Reston whether a house could be a magnet for murder, I would have automatically thought of The Dungeon, which is what we’ve always called the coal-gray house on Martel.” Dream House by Rochelle Krich
“The six notes that were spread out on my desk next to last month’s Billboard article and the gossip-column item radiated a strange and threatening quality.” The Broken Promise Land by Marcia Muller
“Have sex and die.” Helen Coulter barely paused for breath. “That’s what she’s saying.” Helen Hath No Fury by Gillian Roberts
“The bandidos came to the village at the worst possible time. Of course, everyone in Mexico would agree that there is no particularly good time for bad men to come to town.” Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
Mystery author Susan Oleksiw wrote an excellent post on first lines for Novelspaces. It’s much more scholarly than mine as she offers commentary on why a first line is compelling.
Which first lines will be remembered for years, centuries even? Consider these famous ones penned in the 19th century:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Add your favorite first lines in the comments. And join First Line Monday!
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